Green Chard for Dessert?
Green Chard: not just for dinner
I recently set out to make a Tourte aux blettes, a sweet tarte made with green chard, which is a specialty of the city of Nice on the French Riviera. If you are saying “Green chard for dessert? You gotta be kiddin’ me”, trust me, you are not alone; more than one of my friends and co-workers returned a suspicious look when I offered them a taste. Lets face it, its not an American thing.
Its a hit in Nice
A sweet chard tart may seem a little bit counter-intuitive but I have tried in in Nice can assure you that, if well made, it is very good. It features some of the most iconic ingredients of the Niçoise tradition (chard, pine nuts, lemon, olive oil, golden raisins, Parmesan cheese) and can be found throughout the city, especially in simple eateries offering food to take out, where it shares counter space next to pissaladière, socca, tomato tarts and other classic Niçoise street favorites.
It is interesting to note that, in France, chard is grown primarily for its thick stems and not for the greens. Gratin aux blettes, for example, is a creamy gratin of chard stalks which are first blanched then baked with bechemel and gruyere cheese. Because the stalks are prized over the leaves, French varieties of chard generally have huge stalks, as much as 2-3 inches wide at the base, and very little green leaf. I have heard that in the past, the leafy green of chard was considered as only suitable for animal feed by most Frenchmen. It is only in Provence and the Cote d’Azur that it appears regularly in recipes.
I personally eat both the leaves and the stem of chard, as I do with most hearty greens. Slow cooked with olive oil, a bit of red flaked chili and garlic, the stalks are a healthy treat.
Anyway, my recipe for Tourte aux Blettes, which I am developing for my next cooking class in July, 2013, features pastry flavored with lemon zest and olive oil. The filling is chard, eggs, golden raisins, Parmesan and a layer of apples, all flavored with rum and vanilla.
Here are some photos of the process…will post the finished recipe soon: