My husband calls my big dinners “Dana Meals”. A big dinner is a meal to enjoy primarily but it also is a meal to impress. Kind of the opposite of a weeknight meal. Mine tend to include multiple courses and multiple components. The ice cream usually matches the dessert. You know. Dana Meals usually happen on weekends spent with friends and/or family. Sometimes, when someone special is in town, I cook one during the week.
Here is the problem. Let’s say you cook a really nice meal for a very cool and very appreciative person thoughtful enough to bring along his beautiful wife and adorable baby daughter. Let’s say that same person brings his whole work team over for dinner on another weeknight and you make an even more impressive and complicated meal. Now what if that person comes for dinner all by himself? On a Monday? You can’t exactly serve cold pizza, right? So a Dana Meal on a Monday it was.
Now a couple of weeks ago, Randy informed me that there would need to be a Dana Meal on a Wednesday for a philosophy group he is a part of. Please don’t send me an email saying that if Randy needs a dinner for his club, he should make it. Theoretically that is correct. Philosophically even. But I know my husband and if the dinner was left up to him, cold pizza it would be. Randy is very good at lots of things but he does not cook.
Just before that Wednesday night I had just found my perfect crust, so I opted to make two savory tarts for the philosophers. One contained corn and white cheddar, the other had chard spiced up with saffron. I expected the corn tart to be the runaway hit but the chard tart was so good it definitely took first place. I loved it and couldn’t wait to make it again. A sunny end-of-summer Monday evening with a visiting friend with high expectations seemed just right. (I’m kidding about the high expectations. Kind of.)
Truth be told. Everything in the markets right now is so amazing that food can taste really exceptional with just a bit of coaxing. Alongside the tart, I made a corn pudding that I loved and need to make as many times as possible before our fleeting corn season is over. I sautéed some zucchini in just a bit of olive oil and then tossed the coins with strips of basil, lemon juice, and Pecorino Romano. (This is my new favorite way to eat zucchini). I made that tomato and burrata salad that I know I will cry remembering in November. Not a ton of work and really delicious results.
So let’s talk about the tart. If you happen to have tart dough in the freezer, this comes together very quickly. After a blind bake for the crust, onions are sautéed, chard is wilted, eggs and milk are whisked together, saffron and lemon zest are added, everything stirs together and goes into the tart shell, and 40 minutes later you have a tart. I happen to prefer my savory tarts warm and not hot, so this is a perfect dish for a dinner party. It can sit and cool while you attend to other details.
1 recipe Tart Dough (recipe follows)
1 large bunch of chard, leaves only, roughly chopped
1 tbsp. butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1½ cup whole milk
Large pinch saffron threads, soaked in 1 tablespoon hot water
Zest of 1 small lemon
3 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan
3 tbsp. pine nuts, toasted
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Roll out one disk of dough to a 14-inch circle. Carefully transfer the dough to a 10-inch fluted tart pan. Fold the edges over on themselves to create a thick crust. Pierce the bottom of the dough with a fork in several places, then place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Line the pan with foil and fill with pie weights or beans. Bake in the oven until the edges of the crust are starting to brown and the bottom no longer looks doughy, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Heat the butter in a wide skillet; add the onion and cook it over medium heat until it is translucent and soft. Add the garlic, and the chard leaves by handfuls, if necessary, until they all fit. Sprinkle in a large pinch of salt. Turn the leaves over repeatedly with a pair of tongs so that they are all exposed to the heat of the pan, and cook until they are tender, 5 minutes or more.
Make the custard. Beat the eggs; then stir in the milk, infused saffron, lemon peel, grated Parmesan, and a few scrapings of nutmeg. Stir in the chard and onion mixture. Taste and season with salt and a few grinds of pepper. Pour the filling into the prepared tart shell and bake until the top is golden and firm, about 40 minutes. Scatter the pine nuts over top before serving.
Olaiya Land’s Tender Tart Dough
Note: You will need only 1 disk of this dough for the tart so keep the other one in your freezer for next time!
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1¾ tsp. salt
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. (2¼ sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
8 tbsp. (or more) ice water
1½ tsp. apple cider vinegar
Blend flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add butter; using on/off turns, process until coarse meal forms. Add 8 tablespoons ice water and cider vinegar; blend until moist clumps form, adding more ice water by the teaspoon if dough is dry.
Gather dough together. Turn out onto work surface; divide dough in half. Form each half into ball and flatten into disk. Wrap disks separately in plastic and refrigerate 1 hour. (Can be made ahead. Keep dough refrigerated up to 2 days, or enclose in a resealable plastic bag and freeze up to 1 month. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.) Soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.