I really love this recipe for Swiss chard and leek crostata, by Joshua McFadden of cookbook fame, “Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables.”
This cookbook is the winner of so many Best Cookbook of the Year awards it is literally unbelievable. On Amazon right now, it has 168 five star reviews.Jump to Recipe
As a vegetarian, I am always searching for satisfying meals that are rich in vegetables, as well as flavor, and this recipe is that! I also really enjoy baked dishes for their deep nourishing qualities. Do you agree?
And it also helps that I have an abundance of glorious Swiss chard in my garden this year. In fact, this is the second Swiss chart tart I have posted on Buttered Veg—but it’s for good reason!
Swiss chard and leeks are pretty much a classic combination for making all manner of frittatas, gratins, braised vegetables, crostatas, and tarts.
Their flavors complement each other, and both vegetables are ready for harvest at the same time in the fall.
Add garlic, salt, black pepper, and a good handful of aromatic chopped herbs, and you’ve got flavors that will dance around in your mouth, with each dance move sending a happy signal to your brain.
All those green, savory vitamins and minerals are going to nourish your body as well.
And I haven’t mentioned the crust yet. Here is where McFadden’s genius really comes in.
The crust is made with walnuts … and butter … and a bit of sugar.
I believe the sugar is for all you readers out there who haven’t yet learned to appreciate the mineral-rich flavor of cooked greens. (Yes, you know who you are.) And let me tell you. You have been missing out.
You will enjoy this tart, because of the sweet bit in the crust. In fact, my husband joked that it reminds him of cake. When asked why, he said it is because of the aroma.
In my version of the recipe below, I have reduced the sugar, because I don’t think it needs as much. (McFadden has five tablespoons, and I use three).
Generally, I don’t add sugar to my food, but hey! It isn’t my recipe. And it’s good!
Let’s move on from the sugar, and talk about the vegetables for a moment. This is Buttered VEG after all.
Why I love Swiss chard
- Swiss chard grows well in the cooler spring and fall seasons of the Northern hemisphere (where I live in New York). For this reason alone I think I should eat lots of it. 🙂
- Its texture is succulent. Swiss chard is so much softer and enjoyable to eat than kale. If you are looking to add an abundance of healthy leafy greens to your diet, this is the one!
- The George Mateljan Foundation, which is an authority on “the world’s healthiest foods,” notes that Swiss chard is third after spinach and broccoli for its ability to assimilate abundant minerals from the soil. He notes that magnesium, iron, manganese, copper, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc are abundant in Swiss chard, and generally deficient in the average U.S. diet. You can read more about it here if you like.
- You can’t help but appreciate Swiss chard’s physical beauty. It comes in red, orange, yellow, green, and rainbow colored stems.
- Swiss chard is a little astringent (like lettuce), and for those who want a simpler option for cooking chard, it tastes great with a bit of olive oil, garlic, vinegar, and salt, sautéed in a skillet. Oh, and did I mention it is soft and succulent when cooked?
- I appreciate that you can eat the stems. Here is my pitch for cooking them, rather than discarding them. They are similar to celery, except they need to be cooked. But when they are cooked, they offer a pleasant textural bite. Not too hard, and not too soft.
- Fun fact: Swiss chard was named by a Swiss botanist. Surprised?
- Second fun fact: Swiss chard is most popular in Mediterranean countries.
- Third fun fact: The yellow chutney you see in some of my photos is a Swiss chard stem relish, and my great grandmother’s recipe. I’ll get that up for you as soon as I can.
Hows and whys of leeks
- Leeks taste wonderful when they are caramelized. Although leeks taste like onions, they are so much better than onions. Their flavor is more delicate. Just consider their silky multi-green-hued texture, and imagine eating it. In fact, I used to deep-fry large quantities of thinly-sliced leeks for garnishes at a fine dining restaurant. The leeks would get crispy, and with a good bit of added salt, they were umami and yum!
- Potato leek soup. Need I say more?
- Leeks are most elegant in the garden when they grow up tall and slender, with a white bottom half, and a dark green section on the top. The dark greens are excellent for soup stocks.
Sunday brunch entertaining
I’ve made this Swiss chard and leek crostata three times and served it to over two dozen friends, and it’s pretty much a resounding hit.
This recipe serves a good six to eight (maybe 10) people. I think it is perfect for a classy Sunday brunch event at your home, or as a potluck dish.
What’s great is that you can serve it hot, warm, or room temperature, and it will be equally great. Therefore, it lends itself well to making the crostata ahead of time.
The crust dough can also easily be made ahead by days or months. In fact, I made a double batch of dough and kept it in the freezer until I made this again the following week. No issues.
What is a crostata?
McFadden describes a crostata as “an open-faced, freeform tart that doesn’t require a tart pan.”
I describe a crostata as a rustic pastry that is really easy to handle, and requires only a baking tray and parchment paper for baking.
I am amazed at how well the filling stays in the center of the crust, so you can fold the edges of the dough over once its on there and nothing spills out.
This recipe is very forgiving to make. If you have a little more cheese, or more vegetables, it still works. (I know from experience.)
This is important for entertaining. You want something you can count on!
So if you are looking for a fall or winter seasonal dish to serve your guests, or if you just want to enjoy a glorious savory baked aroma on a fresh fall day, this is your answer.
Recipe for Swiss Chard and Leek Crostata
for the pastry
- ½ cup walnuts
- 1 ⅔ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- ¾ teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
- 4 ounces unsalted butter, (½ cup; cold)
- 2 tablespoons cold water
for the crostata
- 1 bunch Swiss chard (a large bunch), with stems
- 2 leeks, the white parts
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon chili flakes
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta
- 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
- 1 cup herbs, finely chopped (parsley, cilantro, basil, and/or mint; see notes)
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest, lightly packed
- 2 large eggs
for the pastry
- Add the walnuts to a food processor and pulse until very fine. Add flour, sugar, and salt, and pulse. Add cubed butter and pulse until butter is pea-sized. Drizzle in cold water and pulse a few times until the dough comes together and feels a little moist. (If it doesn’t, add a few more drops of water.) It should be fairly well blended, but not over blended.
- Pour the dough out onto the counter and shape it into a ball. Does it look well mixed? Yes, then no need to knead. No, then knead it a little. Do not knead or overwork the dough. Shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap it in plastic wrap.
- Store at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator before using, or up to two days. You can also freeze it for up to three months.
for the crostata filling
- Have the walnut tart dough completed before starting on the crostata.
- Separate the stems of the Swiss chard from the leafy greens. Chop the chard stems into one-inch pieces and wash well. Chop the greens into one-inch pieces and wash well. Keep them separate.
- Remove the greens from the leeks and discard, or save them for soup stock. Slice the leek whites in half lengthwise and chop into quarter-inch pieces. Wash well and set aside.
- Heat a large skillet on medium-low and add olive oil. Add garlic and sauté until nicely browned, but not burned. (This caramelization adds a key flavor.) Add Swiss chard stems, leeks, salt, black pepper, and chili flakes. Cook about 8–10 minutes until the chard stems and leeks are soft.
- Add Swiss chard greens and continue to cook for another 8–10 minutes. When I made this, I covered the skillet for a few minutes to help the vegetables cook faster, but if you do this, you must be sure to evaporate all the liquid before turning off the heat. Allow vegetables to cool at least 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place the ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, fresh herbs, lemon zest, and eggs in a large bowl and mix well. Add the cooled vegetables and mix well.
Assemble and bake
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Remove the walnut tart dough from the fridge and let it rest for a few minutes. Meanwhile cut a piece of parchment paper to fit onto a baking tray. Place the parchment on your counter and sprinkle with flour.
- Roll your crostata dough out on top of the parchment to a size of 9 by 12 inches. The vertical shape allows it to fit on your baking tray. Now pick up the dough using the parchment and set it down inside the tray.
- Transfer the Swiss chard and leek mixture onto your dough, leaving about 3 inches along the edges. Gently lift a section of the dough up and around the filling. It is helpful to use a pastry cutter, or any edge to help you lift.
- Place in the hot oven and bake until the crust is starting to brown (about 25 minutes). Reduce the heat to 325 and continue to bake until the crust is fully browned and the filling is set (about 20 minutes).
- Remove from oven and cool for at least ten minutes before cutting it into pieces with a serrated knife.
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