Fallen on Chard Times

Unable to sleep last night, I tottered down toward the kitchen for a night owl special.

The once overflowing refrigerator was now a safe haven for a sad little apple, which had sat in there so long, it resembled a shrunken head more than a healthy snack.
Friends, you may think I’ll eat anything that isn't moving, but even I have my standards.

Upon further inspection, I squealed at the sight of a bowl of homemade ricotta and a jar of tomato jam. Things were looking up.

A few slices of homemade semolina bread, a pretty little silver spoon and butter knife (because nothing says CLASS more than a meal served with fancy silverware, while wearing J's camo pajama pants) and this midnight jamboree was now in session.
Unhinging my jaw like a boa constrictor, I proceeded to chomp into the bruschetta when...


“Hmm. Probably just an owl.” I thought, trying to convince myself.“
Of course, I soon began to wonder, if owls are truly shy and elusive creatures, then what was that eerie sound just outside my kitchen window?
I turned off the lights and peered out the window. My mind was racing, conjuring up all sorts of creatures lurking amid the shadows in the nearby woods.

The lights flickered, then I heard it again,

“Hoo hoo”

Gracious! (Ok, so that's not exactly what came out of my mouth). I dropped the bruschetta. Ran back up to my room, still clinging to my butter knife, as if clasping onto the mighty Excalibur, and called it a (devil’s) night.

All in all, nothing was as interesting as Purry Mason's view out the window.

Anyway, please make the ricotta. Use it in the following recipes, or share it with your ghoul-friends.

Swiss Chard and Ricotta Crostata 
These were baked in an antique cast iron pan. But the recipe is meant to be shaped into a free-form tart. You could also bake this in a 9-inch pie pan.

1½ cups AP flour
½ cup grated Parmesan
Pinch kosher salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold butter, cut into ¼-inch pieces
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled

Extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 bunch Swiss Chard, stems removed, leaves cut into 1-inch lengths
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and finely chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons water
Kosher salt
2 cups fresh ricotta
1 cup grated Parmesan
2 eggs
Pinch cayenne pepper
Egg wash: 1 egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons water

Combine the flour, parmesan, salt, cayenne, butter and shortening in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons ice water over flour mixture. Adding up to a tablespoon of water and pulsing until dough just begins to come together. Gather dough into a ball and flatten into a 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Coat a large saute pan generously with olive oil. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and bring the pan to a medium heat. When the garlic becomes aromatic, add the leeks and 2 to 3 tablespoons of water and season with salt.
When the water has evaporated and leeks are soft, add the Swiss Chard leaves. Season the leaves with salt and saute until they are soft and wilted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

In a large bowl combine the ricotta, Parmesan, eggs, cayenne and the Swiss chard mixture. Mix thoroughly. Adjust seasoning if needed.

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

To assemble:
Roll dough on a floured surface into a large circle about 1/4 to 1/8-inch thick. Transfer dough to a large sheet tray lined with parchment paper. Put the filling in the center of the dough leaving a 3 to 4-inch border. Fold the edges up around the filling. Brush the dough with egg wash and bake in the preheated oven until crust is golden brown, about 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool 10 to 15 minutes before serving, to allow the filling to firm up for easier slicing. Serve hot or at room temperature. Adapted by a recipe from chef Anne Burrell.
Makes: 8 to 10 servings

I've been making ricotta cheese for a couple of years, and have tried vinegar, lemon juice and even buttermilk as the acid that separates the curds from the whey. They've all turned out excellent. The heavy cream adds a nice richness to the ricotta, but it's just as outstanding without it.

Ricotta Cheese

1 gallon whole milk
1 cup heavy cream, optional
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt *

In a large nonreactive saucepan pour whole milk, heavy cream, lemon juice and salt. Heat over medium-high heat and stir occasionally, making sure to cover the whole bottom of the pan. When the mixture reaches 180°F, remove pan from the heat. Cover and leave it in a warm spot (an oven with the pilot light on is fine) for 2 to 3 hours.

Line a large strainer with a thin piece of muslin, or several layers of cheesecloth (I prefer muslin because it is a durable, washable material, unlike cheesecloth). Set strainer over a large bowl and ladle the curds into the strainer. Refrigerate overnight to drain.

Discard the whey.  Keep fresh ricotta covered and refrigerated. Best if used within 2 weeks.

*If you plan on using fresh ricotta in desserts, do not omit the salt, just reduce it by half.

Tomato Jam

2 pounds ripe tomatoes, such as Romas, seeded, cored and coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan, Bring to a boil over medium heat and stir often.

Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture has consistency of thick jam, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Cool and refrigerate until ready to use; this will keep, refrigerated, for several weeks.
Yield: About 1 pint. Adapted from a recipe by Mark Bittman.

Happy Halloween! And may this day find you all in "good spirits!"

Playing along with:

504 Main
Hope Studios
Designs by Gollum


  1. Happy Halloween! I love the picture with the cat. So cute.

    Everything looks so delicious and appetizing! Great presentation too.



  2. Anonymous31/10/11

    What delicatesse can one produce in sleepless nigh:)) Great;)

  3. I'm pretty sure that's the 'Sol' of an angel the cat is looking at, not a ghost ;)

    I can't wait to try your home-made ricotta recipe and try the chard and ricotta tarts and tomato jam. I sure wish I still have some tomatoes growing outdoors, but sadly those days are over!

    ps: You find much better things in your fridge at midnight than I do - excluding the apple of course.

  4. Your late night fridge is a lot different than mine, Sol. Yours is like a fine restaurant and mine is more like junk food!

  5. Rosa, you always say the kindest things. Thank you!

    Dzoli, insomnia often caused me to clean house, instead of snacking. And I kind of like where it has taken me :)

    Dear Susan, you could use good plum tomatoes from a can, but I haven't tried it, and don't dare recommend it until I do.
    Btw, the face in the window belongs to Sam. Although my face would've been far more appropriate for the season. Boo!

    Carol my friend, speaking of junk food, you should see my fridge post Trick-or- Treating. It ain't pretty.

  6. My, Oh, my... you are a most talented lady! Awesome recipes, clever stories and fabulous photography! A delight visiting with you!

  7. I miss you..

    Think of you so often..

    And think..

    Twinkle Twinkle Little Star..How I wonder How You Are~

    Wow.. You always keep us waiting for special reasons..when is the book signing?

    C'est beau!! Tout!!
    I hope all is well.
    You are..extremely talented.

  8. The homemade ricotta is something I've always wanted to do and those tarts - well, they're just beautifully made and photographed. But the cat is what really captured my heart. So sweet.

  9. Gorgeous food and photos!

  10. LDH, thank you, you're quite an inspiration yourself!

    Monique, I've missed you too. There's been a few bumps in the road, but life is still good. Thanks for thinking of me, my friend!
    Btw, I recently picked up a few new words in French. It's too early in the day to remember how to spell any of it, but I will, if you need a good laugh this morning. Anyway, you'd be so proud of me.

    Vanessa, thank you for coming by and for the kind words!

    Guys, I've missed you all, and will be dropping by your creative blogs next; I have a lot of catching up to do.

  11. Oops. Linda, I almost missed your lovely comment.
    Please, try making the ricotta, at least once. You're the reigning queen of Italian cuisine, so by law, you have to do it :)

  12. I just saw YOU:) I missed YOU really last night!


  13. Thought id say hello while passing your blog by, and i hope you folks have a very nice weekend. We are maybe a little past fall peek colors for taking pictures of our tree's here in central Pennsylvania, but ill try anyway to go out one last time to snap some images. Richard from the Amish community of Lebanon Pennsylvania.

  14. What a great post! I love the idea of tomato jam. Will have to give your recipes a try soon. Thanks for posting them.


  15. Such a temptress! I want some ... and now ... please :) Stunning photos and beautiful script, dear Marysol. So in my thoughts, I knew you must be cookin' somethin' grand!

  16. Thank you all for stopping by!

    Joey, I've missed you, my friend!

  17. That's the cutest fright story I've ever heard! :P I hope you had a gorgeous Halloween! :D

  18. What a fabulous midnight snack! The ricotta sounds delicious in the tart too.

  19. As always beautiful, too beautiful to eat :)

  20. Thank you very kindly, Lorraine, Lisa and Margot! (blushing)

    Enjoy your weekend, all!

  21. Just love your photography and your writing. You have a beautiful blog.

  22. They look delicious, what a treat for a different appetizer !
    I will have to try the homemade ricotta during my winter doldrums, a good freezing day project!

    Hope all is well, you have been missed!
    You don't have to answer, I never remember to come back! :)

  23. Anonymous15/11/11

    I love your post! thanks for sharing... God bless you

  24. I stumbled here by accident, but now think of it as a happy accident. You've created a great spotforyour readers to visit and I really enjoyed the time I spent here. I'll be back. Have a wonderful holiday. Blessings...Mary