Chard has a certain glamour, for a green. It's tall and leggy, teetering on spiky roots. It preens from the kitchen garden, flaunting bold stems and broad leaves.
Chard is all what-you-see-is-what-you-get.
Nothing like the beet, which hunkers down, concentrating on its deep dark root. And yet, the botanist sees it like this: same species; different priorities. It's like one of those murder mysteries where host and butler turn out to be a single person. Who knew?
Perhaps the attentive dinner guest should have guessed. Both chard and beet know a melancholy mustiness. Both are shot through with deep red or brilliant yellow drama (though some chard stems stay white). Both seem ordinary and can, with a little effort, cook up extraordinary.
Like chard tart: Slice leaves into fine ribbons and saute in garlic-scented olive oil, giving them plenty of room to air out any musty grievances. Soften with cheese and wrap in buttery pastry. The chard tart bakes up mild mannered and richly flavored. There's little that brings to mind its secret twin. But then, it's all a matter of priorities.
Prep: 1 hour plus chilling time
Bake: 30 minutes
2 bunches (about 1 ½ pounds) chard
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
Cornmeal pastry (recipe below)
Fold each chard leaf in half along its center rib. Trim away ribs. Roll up leaves and slice thinly crosswise. Toss chard shards into a salad spinner. Soak briefly, drain and spin dry.
Heat olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add onions, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until lightly colored, 4 minutes. Toss in garlic, cook 1 minute. Tumble in chard. Cook, stirring, until wilted and liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Scrape into a bowl to cool. Stir in egg, cheese and thyme.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out pastry to a 12-inch circle. Roll around the pin and unroll onto a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet.
Spread chard onto pastry in an 8-inch circle. Fold edges of pastry up and over, forming a casual tart.
Slide pan into a 400-degree oven, and bake until pastry turns golden, about 35 minutes.
Cornmeal pastry: Heap into the food processor: 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup corn flour (or fine cornmeal), 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/4 teaspoon fine salt and a few grinds of pepper. Pulse to mix. Drop in 9 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into slices. Pulse until lumps range in size from cornflakes to crumbs. Turn out into a large mixing bowl. Drizzle in up to 5 tablespoons cold water, folding with a flexible spatula, until pastry comes together. Pat into a disk. Wrap in waxed paper and chill at least 1 hour.
Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.