Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Colors

My family has many holiday traditions (like decorating a Christmas tree and then viewing it through goggles that turn the lights into Hanukkah-appropriate six-pointed stars), but for some reason, a fancy Christmas dinner is not really one of them. When Zoe and I decided to plan an elaborate Christmas dinner this year, we were stumped as to what people usually eat for Christmas. A roast? Or maybe a turkey? Is that only for Thanksgiving? Perhaps a ham? Must Christmas dinner involve large portions of meat? 

In the end, we decided to skip meat altogether and instead derive festiveness from a red and green color scheme. We brainstormed red and green foods, then went to the winter farmer's market to find veggies for our harvest feast. It's no surprise that there are tons of red and green dishes, like kale with cranberries or tomatoes, for which we just didn't have space or time. Here is our menu, inspired by the red and green ornaments on our sparkling tree.

 salad with red striped beets and watermelon radishes
 swiss chard tart (see recipe below)
 baked tomatoes and zucchini 
 kiwi tart with raspberry coulis (see recipe below)

Swiss chard tart
Adapted (barely) from Bistro Cooking by Patricia Wells

1 cup flour
1/4 t salt
1/4 c olive oil
1 large bunch swiss chard (red, not rainbow, to be more festive)
1 small onion
3 eggs
1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400. 

Combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in 1/4 c water and then the oil, mixing until well blended. Knead briefly. Press the dough into tart pan (a 10 inch tart pan for a thicker pie or a 14 inch pan for a thinner one). The dough will be weirdly wet, but it's fine.

Wash and dry the swiss chard. Cut out the center stem. Dice the stems, the leaves, and the onion, keeping the leaves separate from the stems. 

In a large skillet, heat some olive oil. Cook the onions and stems together until the onions are translucent. Remove the onions and stems and place into a small bowl. Next, put the green leaves into the hot pan and cook until it's all wilted and most of the liquid has evaporated. 

Combine the eggs and cheese in a medium bowl and mix well. Add the chard leaves. Season with salt and pepper to taste and mix well. 

Pour the green egg mixture into the pastry shell (yes, I know the pastry hasn't been cooked yet). Spoon the red stems and onions onto the leaves in a pretty pattern. 

Bake for about 40 minutes or until the crust is golden and the chard mixture is firm and browned. 

Kiwi tart with raspberry coulis
Adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
A perfect use for ripe Thanksgiving kiwis. The coulis is just for a red contrast to fit our theme, so you really don't need to use it. And this basic tart shell and pastry cream would be a delightful background for any soft fruit that doesn't need to cook, especially strawberries or raspberries. 

1 tart crust, baked and cooled
2/3 c sugar
2 T all-purpose flour
2 T cornstarch
pinch salt
2 eggs
2 cups light cream, half-and-half, or whole milk (I used 1/2 c heavy cream and 1 1/2 c skim milk)
2 t vanilla extract
2 T unsalted butter, softened
kiwis (6 to 9 probably, though more is better)
1/2 c raspberry or strawberry jam

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt. Beat together well the eggs and cream in a small bowl. Stir the cream mixture into the sugar mixture over medium heat. Whisk to eliminate lumps and stir almost constantly for 10 minutes until the mixture boils and thickens. Continue to cook until the mixture coats the back of a spoon and when you draw your finger through the mixture, the resulting line holds its shape. Stir in the butter and vanilla. Cool the pastry cream for a few minutes. If you want to make the pastry cream in advance, refrigerate topped directly with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. 

To assemble the tart, spread a layer of pastry cream on the bottom of the tart shell (you might not use all of the pastry cream). Slice the kiwis very thinly and arrange them over the tart.

For a teeny taste of raspberry coulis, put a few spoonfuls of jam in a strainer and mix around to remove the seeds. Spoon the smooth pink jam into a ziplock and cut off the corner. Drizzle the coulis over the kiwis and serve!

Rich tart crust

1 1/2 c flour
1/2 t salt
2 T sugar
10 T cold unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
3 T ice water

Combine the flour, salt, and sugar (in a food processor if you have one). Add the butter and process with a food processor, your fingers, or a pastry blender. Blend until the mixture looks like cornmeal, then add the egg yolks and process another few seconds. Sprinkle 3 T of water over the mixture and gradually gather the mixture into a ball. Wrap the ball in plastic, flatten it into a disk, and refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes (or freeze for 10).
Roll out the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap or on a countertop with a lot of flour. When the diameter of the dough is about 2 inches more than the diameter of the tart pan, move the dough into the tart pan. Press firmly into the bottom and sides of pan and patch holes with the scraps. 

Prick the crust with a fork. Line with tin foil and weight the bottom with dried beans or pie weights (or weigh the crust down with a heavy glass pie pan sitting on top of the dough). Bake the crust for 12 minutes at 425. Remove the crust from the oven, remove the weight and foil, then bake another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Let the crust cool on a rack.