Friday, August 20, 2010

A Spectacular Sunday Brunch

Lunch Buffet

Today, in this second installment from my private chef job down in North Carolina, I'm going to share with you a really spectacular Sunday brunch.  Truly, this meal was a huge hit with everyone.  In fact, I’d prepared this exact same menu the summer before.  (This was my second summer cooking down in NC.)  It was hands down, everyone’s favorite, so I knew I just had to make it again this year.  They all recognized it immediately, and with great enthusiasm.  And all loved it just as much this time around.  If not, then they loved it even more!      

Swiss Chard & Goat Cheese Tart with Current-Pine Nut Relish
Heirloom Tomato Panzanella
Simple Mixed Greens Salad
Summer Fruit Platter

Swiss Chard & Goat Cheese Tart with Currents & Pine Nuts

This Swiss Chard & Goat Cheese Tart is another one of my favorite recipes from one of my favorite cookbooks.  Can you guess by now which book this is?  I feel like a broken record sometimes… It’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin.  Every single recipe in this book is incredible, outstanding, simply stupendous.  Every single one is a must-try.  In my case, each recipe is a must-try-again-and-again.  I admit, I’m addicted. 

Red Swiss Chard

Anyways, let me tell you about this magnificent tart.  Atop the buttery puff pastry crust sits layer upon layer of incredible flavor.  First a creamy covering of ricotta and crème fraiche, and then a crumbling of pure white goat cheese.  All this is covered in a shroud of tender greens – huge leaves of Swiss chard sautéed with extra-virgin olive oil, aromatic thyme and shallots.  One last layer before going into the oven, more of that smooth, beautiful goat cheese.  But that’s not nearly it.  Once the tart is through baking – once the crust is crisp, golden brown and the cheese is just slightly melting – then it is time for the final layer of flavor, a relish of plump, juicy currents and toasted pine nuts.   This savory concoction, crowded with fresh rosemary and parsley and sweet, balsamic soaked red onions, is truly like icing on a cake.  And the combination of the tart with the relish is way more than the sum of it’s already delicious parts.

Current-Pine Nut Relish

Now, I’ll tell you the truth:  This tart really, really good.  But I’ve got another recipe for you today, and this one may even deserve one more ‘really’.  The Heirloom Tomato Panzanella.  I think this is my favorite summer recipe of all time.  At the height of the tomato season – in between BLT’s and gazpacho and tomato-basil-mozzarella salads – Ben and I eat this Panzanella all of the time, like once a week at least.  Talk about addictions!  

Rainbow of Tomatoes
Panzanella – and I’ve filled you in before, but just to refresh your memories – is the name for an Italian-style salad made of toasted bread cubes and all sorts of other fixings, although I do believe tomatoes are most traditional.  My version of this classic combines large chunks of juicy, ripe, heirloom tomatoes, in every shape and color of the rainbow, with handful upon handful of fresh, green tarragon and basil, thin strips of shaved, aged Parmesan, perfectly pungent purple-pink speckles of diced red onion,  bright ribbons of fresh, green arugula, and last but not least, hot-out-of-the-oven French bread croutons, their insides slightly soaked in equal parts with sweet tomato juices and a garlicky butter-red wine vinaigrette, their outsides coated in a golden brown parmesan crust.  Man oh man, I love this stuff!   And if there’s one recommendation I can make to you all, it’s to try this recipe out for yourself, and and do it soon, while we’re still in the midst of this blissful tomato season.  You’ll love it too, I’m certain. 
Sliced Tomatoes & Herbs
And really, that’s all the recipes I have to share with you today.   The simple green salad you’ve seen before.  It’s nothing flashy or new, but it was a perfectly fit for the rest of the meal.  A bouquet  of various summer greens, lightly dressed in a quick vinaigrette with hints of thyme and Dijon mustard, it could be the perfect fit for just about any meal. 
 Mixed Greens
And finally, as a dessert of sorts, a platter full of beautiful summer fruit – red then golden raspberries, pluots (my current favorite, a cross between a plum and an apricot, also called an apriums), blushing yellow Rainier cherries, pale white nectarines, juicy fuzzy-skinned peaches, fresh and seedy figs and ripe, red strawberries.  Wow, isn’t that just gorgeous?
Summer Fruit Platter
Swiss Chard & Goat Cheese Tart with Currant-Pine Nut Relish
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin
Serves  6
Swiss Chard & Goat Cheese Tart  with Currents & Pine Nuts
For the tart:
2 large egg yolks, divided
1 large bunch Swiss chard
2 Tbl plus 1 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 large shallots, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
1/4 cup sour cream or crème fraiche
6 oz goat cheese, crumbled
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
For the current-pine nut relish:
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 sprig rosemary
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 cup finely diced red onion
1/3 cup dried currants
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbl chopped flat-leaf parsley
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Prep the tart: Allow the puff pastry to defrost in the refrigerator, for about 2 hours or so, until it can be unfolded easily without ripping. Unroll onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Score a 1/4-inch border with a paring knife along the edge of the pastry. Make an egg wash by mixing one yolk with 1/2 tsp water.  Brush this egg wash along the border, only using as much as you need. Place in the freezer until you are ready to use.
Thoroughly wash the Swiss chard in cool water, then drain and dry.  Remove the tough stems from the bottom half or two-thirds of each leaf.  Tear the leaves into large pieces.
Heat a large sauté pan over high heat, for about 2 minutes.  Add 2 Tbl olive oil to the pan, then add the shallots and thyme.  Reduce the heat to medium and sauté for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add half the Swiss chard and cook for another two minutes, tossing the greens to coat them with the oil.  When the first half of the greens wilt down a bit, add the rest of the greens.  Season with a good pinch of salt and pepper.  Cook for another few minutes, stirring frequently, until the greens are tender. 
Sauteeing Swiss Chard
Remove from the heat, and spread the greens on a baking sheet to cool.  Once cool enough to handle, squeeze with your hands to remove excess water.  Set aside the greens.

Combine the ricotta, the sour cream, the remaining egg yolk, the remaining 1 Tbl olive oil, a good pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Mix with a rubber spatula to combine thoroughly. Spread over the prepared puff pastry, keeping within the lines of the scored border. Crumble half of the goat cheese over the ricotta.  Arrange the greens evenly over the top, then sprinkle with the remaining goat cheese crumbles.  At this point, the tart can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated until ready to serve. It can even be made a day ahead. (Always good when it comes to having dinner parties!)

Make the relish:  Preheat the oven to 375°F, then toast the pine nuts on a baking sheet, stirring occasionally, until they are lightly golden brown, about 8 minutes.

Heat a small sauté pan over high heat for about 2 minutes, then turn the heat down to medium and add the olive oil, rosemary and chile flakes.  Cook for about 1 minute, then turn the heat down to medium-low and add the diced onion.  Season with a good pinch of salt.  Gently cook the onions for about 5 minutes, until tender and translucent.  Add the balsamic vinegar and cook about 5 minutes more.  Discard the rosemary and transfer the onions to a small mixing bowl.

Sizzling Rosemary

While the onions cook, place the currants in a small bowl and cover with very hot water.  Let soak 10-15 minutes, then drain well.

Add the currants, toasted pine nuts and parsley to the onion mixture in the mixing bowl.  Stir to combine.  Taste, then season as needed with salt & pepper.

Finish the tart: Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Bake for about 30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown (both on the outside border and underneath – Lift it up a bit to peer beneath and make sure the bottom of the tart is thoroughly cooked too). 

Allow the tart to cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a cutting board.  Slice the tart.  Sprinkle evenly with currant-pine nut relish.  Serve right on the cutting board.


Simple Mixed Greens Salad
This recipe is a repeat from a previous dinner party.  (It’s that good!)  Check it out here.
Mixed Greens Salad


Heirloom Tomato Panzanella
Serves  6
Heirloom Tomato Panzanella
2 # ripe heirloom tomatoes of various colors, cored, then sliced into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 small red onion, finely diced, soaked in cool water for 15 minutes then drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 Tbl chopped fresh tarragon leaves
2 tsp plus 1 tsp finely minced garlic, divided
2 Tbl plus 2 Tbl red wine vinegar, divided
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 stick butter
6 cups cubed French bread (1/2-inch cubes)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus 2 oz chunk Parmesan, sliced into ribbons with
     a vegetable peeler
about 2 cups baby arugula, long stems trimmed
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 375°F. 
In a large mixing bowl, combine the sliced tomatoes with the diced onions, basil, tarragon, 2 tsp minced garlic, 2 Tbl red wine vinegar and olive oil.  Toss to combine, then set aside.
Melt the butter in a small sauté pan over medium heat, then add the remaining 1 tsp minced garlic and cook for about 1 minutes, stirring constantly, until lightly golden and fragrant.  Add the remaining 2 Tbl red wine vinegar and swirl to combine. 
Place the cubed bread in another large mixing bowl.  Drizzle the garlic-butter-vinegar mixture over the bread cubes, then sprinkle with grated Parmesan.  Season with salt & pepper, the toss well to combine.  Arrange the bread cubes evenly in one layer over a baking sheet.  Bake, stirring a time or two, until the bread is golden brown and crisp on the outside but still soft on the inside, about 10 minutes or so. 
Combine the toasted bread cubes and the tomato mixture in a large mixing bowl.  Toss to combine.  Arrange the arugula over the base of a serving platter, then arrange the tomato-bread mixture over the arugula.  Garnish with the Parmesan ribbons.  Serve immediately.


  1. Oh man! Just your description of the tart is making me drool! I can't wait to make it!

  2. Thanks, Katie! I can't wait for you to make it either :).