Season’s Bounty: Chard Torta with Creamy Basil Sauce


My chard crop has officially gone crazy.  Now, when my neighbors see me coming they have begun to back away with eyes glazed over, demurring, “No more chard, thank you.”

Swiss chard is a beautiful and wondrous asset to any garden, especially the rainbow variety, with its brilliant green leaves. Their tall spires generously unfurl amidst a thicket of red, yellow, and orange stems.  One of the benefits of including this friendly vegetable in my garden is that I can avoid the old woody bunches frequently sold at the market.  Instead, I can select younger leaves and pick them while their stems are tender and require minimal cooking. 

Fortunately, I am not even close to tiring of chard, yet.   Not only is it tasty and filling, it is roaring with nutritional value.  As with its relatives, spinach and kale, chard has plenty of vitamin A, C, and K, plus a generous a supply of iron, potassium, and magnesium.

 

Of course, it was only a matter of time before the combination of chard and millet would collide and become one in my kitchen, like star-crossed lovers.   I will restrain from my praise of millet, since that is a well-known fact here.  Suffice to say, the humble millet provides a perfect backdrop for this torta’s big flavors of chard, bacon, and Coppa ham ― all handsomely bound together with eggs and cheese.  It’s a nice addition to a Sunday brunch and is easily reheated for a mid-week dinner. 

A creamy basil sauce adds the perfect topping and finish for this torta.  The delicious pesto included in the sauce can also be found in the index; or simply scroll back to the previous post, and find it along with another reason to make pesto! 

Chard & Millet Torta
with Creamy Basil Sauce
Torta
1 cup millet
1 ¾ cup boiling water
1/3 cup mixed fresh herbs, chopped, such as oregano, thyme, savory
1 tsp. butter of olive oil plus ½ cup bread crumbs or Panko for lining baking dish
4 bacon strips, cut into ½” slices
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
8 cups chard leaves, cleaned, drained, then chopped
2 cups tender stems, chopped
6 eggs
½ tsp. dried chile flakes
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated, and divided
2/3 cup milk
½ tsp. salt
5 slices Coppa ham, sliced into ½” strips
Directions 
1.  Prepare the millet by adding 1 cup to 1 ¾ boiling water and simmering partially covered until water evaporates and millet is tender, about 20 minutes.  Place in large bowl with herbs and cool.
2.  Coat a large quiche dish or other 2 qt. oven ware with 1 tsp. butter or olive oil and dust it with ½ cup bread crumbs or panko.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
3.  In a sauté pan, cook the bacon until almost crisp, remove and drain.  Cook the onion in about 1 Tbsp. bacon fat until soft; add the garlic and cook 1 minute. 
4. Add the chard stems and cook about 3 minutes.  Stir in the moist chard leaves and toss to wilt slightly, cover loosely and cook 8 – 10 minutes.
5.  Meanwhile, combine the eggs, 1/3 Parmesan, through the salt.  When the chard is cooked, stir it into the millet.   Pour in the egg and milk mixture, then the bacon and the Coppa ham. 
6.  Pour mixture evenly into prepared dish and bake covered for about 40 minutes.  Sprinkle with 1/3 cup Parmesan and bake additional 10-15 minutes or until top begins to brown. Remove and allow to rest a few minutes before cutting.  Serves 4.
Basil Cream Sauce
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 chicken bouillon cube dissolved in 1 cup hot water
1 1/3 cup milk
1/8  tsp. Tabasco sauce, or to taste
1 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated
2 Tbsp. pesto
1-2 Tbsp. minced green onion
Directions
1.  In sauce pan over medium heat, melt butter and stir in the flour, cooking with whisk for 2 minutes; add the garlic, stir for a minute to incorporate well.   
2.  Slowly stir in the bouillon mixture to form paste.  Add the milk and whisk until thick, stirring in the Tabasco and the Parmesan.  When well blended and smooth add the pesto; stir in the minced onion; adjust seasoning and serve. 

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