Chard and artichoke tart with a crispy eggplant crust

Eggplant-crusted chard tart

Here’s what I’ve been thinking about, in a very confused fashion, for the last half a day (and night!) We all know the myth of Icarus – his father, Daedalus, fashioned him a pair of wings made of wax and feathers. He warned him not to fly too close to the sun, but he was so giddy with the joy of flight, that he forgot his father’s words, flew too close to the sun, the wax melted, he continued happily flapping his arms, but without feathers he could no longer fly. He fell into the sea and drowned. And we all know the painting Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, attibuted to Bruegel. It’s a beautiful painting of a beautiful landscape, with people going about their business, unaware of Icarus’ fall, which is small and on the edge of the painting. And people have written poems about the painting. Auden’s Musée des Beaux-Arts, in which he describes how suffering “takes place/ While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along.” And William Carlos Williams wrote a poem by the same name as the painting, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus. So that’s the “evidence” and here are the questions… what does it all mean? Is Auden suggesting, as the word “dull” implies, that the ploughman and the angler are too coarse to take note of the tragedy of loftier men? Or is it that, simply, things go unnoticed. We’re so taken with our own lives and concerns that we don’t have the time or energy to commiserate with others? Is the original myth really a warning about excessive hubris? Or, was Icarus just enjoying the feeling of flight to such an extent that he forgot to be careful? People suffer all the time – ploughmen and anglers and painters and poets and master inventors. I suppose all the suffering is equally important (or unimportant) whether somebody paints a picture of it, or writes a poem or about it, or doesn’t notice it at all. The painting itself is so gorgeous, the people walking along with supposed dullness are so vibrantly portrayed. And, as the poets say, spring is in full glory, the sea is cool and pretty, the sun is hot and strong, and all of this will be true no matter what the fate of the men passing through the landscape. And then I can’t not think of Stephen Dedalus, with his suggestion that ‘The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.’ Surely not, Joyce. Surely not! That quote has always bothered me. I’d love to have a meal with Pieter Bruegel, and Williams Carlos Williams, and WH Auden, and maybe even Ovid, and drink some wine and talk it all over.

Chard tart with crispy eggplant crust

Maybe I’d make them this eggplant crusted chard and artichoke tart! I think it turned out quite pretty, and it certainly tasted good. The “crust” is made entirely of pieces of eggplant, dipped in egg, then dipped in pecans, breadcrumbs and a touch of flour, and then roasted in olive oil. I used a lot of bread crumbs and a small amount of flour, but if you used only pecans and gluten-free breadcrumbs, you’d have a gluten-free crust! The filling is soft and flavorful and savory, and the pine nuts add a nice toasty crunch on top. I served this with a smooth smoky, spicy, sweet sauce made with fresh tomatoes, green peppercorns, olives and raisins.

Tomato-raisin-olive sauce

Holy smoke! I forgot to post a song yesterday! Horrors. Here’s Alec Ounsworth with This is Not My Home (After Bruegel)

THE CRUST

Eggplant made this way, made with breadcrumbs, crushed pecans and a small bit of flour as the crust. I also used fresh oregano rather than rosemary in the marinade, because I was out of rosemary.

THE FILLING

1 T olive oil
3 cups chard, cleaned and chopped (give or take – it’s a medium-sized bunch)
5 artichoke hearts (I use canned in brine) chopped
3 eggs
1/3 cup milk
1 large clove garlic – minced
a large handful of basil, cleaned and chopped
1 cup mozzarella, grated
salt/pepper
1/4 cup pine nuts

In a large frying pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook till it just starts to brown. Add the chard with the water still clinging to its leaves, and the artichoke hearts. Cook until the chard is wilted and tender, and the pan is quite dry. Set aside to cool a bit.

In a food processor combine the chard/artichoke mixture with the eggs, milk, basil, salt and pepper. Process till it’s a rough puree. You don’t want it to be completely smooth – flecks of pretty chard colors are nice.

Stir in the mozzarella.

Preheat the oven to 400.

Lightly butter a pie plate. Arrange the eggplant slices, slightly overlapping to form a sort of cohesive bowl. The pieces on the edge should stick out a bit like petals on a flower. Put the less well-cooked pits sticking out, because they’ll get more cooked as you bake the pie.

Pour the custard into the eggplant shell, leaving some of the eggplant sticking out on the edges. Scatter the pine nuts evenly on top of the custard.

Bake for about half an hour, till the pie is puffed and golden, and the pine nuts seem a bit toasted.

Meanwhile, make…

THE SAUCE

2 T olive oil
1 shallot – minced
1 clove garlic – minced
3 ripe medium-sized tomatoes
1/3 cup olives, pitted and chopped
2 T raisins
1/2 cup red wine
1 t capers
1 t green peppercorns
1 t oregano
a small handful of fresh basil – washed and chopped
1 t smoked paprika
pinch cayenne, to taste
1 T butter
2 t balsamic
salt and freshly ground pepper.

Boil a medium-sized pot of water. Cut off the very top of each tomato, and gently squeeze some of the seeds out. Cut a small X on the bottom of each tomato. When the water is boiling, drop the tomatoes in for about 3 minutes, till you see their skin begin to pucker. Fish them out with a slotted spoon. When they’re cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and roughly chop the flesh.

In a medium-sized sauce pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the shallots, cook till they start to soften, add the garlic, cook till it starts to brown. Add the peppercorns, olives, capers, raisins, and oregano. Stir and cook for a minute. Then add the red wine, scraping all the nice caramelly bits from the bottom of the pan. When the wine is reduced and syrupy, add the tomatoes, paprika, and cayenne. Bring to a slow boil, reduce the heat a bit, and cook until the tomatoes are quite soft and breaking apart. Add a little water if you need to to keep it saucy – it will depend on your tomatoes.

When the tomatoes are quite soft, add the butter and balsamic, and then process till smooth.

Season with salt and pepper, and serve with the tart.

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14 thoughts on “Chard and artichoke tart with a crispy eggplant crust

  1. In the painting, it’s a contest between the mythic and the quotidian, I think, and Bruegel seems to be tipping his hand to that every-day. The mythic is great to hang the painting from, but there’s too much else going on to obsess on it alone. (Also, secularism.) But I love how the poems skip so easily from the mythic to the tragic. Especially Doc Williams: “a splash quite unnoticed / this was / Icarus drowning.”
    Anyway, I’m making a chard and caramelized-onion frittata. All my eggplant went into a baba ganouj.

    • I think that’s the confusion!! They’re all telling the same story, but they’re all very subtly passing judgement on it. And I don’t understand who is passing which judgement! Even the original myth, I think, which I’d always accepted as pride going before the fall, is not so cut-and-dried, and that judgement might have been added later. It’s fascinating to me how the symbolism of being aloft – being above everything – can be lifted beyond the common man, or lifted higher than you should go, or be the artist’s position in relation to the crude unseeing public. I’ve always been uncomfortable with that idea that the artist/poet is hyper sensitive, and their hyper-sensitivities are thrown out of balance when they come into contact with ordinary people. Ackk – so much to think/talk about. How about that dinner?? Before you move?

      I think I love William Carlos Williams. I haven’t read any in a while…I’m off to the library!

  2. I think Auden lived in terror of the quotidian. His narrator speaks and thinks only of himself. And Stephen Dedalus is right in as far as the maker’s ability to control what is done with the made, or the meaning given to it, is limited once they are done. The fall of Icarus is as much a result of that as it is hubris or, in your more interesting telling, the blindness of unrestrained joy. Perhaps Bruegel and WCW are more about reminding us of keeping perspective on how we move through the world while Auden is only mournful he must live in it.

    • Beautifully said! I’ve got to think about it a bit, and then I’ll respond.

      Just, quickly – I’ve always thought of Stephen Dedalus as a queasy adolescent. He wants to remove himself from his nationality, his religion, everything that defines him. I understand that. I actually like the idea of detachment in the creation of art… My boys are climbing out the window. Back with more thoughts when I’ve rounded them up.

  3. Wow! Thoughtful posts! Thoughtful recipe! Just what the doctor ordered this morning.

    I am full and speechless! Thank-you.

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