Thursday, September 30, 2010

Spanish Madeleine

Lots of food was served on the holidays, but I definitely remember spinach Madeleine. While this Louisiana side dish was made famous in River Road Recipes, you'd think my Floridian grandmother actually created it. The red, green, and white served as the perfect spectacle of festive colors and made it to my grandmother's collection of favorite recipes that she gave all the grand kids before she died. Needless to say, this dish is more than your typical comfort food for me.

Therefore, it takes a lot for me to alter this recipe with a California twist. But part of eating seasonally and locally is being flexible with the ingredients you have. While I could get spinach at the farmers market, the red chard just looked so amazing! In addition to this change, I also had some cotija which I had been playing around with. This is a hard Mexican cheese that is slightly salty and crumbly. I see it all over the place on top of corn on the cob (elote) and on a lot of tacos and even refried beans.

After making this dish with perfectly ripe Purple Cherokee tomatoes, I wonder why we ever had this in the winter when you have to make due with frozen spinach and flavorless, mealy tomatoes because neither are in season. The festive colors are no substitute for the festive flavors of the season.

Ingredients (for 4 servings):
  • 4 ripe tomatoes (I love Purple Cherokee, but any large tomato will work well)
  • 1 bunch red chard, sliced into strips (or rainbow or spinach, whatever looks best at the market)
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, minced
  • 2 baby leeks, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 C dry brown rice, cooked
  • 2 oz cotija cheese
Cook the rice. When it's almost done, start heating the oven to 375. Saute the chard, jalapenos, leeks, and garlic over medium high heat. This may take a while to get it nice and tender. While it's cooking, you can scoop out the tomatoes.

The best way to scoop out the tomatoes is to cut a good half inch (even a bit more) off the top. Squeeze or scoop the seeds out with your fingers. Then take a paring knife and carefully cut the sections of the tomato, just to loosen it. Then pull the whole fleshy center out with your hands, careful to not tear the skin of the tomato. This is probably the best part of the tomato, so chop it up and add it to the chard mixture.

When the chard is nice and tender and all the rest of the ingredients are nicely incorporated, season with salt and pepper to taste. Then mix in the rice and crumble in some cheese. Fill the tomato shells with the mixture and bake for 30 minutes.

This makes a great side dish or you can throw in some beans (maybe some black beans or chick peas) and make it the main course.

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