Chard and Saffron Flan in an Almond Crust
Serves 4 to 6.
Note: From “In My Kitchen,” by Deborah Madison.
• 1 lb. Swiss chard (enough leaves to make 8 cups, minus the stems)
• 2 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for salad
• 1 large spring onion, quartered lengthwise and diced into small pieces (enough to make about 1 cup), or 1 medium onion, finely diced
• Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
• 2 eggs
• A big pinch of saffron threads soaked in 1 tbsp. near boiling water
• 1 1/2 c. cream, or 3/4 c. half-and-half mixed with 3/4 c. ricotta
• Grated zest of 1 lemon
• 1/4 c. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
• About 1/2 c. almonds, ground or finely chopped
• 3 tbsp. pine nuts or slivered almonds
• Green salad mix, several handfuls (greens: lovage, sorrel, arugula, early lettuce or head of Belgian endive with the leaves left uncut; herbs: tarragon, parsley, chervil)
• Olive oil
• Lemon juice or vinegar
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Tear or chop chard into pieces, then wash and drain pieces, but do not dry them.
Heat oil over medium-high heat in a wide skillet and add the onion. Move it around the pan to cook for about 1 minute, then add the chard with the water clinging to its leaves.
Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon salt over it and cook, turning leaves occasionally, until soft, about 8 to 10 minutes for later season chard, which can be tough, less for more tender leaves. Turn off heat. Taste for salt and season with pepper.
Beat eggs in bowl, then stir in saffron water (plus threads), cream, lemon zest and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir in chard and season with pepper.
To finish, butter a 4-cup gratin dish, then dust bottom and sides of dish with the finely chopped almonds. Pour in filling and scatter pine nuts or almonds over surface. Bake until flan is golden and set, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare greens: Tear herbs into large pieces and keep the more salad-like greens larger. Toss with salt, just enough olive oil to coat lightly, and a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar to sharpen the flavors.
Put the dressed greens on individual plates and spoon flan carefully over or next to them. The heat of the flan will wilt them a bit and bring out their aromas.