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Swiss Chard and Ricotta Quiche

This is one of my all-time favorite recipes, especially after a long day at work. When we make pie dough, an extra batch is made and stored in the freezer for just such a meal. Quiche is one of those magic dishes that highlights whatever lingers in your fridge. Bits of chicken remaining on the bone, a few slices of over ripened tomatoes ... anything fits the bill is fit for this savory pie. We love chard in our house and it grows like a weed in our garden.

Making fresh ricotta (don't worry; it's easy) will turn your child into a culinary alchemist. A bit of milk, a touch of cream and the twist of a lemon turns dairy into magic. Save a little of this fresh-made ricotta cheese for a lovely summer dessert by topping it with warm peaches, a drizzle of honey and a turn of your pepper grinder.

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Ingredients

The flakiest crust

3 cups flour (unbleached and organic when possible)

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon sugar

12 ounces butter, very cold and cut into small squares

1/3 cup water, very cold

2 tablespoons vodka (optional, makes for a crisper, flakier crust)

Ricotta

3 cups milk

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice

Custard

3 eggs

2 yolks

1 cup milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon salt

1 sprig thyme

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 cup ricotta (see recipe below, or use store-bought)

3/4 cup baby chard, or 2 large pieces of chard, chopped

1 cup mushrooms, sautéed if desired

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Directions

1. First make the crust. Place the dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse four or five times.

2. Add the butter and pulse just until small pebbles form. We like to "pan for gold" and see how our butter is sized. You want the pieces to be about 1/4 inch big.

3. Add the ice water (and vodka, if using) and pulse just until a crumbly dough comes together. If needed, add 1 tablespoon water at a time until the dough forms.

4. Remove from the food processor (carefully!) and form a flat disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour (or 20 minutes in the freezer).

5. Flour your work surface liberally. Place your disc on the floured surface and begin rolling from the center of the dough up, then from the center down. Rotate your disc a quarter turn and repeat. This will help to keep your dough in a round shape and ensure that it isn’t sticking to your surface.

6. Roll your dough in a shape 2 inches larger than your pie pan. Using the rolling pin, pick up and gently lay the dough into the pan. Cut, crimp or use the tines of a fork to create a decorative edge.

7. Freeze your dough for 10 minutes. Take it out and place a sheet of parchment paper, foil or cupcake liners over the crust. Fill this with pie weights, rice or dried beans and bake blind (with pie weights and no filling) at 375 degrees until dark and golden on the edges.

8. Make your ricotta. Place a strainer with a cotton dinner napkin or piece of cheesecloth over it on top of a medium-sized bowl.

9. Bring the milk and cream to a heavy boil in a nonreactive pot (basically, anything but aluminum or copper), stirring as it heats.

10. Once a heavy boil arrives, pour in the lemon juice. Stir over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes. You will notice curds forming. If none do or they are smaller than cottage cheese curds, you can add a bit more juice.

11. Pour this mixture through the strainer and let sit for 20 minutes.

12. Start on the custard. In a medium to large bowl, whisk together your eggs, yolks, milk and cream.

13. Add salt and herbs and set aside.

14. Once pie shell is baked, remove the weights and parchment and place dollops of ricotta throughout the shell. Sprinkle mushrooms.

15. Pour custard into the shell and top with chard. Sprinkle Parmesan over top of chard.

16. Bake at 350 until custard is just set. Let sit for 5 minutes before slicing.

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