More Provence: La Tourte de Blettes
Feb 6th, 2013 by
The finished dish. La Tourte De Blettes translates to Swiss Chard Pie.

La Tourte De Blettes translates to Swiss Chard Pie. But don't let that fool you. This can be served as a sweet dessert or the main course for a light supper.

Here’s a savory sweet pastry from southern France. I made this from a recipe card I picked up in the market in St. Remy last summer. Although there was an English translation, it wasn’t that good and so I had to figure out a few things, including the conversion of some measurements from grams to ounces.

I also used a 10-inch round springform pan instead of an 11 x 8 x 1 inch tart pan (who has one of those?) and so there was leftover dough to make a few apple turnovers.

Although the mixture of ingredients may sound strange — mixing swiss chard with raisins and parmesan cheese — they work well together to create a dish that can be served as a main course with a salad or as a dessert. It’s a sweet and savory tried-and-true classic that has been enjoyed in Provence for many generations.

The torte before the top layer of dough was put on.

The torte before the top layer of dough was put on.

Ingredients for the pastry dough:

  • Flour (About 4 1/2 cups)
  • Eggs (2 large)
  • Sugar (2/3 cup)
  • Butter (2 sticks or 8 oz. of softened butter)
  • Salt (just a pinch)
  • Water (About 1/2 cup or a little more; just enough to make the dough)

Ingredients for the filling:

  • Swiss chard (1 bunch or about a dozen large leaves)
  • Parmesan cheese (1/4 cup, grated)
  • Brown Sugar (3/4 cup)
  • Golden Raisins (4 oz., I used regular dark raisins but the recipe calls for light golden ones)
  • Marc or Grappa (Just enough to cover the raisins to marinate them.)
  • Olive oil (1 tablespoon)
  • Pine nuts (4 oz.)
  • Eggs (2 large)
  • Apples (about 1-2 large, peeled and sliced)
  • Powered sugar (just enough to dust the torte after it’s cooked).

I used the leftover dough from the tart to make a couple of apple turnovers.

I used the leftover dough from the tart to make a couple of apple turnovers. See recipe below.

What I did:

Combine all of the ingredients for the pastry dough in a small bowl, adding the water a little bit at a time at the end until most of the flour and ingredients are absorbed and a good ball of dough is formed.

Turn out the ball of dough onto a floured board and knead several times until the ingredients are mixed well and a smooth dough is formed. Form a ball with the dough, put it back in the bowl, cover with a towel and put in a cool place (the refrigerator is a good spot). Let rest about an hour.

Soak the raisins in either Marc or Grappa in a small bowl. Let rest about an hour.

Wash the swiss chard and strip it from its stem (you can throw out the stems or save for another day). An easy way to do this is to make your hand like a cat’s claw and drag the stem between your forefinger and middle finger. Boil swiss chard in a covered pot for just a few minutes. Take it out. Drain well and chop it. Place it in a bowl.

Drain the raisins and add to the bowl with the swiss chard. Add all other filling ingredients, except for the apples and powdered sugar, and mix well.

Butter your tart tin or springform pan.

Cut pastry dough into two equal pieces. Roll out one of the pieces on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin until it’s flat (about 1/4 inch thick). Cut dough to fit your tart tin or springform pan with some dough coming up the sides. Press the bottom and sides of the pan with the dough.

Add the filling. Top with the peeled and sliced apples.

Roll out the remaining piece of dough. Place it ontop being careful to seal the ends by pinching it all around. Take a fork and prick the top so that steam can escape while it cooks.

Place in a 350 oven until golden. This took about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Check it from time to time to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Cool on a rack. Dust with powdered sugar.

Makes a good light supper with a salad or serve after dinner as a fine dessert.

(APPLE TURNOVER BONUS: If you have left over dough, simply roll it out. On one half, add peeled and sliced apples with some brown sugar, cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg and a slice of butter. Roll over other half of dough to cover apples. Seal edges. Brush with cream or milk. Prick with fork to create several steam holes and cook in a 350 oven until golden, about 20 minutes. Makes a nice after-school or after-work snack).

Other recipes from our trip to southern France include:

Find more recipes in the Food section.

The Fiscal Cliff Cocktail
Dec 31st, 2012 by
This cocktail should be served half-full. Read on to find out why.

This cocktail should be served half-full. Read on to find out why.

I made up this cocktail this afternoon with some help from my Facebook friends. I asked everyone to contribute at least one ingredient. I then chose a few, threw them in a cocktail shaker and created this recipe.

Although two people suggested gin (“because you can make that in a bathtub if you have to,” said my friend Elizabeth Comeau), I opted not to use that because gin is a tricky thing to mix with anything else. Instead I chose a base of cheap whiskey (“because I think we’re all going to have to tighten our belts”).

Here’s the recipe:


  • Whiskey (A shot)
  • Beer (About 4 oz.)  (Bob McKenzie suggested Miller, “because it’s the champagne of beers” but I had to use Pabst Blue Ribbon, because that’s what I had on hand)
  • Some lemon juice (About 3-4 tablespoons) and a few dashes of Angostura bitters (it’s been a bitter battle, no?)
  • Simple syrup (1 Tablespoon) (Because putting an end to this political crapshoot and not having to hear about it again will be sweet)

What I did:

Fill a cocktail shaker with several cubes of ice

Add whiskey, beer, lemon juice, simple syrup and bitters.

Shake it up (not too much or it will explode — or go over the cliff).

Now pour half of it in a glass and pour the other half out for the government (as suggested by my friend Kenny Hogan). Thanks all!!

Happy New Year,

–Mark and Trish

Pork Cutlets With An Express Marinade
Jul 11th, 2012 by
This flavorful dish is easy to make on a weeknight.

This flavorful dish is easy to make on a weeknight.

I made this one up Monday night with ingredients I had on hand. It was quick and easy to make and very garlicky. In other words, it’s a healthy dish.


  • Pork cutlets (about 1 pound)
  • Garlic powder (2 tbspoons)
  • Paprika (2 tbspoons)
  • Dried sage (1 tbspoon)
  • Salt (1 tbspoon)
  • Olive oil, preferably extra-virgin (1/3 cup)
  • Dijon mustard (1/2 tspoon)

What I did:

Put the cutlets between two pieces of wax paper and beat them with a rolling pin until flat and thin.

Put the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Dip the cutlets in the bowl, covering them with the oil mixture.

Fry the cutlets in a little olive oil in a saute pan until done (about 30 seconds on each side). Don’t overcook.

Serve with rice or a mushroom risotto and a side salad. Serves four.

Saints Preserve Us, Don’t Try This At Home
Jul 9th, 2012 by
You can see the dregs at the bottom of the carboy on the right.

You can see the dregs at the bottom of the carboy on the right.

I started drinking before 10:30 this morning and there was an explosion in my basement.

The 1-liter bottle exploded when the cork was pulled out.

The 1-liter bottle exploded when the cork was pulled out.

It was really more of a minor eruption and involved one of my 1-liter wine bottles. And the drinking was more of a tasting as part of my wine-making duties.

It was a little more than a month ago that the wine stopped fermenting in the large oak barrel and I siphoned it into two 5-gallon glass carboys, two 1-gallon bottles, and three 1-liter bottles. Over that time dregs settled to the bottom of the carboys and as part of the wine-making process I had to change it from carboy to clean carboy so that the wine didn’t sit too long on top of it.

Usually, when I make wine in the fall I crush the grapes in early October and I change the carboys on St. Martin’s Day, Nov. 11, an old superstition of my father’s that I’ve followed for years to great success. But this year I made wine in the spring using grapes from the fall harvest in Chile (our spring is their fall) and I wasn’t sure which Saint should guide me.

A Saint To Guide Me

Today I started a new tradition and declared St. Veronica Guiliani’s Day the day to change the wine from glass to glass. Catholic Online told me St. Veronica was a Capuchin mystic who was born near Milan and “who had many spiritual gifts.”  She was a “recipient of a stigmata in 1697 and “she impressed her fellow nuns by remaining remarkably practical despite her numerous ecstatic experiences.”

All was going well until I tried to open a 1-liter bottle of the wine to help fill one of the carboys to the top. The dregs take up some room so when I fill up a clean carboy I’m usually short a third of a liter or more and I need to fill it up all of the way to keep the air out.  Air will turn wine made without preservatives to vinegar. I use no sulphites, only grapes which mysteriously change from grape juice to wine when I follow this process.

So I pulled out the cork on the 1-liter bottle and it came out with a pop, followed by what looked to be smoke, and a raging rush of rose-colored bubbles that erupted out of the bottle along with three-quarters of the bottle of homemade wine. In the end I used up that bottle, as well as nearly two more liters, to fill both carboys to the brim. What I’m left with is 12 gallons of homemade malbec in clean bottles in my basement.

I had to taste each carboy and bottle after I opened it to make sure nothing had turned to vinegar. All tasted good– nearly ready to drink even now.

I Have A Vision

St. Veronica entered “a new phase of her spiritual life in 1693 when she claimed to have a vision of a chalise, symbolizing the Divine Passion which was to be re-enacted in her own soul,” according to Catholic Online.

I too have a vision of a chalise, filled with this wine, which I’ll be able to start drinking in the fall. This morning’s tastings led me to envision a bold vintage with bright spicy notes and a good kick. It’s a little raw now but I’m hoping it develops a silky texture within the next couple of months, a character of malbec that I like and desire.

Until then, I’ll wait out the rest of the summer knowing there is a God. How else can I explain this miracle?

A Phenomenal Guitarist, At Any Age
Nov 12th, 2011 by

(Above, the 12-year-old New Bedford resident played the House of Blues in Boston in 2010.)

I had quite a surprise Friday night when I went to see Buddy Guy at the Wilbur Theatre in Boston.

I didn’t want there to be an opening act, but when I got there, I didn’t want the opening act to stop playing.

Read: Why I’m A Believer In The Mighty Quinn.

Make Biba’s Mother’s Fried Meatballs For Your Valentine
Feb 12th, 2011 by
These are great served anyway: in a sauce with or without a sub roll or just plain on a dish.

These are great served anyway: in a sauce with or without a sub roll or just plain on a dish.

These are so delicious they’re an act of love. Like all good things they take a little work but aren’t the loved ones in your life worth it?

Restaurant owner and cookbook author Biba Caggiano has the best recipe for meatballs or polpette (as the Italians call them).

What makes them truly great and different is that she uses a variety of meats, including mortadella, and each ball is dipped in egg and breadcrumbs before fried, giving them a tender crust.

They’re so delicious you can eat them plain, without tomato sauce. But I like them with a light sauce: one that isn’t overcooked and where you can taste the fresh tomatoes.

I also deviate a little from her recipe by adding some ground beef. Biba’s mother’s recipe just uses the following meats: ground veal, pork sausage, and mortadella.

Here’s my recipe based on her’s:


  • White bread (4 slices or 2 large and thick slices of Italian bread)
  • Milk (1 cup)
  • Ground veal (1 pound)
  • Ground beef (1 pound)
  • Ground pork (1/2 pound)
  • Mortadella, chopped finely (1/2 pound)
  • Nutmeg (1/4 teaspoon)
  • Grated Imported Parmesan Cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano) (2 cups)
  • Large eggs, lightly beaten (6)
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper (to taste)
  • Dried bread crumbs (2-4 cups)
  • Olive oil (Enough for frying)

What I did:

Remove crusts from bread and soak in milk for about 5 minutes.

Drain the bread and squeeze out as much of the milk as possible. Add the veal, beef, pork, mortadella, nutmeg parmesan cheese, and 3 eggs. Season with salt and pepper and mix until combined well.

Take a small amount of the meat mixture and shape it between the palms of your hand into a ball about the size of small egg. Place on a plate and continue to do this until all of the meat mixture is used.

Lightly beat the remaining 3 eggs in a bowl. Dip the meatballs in the egg mixture and then roll them in the breadcrumbs. Flatten them slightly with the palms of your hand and put them in a single layer on a cookie sheet or large platter. They can be refrigerated for several hours. Just be sure to tightly cover them with plastic wrap.

Heat an inch of oil in a medium heavy skillet over medium-high heat. As soon as the oil is hot, lower the meatballs in batches with a slotted spoon. Do not crowd the pan as this will cause them to cook unevenly and burn. When they’re golden on one side (about 1-2 minutes), turn them over and brown on the other side. Once they are cooked through, transfer them to a dish or platter lined with paper towels to drain.

You can serve them just like this. Or you can put them in a large pot of your favorite tomato sauce over low heat and cook them a little more.  You can use this tomato sauce recipe (adapted from my mother’s recipe) but I’d omit the sausage and possibly add a fresh tomato, chopped fine, or a can of diced tomatoes to give it a fresh taste.

Stir occasionally being careful not to break apart the meatballs. Serve this and it will strike a chord in the hearts of people you love, stronger than an arrow from Cupid’s bow.

Find more recipes in the Food section.

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