Swiss Chard-Prosciutto Lasagne


A few weeks ago, we were at the Librarie Fontaine bookstore down the street, and I was (naturally) looking at cookbooks, but X saw this one first: “Vieux Légumes.”

Since I feel like an old vegetable most of the time anyway, this seemed like just the cookbook to add to my ever-expanding collection, which has more or less taken over the apartment. It’s beautifully photographed, and the recipes are short and mostly easy to put together, although that’s not the intent. The idea is to focus on the taste of these ancient veggies– like Swiss chard (blettes); potimarron, the pumpkin that tastes like chestnuts; topinambours (Jerusalem artichokes); and lots of roots, from carrots, black radishes and rutabaga to salsify, finger-shaped scorsoneres, and my favorite, les cardons — and offer up recipes that allow these veggies to be the star of the show.

I’ve been going a bit overboard with Swiss chard, I know, but when the price is two bunches for 1 euro, I can’t resist. And when I see a recipe that calls for Swiss chard, ham, and cheese – -I’m pretty much a goner.

I don’t mean to oversell, but this lasagne is incredible – you’ve got the sweet raisins, the crunch of pine nuts, the creamy béchamel, and sharp Pecorino — all coming together in a warming, good-for-you winter dish that’s classically old school, but with a surprise or two up its sleeve.

I’ve been experimenting with the do-ahead factor of my recipes, and this one’s great. You can assemble this in 30 minutes, put it in the fridge, and then heat it up later for dinner. Even though there’s no other place than my kitchen where I’d like to be, it’s nice to know that dinner’s already done, and I can concentrate on other important things — like window shopping with Rosedog along avenue Victor Hugo (and sometimes shopping shopping, too – the Petit Bateau salesgirls love her), instead of the big rush up to dinnertime.

Swiss Chard-Prosciutto Lasagne

Inspired by a recipe in “Vieux Légumes” (Marabout)

Makes 4 big servings


3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bunches Swiss chard, well-rinsed and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, optional, for serving
dash nutmeg
½ cup toasted pine nuts
½ cup white raisins
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups whole milk
dash nutmeg
1 cup Pecorino cheese, shredded
5 oz. fresh goat cheese
6 pieces prosciutto
6 lasagne noodles, uncooked

Preheat oven to 200 C/400 F.

1. Put 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the bottom of an 8″ X 8″ dish and with your hands or a paper towel, smear it around so the dish is evenly and well coated.

2. In a large skillet, drizzle 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, add the garlic and turn the heat on medium. When you can smell the garlic, add the chopped Swiss chard, and give it a good stir. This won’t take long at all to begin to wilt – about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the skillet and put the Swiss chard into a colander to drain.

3. Make the béchamel sauce. In a heavy skillet or saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter, stirring with a wooden spoon. Gently and slowly sprinkle the flour into the butter, stirring all the time, until the mixture is incorporated. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes. Slowly add the milk a bit at a time, now using a whisk to combine. Keep whisking and adding milk until it’s completely incorporated and you have a smooth, milky liquid. Continue to cook and stir with a whisk until the sauce begins to thicken. Add a pinch of salt, pepper and nutmeg — just enough to season the sauce but not to overwhelm. Put this sauce aside.

4. Assemble the lasagne. Put one layer of the noodles on the bottom of the dish, then add the Swiss chard, half of the prosciutto, torn into small pieces, and one-third of the béchamel. Dot with half of the goat cheese and one-third of the Pecorino, and sprinkle half of the pine nuts and raisins in there, too. Now make a second layer, doing the same thing. Finally, top with a layer of pasta and the last bit of the béchamel and the Pecorino. I totally forgot this step, and used up all of my béchamel, and it’s OK if you do, but it’ll look prettier if you add the last pasta layer. (Note: You can do everything up to this step ahead and refrigerate.) Cover tightly with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10-20, or until the top is crispy. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

swiss chard las end

Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Salsa

roasted red pepper and walnut

I wasn’t sure what to call this – a dip, salsa, pesto, or spread – since it can really work as all four.

I just love things that can multi-task, don’t you?

The other day, I was thumbing through my oversize black binder, filled with recipes that are more than 20 years old, and found a recipe for spicy red pepper and walnut dip that I’d clipped from Food & Wine in 2005. This seemed like a perfect hummus replacement (not that I don’t like hummus, but I’m growing a bit weary of seeing it everywhere), something that I could eat with toasted pita chips and serve as an appetizer, and I liked that it could be made quickly and without turning on the oven (since we’re having one of the hottest summers ever in Paris, this was key).

Thick and pesto-like this also seemed like it would work well stirred into pasta, roasted veggies, or spread on a sandwich in lieu of mayo. When I tasted it, I realized that this recipe closely resembled the Spanish tapas staple, Romesco sauce — made with peppers, tomato, ground almonds and breadcrumbs — traditionally served with shrimp or seafood.

See what I mean? This little salsa/dip/spread/whatever-you-want-to-call-it can do whatever you want.

I took quite a few liberties with this recipe — I simplified it by using jarred peppers, used breadcrumbs that I had in the freezer, added some Parmesan and cayenne, and I just mixed everything together, all at once, in the food processor. The only thing that you’ll need heat for is the walnuts, which I like to do in a cast-iron skillet on the stove, so I can watch them more carefully.

If you don’t have walnuts on hand, pine nuts or almonds would work, too — just be sure and roast them first, whatever you decide to use. (Roast, roast, roast. I’m all about roasting, aren’t I? I guess you probably figured that out by now.)

What will you use this salsa for?

Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Salsa

3 large red bell peppers, roasted (I used the jarred ones)
1 cup walnuts, roasted
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or cayenne
2 cups breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil

Put all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined. Refrigerate or let rest for an hour before serving so the flavors can combine. 

Drizzle a little bit of olive oil on top before serving, if you’d like.


tapenade open

I was breezing through BHV the other Saturday, the worst of all possible days to hit Paris’ multi-floored, one-stop shop for everything from toilet plungers to wine-making equipment (naturellement), 300 euro Le Creuset Dutch ovens, Yves Delorme sheets and the latest Chanel lipstick (Think Home Depot, Target, and Neiman’s, rolled all into one very cramped place. No, wait — add Container Store, MJ Designs, and Border’s, too.).

On this particular day, I was looking for plastic boxes to store my ever-expanding collection of blue-and-white, but I got distracted by the book department; in particular, the table with new cookbooks.

I saw the fun drawings of crabs, fish, chicken and Swiss chard before I saw the title, “Nature,” and way before I saw the name on top of that, which was no other than France’s most well-known chef, Alain Ducasse, who’s built a humongous global restaurant empire (Benoit, Spoon, Alain Ducasse at Plaza Athenee, etc.), and recently gave a culinary face-lift to the restaurant that sits in the city’s most famous landmark, Le Jules Verne.

alain ducasse

I flipped open the book, and was immediately taken in by the beautiful photography, and the cute drawings and repartee between Ducasse and Paule Neyrat, the dietician who helped put the book together (or who put the book together, and then Alain’s name was put on top – it’s hard to tell). But what I loved most were the simple, healthy recipes, with a strong emphasis on grains, veggies and fish.

I’ve got to set Alain straight on guacamole (Olive oil? Green onions?), but I think that he’s spot on with his tapenade recipe, which I made the other day. So easy! Isn’t tapenade one of the best things ever?  You cut up a baguette, open the wine, and you’ve got such a perfect little appetizery kind of snack. Is doubly good with a bit of fresh chevre smeared on the toast first, if you want to get extra fancy. Perfect to pack for your spring picnics.

I followed his recipe exactly, except I used Kalamata olives instead of Nicoise, simply because I had them on hand. It takes, oh, about 5 minutes to whip this up. No need to ever, ever buy that stuff in the jar again. Plus, it’s so much nicer when you make it yourself, because you can keep it sort of chunky and rustic. I like that.

PS. I’m going to try to start writing these recipes with European measurements as well as American, because the folks that I’ve surveyed seem to be split right down the middle on whether they’d like to see grams vs ounces. I’ll round up or down where it makes sense.


150 grams (about 5 oz) black olives, such as Nicoise or Kalamata

1 clove garlic, minced

5 leaves basil, chopped

1 teaspoon capers

10 cl (3.38 oz or about 1/3 cup) olive oil

1 anchovy filet

Either chop everything by hand, or do this the cowgirl way: put the garlic in your baby food processor and pulse a few times. Now add everything else, and pulse only until the olives are in small bits. You want this chunky and country-style, not a puree.

Cowgirl Tip: Try using a cherry pitter to pop the seeds out of the olives. Tres cool!

tapenade two


Spinach and Feta Tartelettes

spinach tartelette 1

I’d been thinking about spinach. I had this huge sack of baby spinach that I’d just bought at the market and I wanted to do something special with, but I didn’t know what, exactly. I really wanted spanikopita, the labor-intensive, brush-the-filo-layers-with-butter dish, but I haven’t found filo around here that I like (it’s all too thick), and making homemade  filo pastry isn’t something that this cowgirl wants to take on – ever.

So there, in my refrigerator drawer, sat my spinach, kinda sad and forlorn-like. And my feta, too.

I was making a big ol’ asparagus-ricotta tart with Clotilde Desoulier’s olive oil tart crust (the easiest and fastest crust ever — you must try this), and had some leftover crust dough bits that I didn’t want to waste. So I pulled out these two very cute cake tins (that’s what I’d originally bought them for – tiny layer cakes), and pressed the dough into them.

I cooked up my spinach, just as I normally do for spanikopita, and mixed in some feta, and divided the mixture (Oh my, Mr. Spinach, what shrinkage!) between the two tiny crust-lined tins.

I sprinkled some Parmesan on top and put these babies in the oven, and went to walk Rose. When I came back a half-hour later, they were finished — and perfect. I think that these little cuties would be great for a brunch or a light dinner with a soup.

Before I sign off, let me wax on about this crust for a moment. I’d seen this recipe on Clotilde’s blogsite, Chocolate & Zucchini, awhile back (where you will find loads of recipes on French-centric recipes with a modern, healthy twist), and was intrigued by the wheat flour and olive oil combo. I’ve been wanting to experiment with crusts since I’m using more tart than pie pans over here and I wanted a crust that would work nicely with savory dishes. I really like the nutty flavor of whole wheat, anyway, and I really really like the idea of whipping up a crust by hand, and not in the food processor (less stuff to wash). This takes, I promise, 5 minutes to put together and roll out, and I can’t say enough about how yummy it is, too. Clotilde puts dried herbs in her crust dough, and I thought about it, but then figured I’d just see how this worked out first, and then do some mix-ins on the next round.* Five stars.

PS I made this a second time, with frozen spinach, because I thought that lots of y’all might prefer this, and it’s even easier (mucho speedy), and cheaper, too. Here, one 450-gram box is just 1 euro, which I just love.

Spinach and Feta Tartelettes
Makes six tartelettes or one large tart (11 inches)


32 oz. (900 grams) spinach
1 small yellow onion, 1/4-inch dice
7 oz (200 grams) feta, crumbled
½ teaspoon lime zest
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
sea salt
1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
olive oil crust, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350.
1. Drizzle a bit of olive oil in a skillet and add onion and garlic. Cook on medium-low for about 5 minutes, or until onions start to become translucent.
2. Add spinach to onions and garlic and cook until it starts to wilt. Add nutmeg, a bit of salt and pepper and the lime zest. Remove from heat and squeeze out as much excess moisture as you can.* Put spinach-onion mixture in a bowl.
3. Add crumbled feta to spinach and mix well. Spoon into 2 tartelette pans and shred a bit of Parmesan on top. Bake for 30 minutes.
Serve with a few toasted pine nuts on top, and with a little salad for a light dinner.

*Cowgirl Tip: A potato ricer is great for squeezing out water from spinach.

Olive Oil Tart Crust
Makes one large tart crust (11 inches) or 6 small ones


215 grams/2 cups whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, or a mix of the two (I use all whole wheat)
50 grams/1/4 cup oatmeal
I tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon sea salt
60 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
120 ml (1/2 cup) ice water


Grease the tart pan with a tiny bit of olive oil if it doesn’t have a non-stick coating. 
In a medium bowl, combine the flour and sea salt with a big spoon. Add the oil and mix a bit, and then add the water and mix just until the dough comes together in a ball. (You can do all of this by hand.)

Now, on a floured surface, roll out the dough into a circle large enough to fit tart pan. Trim the edges and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Fill the tart and bake or blind-bake (depends on what you’ll be using it for) at 400F for about 20-25 minutes.

*This is an updated crust recipe. I’ve upped the amount of flour, added oatmeal and honey to give it a different twist.

Fred’s Texas Cafe


Sometimes, when things go wrong, it’s for the best — as was the case a couple of weeks ago, when Mom and I discovered Fred’s Texas Cafe in Fort Worth.

We’d just been to the Modern, breezed past the Warhols, and afterwards, we were were both in the mood, turns out, for a big, fat cheeseburger. We went to our favorite burger joint, ordered up our usual burgers, and were so disappointed after one bite, that we left.

Lucky for us, Fred’s Texas Cafe, a Fort Worth institution and award-winning dive, was just a few blocks away. We took our seats on the duct-taped bar stools and ordered up half-pound Fredburgers with cheese and homemade fries, and were soon in burger heaven.

I lost track of the number of napkins needed to get through the whole burger (note the crispy, yet perfectly greasy bun), but get through it I did — and so did Mom.

Next time I’m in town, Mom says that we’re going to Fred’s again, and she’s gonna try the bleu cheese burger. Hmmm. Bleu cheese. Wonder why they haven’t thought of that here in Paris?

fred's cutie

Fred’s Texas Cafe
915 Currie Street
Fort Worth, Texas
(817) 332-0083

Texas Pickup Chili-Cheese Salad

Conveniently located across the street from the North Texas State University tennis courts in Denton, Texas Pickup was my favorite local spot to grab a burger or a salad after a few hours of playing tennis with my best friend Melanie.

Texas Pickup was a small place, with lots of dark wood panels, and the vibe was more backcountry bar than restaurant, but I just loved it here. Deciding between the burger and the salad was always a hard decision, but more often than not, the salad won, and I’d usually have a basket of home cut fries along with it, because why not?

Sadly, Texas Pickup closed sometime in the 80s, but I’ve never forgotten its Texas-style salad– heaps of warm chili poured over crisp pieces of iceberg lettuce, then covered with a mountain of shredded cheddar cheese and Fritos. That new white dressing, Ranch, was served on the side, which we’d drown the whole thing in.

The key to this is to wait until the cheese gets a bit melty on the chili before you dump the dressing on top — but you’d figure that, right?

Here’s my version of this salad, which uses turkey chili (but obviously you can use whatever you’d like), shredded cheddar, Fritos, and Romaine (because I can’t find iceberg around here). I make buttermilk dressing – a Cowgirlified version with cilantro and jalapenos – and serve it on the side, too.

Don’t you just love those big ‘ol tomato wedges?

All you do is put some lettuce on a plate or a really big bowl, heap some warmed-up chili on top, add a handful or two of shredded cheese, and some Fritos — and voila!

Since it’s now officially chili season, I thought that this would be the purrfect fall salad for our Friday round-the-world Twitter lunch bunch— New York-based Cheryl, Nicole in San Diego, and Karen in Atlanta — along with all the others.

See the other great fall salad posts by clicking on over to Twitter and typing in the hashtag, #letslunch.

Bon appetit, y’all!

Turkey Chili

2 pounds turkey, ground
1 large white onion, 1/4-inch dice
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
½ green bell pepper, 1/4-inch dice
¼ red bell pepper, 1/4-inch dice
3 16-oz. cans kidney beans, black beans, or a mixture, drained
2 32-oz. cans diced tomatoes
1 8-oz. can tomato paste
5 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon paprika (smoky)
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 cups water
olive oil

1. Drizzle a bit of olive oil in a heavy, deep stockpot and add the onions and garlic. Turn the heat on medium and cook until the onions become translucent, 5-10 minutes.

2. Add the ground turkey and cook until cooked through.

3. Now, add the red and green bell peppers, tomatoes, tomato paste, beans and spices.

4. Turn heat down to low and cook for a couple of hours, adjusting seasonings if you need to along the way.

Jalapeno-Cilantro Buttermilk Dressing

1 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
1 lime, squeezed
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon shallot, diced
3-4 jalapenos (pickled)
1 handful cilantro
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
sea salt

1. Put shallot, cilantro, jalapenos in food processor and give it a whiz until these things are well combined.

2. Add lime juice, honey, buttermilk, and creme fraiche or sour cream and pulse a time or two.

3. Now, with the motor running, drizzle in the grapeseed oil. Add salt.

Super-Quick Supper: Crustless Quiche

The other night, my friend Charline and her mom, Dominique, invited us over for dinner, and after sipping champagne and nibbling on my Texas Killers spicy shortbread cookies, we moved on to the first course, a crustless quiche.

“I’ve been making it for 20 years!” Dominique said, showing me the five-ingredient handwritten recipe on her fridge.

One bite, and I understood why. The quiche itself was light, because she used milk instead of cream, and because of this, the taste of the sharp Gruyere and smoky lardons was in perfect harmony.

People are always asking me for simple recipes. This literally takes less than five minutes to stir together and put in a pan.

You may use anything that you want instead of Gruyere and lardons – just take a peek into your fridge, like Dominique does, and use what you have. Zucchini, mushrooms, spinach, red bell pepper, onions, tomatoes, or any kind of cheese…I was planning to buy pork and make chorizo, but the butchers were all closed. Also, the amounts of the cheese and lardons used in this recipe — 1 cup each — are guesstimates. Dominique didn’t write this down, and it doesn’t really matter. This recipe will work with a bit more or less of whatever you want.

I made a simple arugula salad with pine nuts and shaved Parmesan, and called it dinner.

Stay tuned. The cowgirlified version of this quiche is coming next.

Crustless Quiche (Quiche sans Pate)

⅓ cup flour
3 large eggs
2 cups milk
1 cup lardons or cubed ham
1 cup Gruyere, shredded

Preheat oven to 350.

1. Butter and flour a tart pan.

2. Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes or until set.

Eat warm or at room temperature.

I told Rose that quiche isn’t for dogs, but she doesn’t believe me.

Squash Soufflé

The other day, my mom made meatloaf and her famous squash souffle — or famous to me, at least.

It’s one of her signature summer recipes — one that she inherited from her mother — and it’s one of my absolute faves, too. The brilliant yellow color of the squash and the lightness of the dish just says July in Texas to me. It’s easy to make, and is fantastic alongside just about anything — fish, chicken, or beef — and goes especially well with barbecue, too.

What I really love about this dish is that the other ingredients don’t get in the way of the yellow squash. Its unmistakable sunny flavor is the star here.

Squash Soufflé

1 small onion, sliced

3-4 yellow squash, sliced
2 cups Ritz crackers, crushed
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Place onion and squash in a saucepan, just barely covered with water, on medium-high heat, with lid.

2. Bring to a boil, and turn down heat to simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until veggies are tender. Drain veggies, then mash them up a bit with a potato masher.

3. Mix grated cheese with cracker crumbs in a bowl.

4. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and combine with milk.

5. Add 3/4 of the cheese/cracker mixture to the saucepan.

6. Now add the milk/eggs to the mixture and combine well. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

7. Pour into a casserole dish and sprinkle the remaining cheese/cracker mixture on top.

8. Pour into a well-greased casserole dish. Bake for 30-45 minutes.