Basically, we get a box of stuff from a farm once a week. We have no warning what it's going to be. We just go on Saturday to pick up whatever is in season. This is awesome, but because of the way farms work out, it means we occasionally get a lot of similar stuff that we have to improvise a half a dozen meals from. Recently, it's been greens. Lettuce, cabbage, bok choy, kale, etc. It's great. I just wish we weren't getting all of these things at the same time.
Except. We've gotten swiss chard two weeks in a row. Which, if you're a particular type of person, can only mean one thing.
If you've been to Al Di La, in Park Slope, you've probably experienced the greatest thing ever created. A confection of Swiss Chard, Ricotta, [random standard cooking things that keep things together, like eggs and flour], then drizzled with butter and sage, they are really the greatest fucking thing on the planet. Having them for the first time at Al Di La is the most direct and memorable revelation that I've had. And I'm not talking just food related. I'm talking over all.
And the recipe exists online. Cromulent pointed it out to me, when I was complaining about all the various greens I'd received.
Giff and I had tried to make malfatti before, and had failed. But this was before we had a decent sized kitchen, and a food processor, and money to buy decent ricotta, and things like that. Also, the recipe wasn't the official Al Di La Recipe.
So we planned to make them. The night before, Giff got a call from her mom. Her mom was going to have someone stay with her, but Momma Giff's husband's uncle died, and so she was called away. So Giff had to go to the airport to pick up Momma Giff's visitor instead of making malfatti. So that's what I did.
This was the first thing I've ever made from scratch on my own.
The following is that recipe, adapted for two people. With a salad and a couple of glasses of wine and maybe some dessert, this provides a decent meal.
You could theoretically put some pancetta in here towards the end, or just use this as a primi, but it doesn't need it.
If you don't love this, you have no soul.
Anna Klinger's Malfatti
1/2 pound ricotta
2 bunches Swiss chard (about 2 pounds)
4 ounces butter
2 tbsps. flour, plus more for shaping
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 large egg yolks
1 large whole egg
Freshly ground black pepper
24 fresh sage leaves
Parmesan cheese for serving.
1. Drain the ricotta in a sieve lined with cheesecloth overnight in the refrigerator. Measure out 5/8 cups.
2. Bring a large pot of water, heavily seasoned with salt, to a boil. Trim the chard, removing all stems and large ridges. Add half to the boiling water and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Fish out and plunge into a bowl of ice water. Repeat.
3. Squeeze out chard with your hands. On a dish towel, spread the chard in a circle the size of a pie. Roll up the towel and have someone help you twist the ends to squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Pulse in a food processor until fine. Squeeze out in a dish towel once more, until very dry. (You will have about 1/2 cup.)
4. Melt half the butter. Mix chard and ricotta. Add melted butter, 1/8 cup flour, heaping 1/2 teaspoon salt and nutmeg and mix again. Drop in egg yolks and egg, season with pepper and stir again. Sprinkle a cutting board with flour. Shape into 1 ounce balls, about 1 tablespoon each, dropping them on the cutting board. You should have 12 to 15.
5. Put a teaspoon of flour into a narrow wineglass. Drop in a ball and swirl until it forms an oval. Repeat. (You may need to change the glass.) You may freeze them at this point.
6. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the malfatti and cook until they float, about 8 minutes. (If frozen, 10 minutes.) Put remaining butter in a small sauté pan and heat until bubbling, shaking the pan. When it smells nutty, add sage and cook 30 seconds. Season with salt.
7. Drain malfatti and place on plates. Spoon on the butter and sage. Grate Parmesan over each plate.
Yield: 2 to 3 servings as a light main course; 3 to 4 as a first course.