I can always smell the seasons change. I know it sounds like something no one under the age of 70 would say, but it’s true. Spring and summer are easy, those full-on gusts of warm air hinting at stirring roots and blades of grass about to burst. Fall and winter are more elusive: a brief snap of cold air, the smells of brittle leaves and burning wood. I haven’t smelled Fall yet, but a few weeks ago, as I ate lunch in the courtyard of the Boston Public Library, lost in the pages of my book, there was a momentary shift in the season. Nothing changed in the air or temperature, the flowers planted around the gushing fountain still bloomed in lush color. It was merely a glint of the light, the sharp clip of a girl’s black boots on the brick, and I felt Fall coming. I’ll resist the urge to indulge in fantasies of Autumn (flannel sheets, boots and blazers, brisk walks, apple tarte tartin…), and instead take it as a sign to savor every last sweet kernel of summer in these final sun-drenched days.
I haven’t been cooking or baking much lately. My sister got married a week ago (more on that later!!!), and I spent most of my free time worrying about lace and logistics. My go-to for busy days is tortillas with greens. My mom has been making these for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I didn’t understand the simple perfection of a corn tortilla filled with sautéed Swiss chard, garlic and a heavy sprinkling of sea salt. No cheese? No beans? These were, in my opinion, the requisite staples of any tortilla, and without them it was an unworthy pursuit.
When my mom was my age, she traveled around Mexico by herself. I can picture her easily: dark wavy hair to her shoulders, huge smile, and wearing a long, brightly colored skirt. Whenever she talks about this trip, she mentions the kindness of the people she met and the tortillas. She met a guy on a bus whom she describes as “interesting and nerdy.” He was studying the last Spanish haciendas, and took her around to the grand relics of colonial manor houses, where horses roamed the big, open courtyards. (I interrupted her recollections to ask whether getting off a bus in a strange country in the middle of nowhere with a man you just met was the wisest idea, to which she responded “Oh, I could tell he was on the up and up.”) He took her to meet a local family, pretending she was his sister so as not to cause a stir. For lunch, they had fresh corn tortillas with garlicky Swiss chard and salt.
It’s an incredibly simple meal, but hearty and delicious. Because the days are shortening and the leaves are on the brink of fading, I’ve created my own twist, adding sweet, fresh corn, slices of avocado, and a dollop of plain yogurt and paprika. If you’ve never combined Swiss chard and corn, you’re in for a treat: the somewhat bitter greens become downright decadent against the bright, crunchy sweetness of the corn. Trust me on this one.
Ingredients (serves 2)
- 1 bunch swiss card
- 2 clove garlic
- 1 T olive oil
- 2-4 tortillas (I prefer Food For Life brand Sprouted Corn Tortillas)
- 1 ear of fresh corn
- 1 ripe avocado
- Coarse seasalt
For the topping (if desired)
- 2 T plain yogurt
- Wash greens and remove tough end stalks. Remove kernels from corn and set aside
- Heat olive oil in a skillet
- Smash and peel garlic cloves, chop into a fine dice and add to warmed oil. Stir garlic until translucent and just starting to turn golden brown.
- Add greens and sauté until tender and cooked. Remove from heat. Add corn and a generous pinch of salt, and toss to combine.
- In a heavy cast iron skillet, warm tortillas by flipping in the pan for a few minutes
- Add greens & corn to tortillas, top with avocado slices and yogurt and paprika (if desired). Fold or roll as your heart desires, and enjoy!