Mushroom, Kale & Cheddar Tart with Cornmeal Crust

Mushroom, Kale and Cheddar Tart | A Sweet Spoonful

I’ve been thinking a lot about work lately, mainly because both Sam and I are beginning to fall behind with our own work and trying to figure out how to Balance It All with a baby and a family and a mortgage and dreams of cabining in distant sunny valleys. Ha! I have a few wonderful employees so while I was away on maternity leave, everything at Marge functioned just fine, leading me to start asking some bigger questions of myself: where should I put my energies and time? How can I get to a point where I feel like I’m doing work that really helps others and makes a difference? What’s next for me? Many of us spend such large chunks of our days, weeks, and months at work that it makes sense to question some of these things. Are we doing good? Do we feel good? Are we being challenged, stimulated, excited? Right now, Sam and I are balancing childcare on our own: he spends two days of the work week with Oliver and I the other three. So the stakes feel higher for both of us; when I wake up and it’s my workday, it feels like the clock is ticking and it’s more important than ever to make it really count. 

Mushroom, Kale and Cheddar Tart | A Sweet Spoonful

Making your time count – like a checkbook you hope will, despite previous experiences, somehow balance itself – is a tricky and occasionally anxious arithmetic. There’s this narrative in large pockets of our society that there’s something we’re all called toward or meant to do … and I think this really trips so many of us up. I’ve seen it with my employees; I’ve seen it with my sisters; I’ve seen it with myself. When I taught Freshman Composition at Boston College years ago we were required to hold office hours in which we’d see students and chat about the course and the college experience in general. I found we’d always get sidetracked into “Life Talks,” touching on what they were meant to do, what classes they should take to get there, if they were on the “right path.” There was such a fierce, underlying anxiety to it all and I’d constantly assure them that it would all work out just how it’s supposed to. When you’re 18 that’s a hard thing to hear, but maybe no less so – to believe as much as to hear – when you’re 28, or 38, or…

Mushroom, Kale and Cheddar Tart | A Sweet Spoonful

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Los Angeles for one night to be part of a panel at Expo West. It was my first time away from Oliver, hard-enough in its own right, but I had a hunch it was good for me to get out and talk about my work again. Before the panel, several of us were having breakfast together when one of the panelists started talking about her teenage son. She was concerned that he wouldn’t get into a good college – the problem, she said, was that he wasn’t particularly into school. I asked what kinds of things he was into, and she sighed and talked all about his proclivity toward skateboarding. He spends hours a day perfecting his skills, knows everyone at the local skate shops, has a big community of like-minded friends, attends skating events around the city, and has learned all about video production and photography … so he can document himself and others skateboarding. I listened to her carefully and, when there was a pause in the conversation, told her what I thought: she has nothing to worry about. It’s the kids who don’t have a passion or a fiery interest in anything that you’ve got to worry about. While she may not necessarily agree with what it is he’s excited about, I bet this kid is going to follow his passion somewhere pretty cool. It might not be in the hallways of academia or in the boardroom his mom may be envisioning, but such has been the case with so many influential, smart people we’ve all looked up to at one time or another. (Looking at you, Tony Hawk.)

Mushroom, Kale and Cheddar Tart | A Sweet Spoonful

A few days ago I came across Jeff Goins’s essay about this very thing and found myself lost in it, immediately sending it to my sisters. It made me think of the panelist’s son; it made me think of my past students, of myself at a younger age; if I’m honest, of myself now. In his piece, Goins talks about how the path and the clarity that so many of us seek is really a myth: “A calling is the accumulation of a person’s life’s experiences, skills, and passions — all put to work.” He gives an example of a woman he consulted with who wasn’t sure if certain ideas for a career path were her actual dream … or just another idea. Goins states, “The problem is we don’t often know what we should be doing until we start doing it. Experience leads to competence, and competence creates confidence.” His takeaway? You become what you practice: “you won’t find your dream by standing still.” I like this. If we all sit around and marinate too hard over what our true calling is, we’d never do anything. And as I get older I see, more often than not, that true calling (if it exists) is more often stumbled upon than assigned – we get there on our way to something else. Maybe so as long as we’re moving forward, we’re on our way.

Mushroom, Kale and Cheddar Tart | A Sweet Spoonful

Next week I’m traveling to Los Angeles again for another quick one night trip; it took me a long time to come around to this one as I questioned if I’d make connections while there, if it’d further my career in some small way, if it was worth the time away from Oliver. But it turns out these questions, much like the larger ones about your life’s work, can’t be resolved quickly. So instead I listen to the self that was giving advice to college kids all those years ago: it will somehow work out. And I’ve been trying to put some faith in Goins’ point — and what I imagine the panelist’s skateboarding son would say, too — that moving forward, just moving, is the work right there.

Speaking of work! I developed this tart recipe in partnership with Darigold using a few of their ingredients. We use their butter at home for baking, but I had yet to try their new white cheddar and we’ve been loving it sliced on crackers before dinner — or in recipes like this savory tart. You may recognize the crust recipe from the Smoked Salmon Tart in my cookbook; that recipe is still a favorite, so it was a treat to seasonally revamp it here.

Quick Cooks Note: Some of you have asked if you can just cook the kale along with the mushroom mixture to save steps / dishes. I’ve done it both ways and the reason I like the method below (even though it seems slightly fussier) is that it gives you the opportunity to really squeeze the moisture out of the greens, ensuring for a nice crisp crust. Worst case scenario if you want to cook the greens with the other vegetables is your crust will be slightly on the soft side. No big deal. 

Mixed Mushroom, Kale and Cheddar Tart
I have made this tart many times with all manner of ingredients for the filling, so feel free to use any seasonal vegetables you’re particularly excited about. The millet in the crust gives it an addictive crunch and while the ingredient list definitely doesn’t shy away from the butter, I feel slightly more virtuous since it relies on whole grain flour, millet and cornmeal. The crust is incredibly forgiving: I’ve made it with spelt flour and whole wheat pastry flour and it turned out fantastic with both, so feel free to play around here as well. The tart reheats beautifully in the oven (I avoid the microwave because I like the crust to stay crisp), and feels just fancy enough to serve to guests although we love to have it for dinner with a simple salad and enjoy the leftovers for a few days after that.

Serves: 6

1/2 cup (65g) medium-grind cornmeal
3/4 cup (90g) whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons (85g) cold Darigold unsalted butter, cut into ¾-inch cubes, plus more for greasing the pan
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water
1/4 cup (45g) millet

1/2 pound kale, 1 medium bunch, ribs and stems removed and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup (50g) minced shallots (about 3 medium shallots)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh, chopped thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
1/4 cup (60 ml) sour cream
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup grated Darigold white cheddar (about 2.5 oz /75g)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to season
pinch freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the Crust:
Butter a 10 x 1 inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Using a food processor, pulse together the cornmeal, flour and salt. Add the cubes of butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal (alternatively, you can use a pastry blender or your fingertips to work the butter into the dry ingredients). Add ice water and pulse until the dough starts to look like wet stand. Test to see if it’s done by gently squeezing a small piece between your fingers: you’re looking for it to hold together and not crumble away. If it seems too crumbly, add more water, 1 teaspoon at a time. Turn the dough out into a large bowl and mix in the millet using a fork. Press the dough evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pan. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Prepare the Filling:
Preheat the oven to 375F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the kale. Cook until just softened, about 1-2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon and transfer to a large bowl of ice water to stop the kale from cooking. Remove from the cool water and, using your hands, squeeze as much water from the leaves as possible, laying the greens out on clean work surface. They tend to clump into a ball when squeezed, so spend a few moments “de-clumping” and separating them.

In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil and sauté the shallots until tender, about 3 minutes. Add in the garlic and sauté for an additional 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms, thyme and a generous pinch of salt and cook down until tender and fragrant, 5-7 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, sour cream, eggs, salt and pepper. Fold in the grated cheddar cheese.

Place the prepared crust on a small baking sheet for easy transport to and from the oven. Leaving behind any cooking liquid from the pan (I use a slotted spoon here), spoon the mushroom mixture on top of the crust followed by the kale (arrange in an even layer). Pour the custard mixture on top of the kale. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the filling is completely set. Let cool for 15-20 minutes, unmold the tart and serve warm or room temperature. Refrigerate, covered, any leftovers for up to 3-4 days.

Sponsorship Note: This recipe and post was created in partnership with Darigold


  1. shanna mallon

    Ah, sometimes it all just seems so hard. The moving towards something, the pausing long enough to know why, the knowing how to balance them. I read an article last weekend about the value of contemplation and how no great work was ever created without some time carved out beforehand to think, and that got me thinking how much I need and value time of not doing... while at the same time, acknowledging as you have here that we can only not do for so long! Something about having a baby makes you face these questions afresh, I think. Maybe because there's so much less time available, so you want to make sure you're using it well. Always love reading your baby posts, M! Right there with you.

  2. Katrina

    That crust looks absolutely magical! Such a stunning and tasty looking tart. Being a new Mom sounds tough, but without even knowing it you're speaking to readers like me who are considering becoming new Mom's one day and need some serious real talk! Sending hugs!

  3. Kasey

    I really loved everything about this. Man, this stuff IS hard. I always try to find deeper meaning in decisions and opportunities but like you said, sometimes it's just about putting one foot in front of the other and trying to stay true to your gut. xo

  4. Katie

    Thanks for this. The timing is perfect, as I am at a bit of an impasse in my "career" right now, having been laid off from my job of 12 years in an industry--publishing--I've worked in for 20 years that's now been deemed dead, more or less. What to do next? Where to go? Do join the tech sector that seems to be taking over the world or at least my city?(My heart says no.) So many questions that may be best answered by action and listening to my intution (scary sometimes). Thanks.

  5. Lindsay

    Any reason why I can't just sautee the kale with the other veggies?

    1. megang

      Hi, Lindsay - great question. I've done it both ways. The thing with sauteeing the greens with other veggies is you don't get the chance to squeeze as much of the liquid out. It'll turn out just fine if you'd rather do it this way - worst case scenario is the crust will be a little less crisp. Like I said, I've done it both ways and I think you have to choose what makes most sense for you in the kitchen - and I'm all for fewer steps /dishes for sure. Let me know how you like it! ~Megan

  6. Lori

    Megan, reading your blog always feels like I'm having a conversation with a friend. Thank you for your honesty and for sharing your thoughts. Have fun in LA!

  7. Laura

    My baby is 10 months. When I hear from other self-employed parents I just want to remind them (you!) that you're doing so great-- getting away, working, figuring out how to share baby responsibilities: so hard, and so important. I just want to say that it keeps getting easier and easier (and more and more delightful). My husband and I are both self-employed and it's been such an evolution as we both include our various projects into the mix. You're doing great! (Also: such a delicious looking recipe.)

  8. Kate

    This post speaks to me on so many levels. I've never questioned my path as much as I have after having children when as you say "making the most of it" is so precious. Thank you for sharing your very poignant thoughts...and beautiful tart.

  9. Kristie

    I love your writing and this recipe looks delicious! Do you think plain Greek yogurt would work in place of sour cream?

  10. Leslie B

    Lovely post. Years ago there was a book called Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow. Regardless of whether the money follows, pursuing a path for reasons of passion will lead to meaningful work and a satisfying life. As for the tart, if I don't have millet,should I just use more cornmeal? Any other seeds that might work? Thanks!

    1. megang

      Hi, Leslie: Good question. If you don't have millet, you could totally leave it out and it'll be just fine. It adds extra crunch, but doesn't serve a purpose in holding the crust together. If you want to add a little something, raw quinoa could be fun. I haven't tried it but I think it'd add a nice little crunch as well. So I'd either just leave it out altogether or add a little handful of quinoa. Enjoy! ~Megan

  11. Kristin

    I made this yesterday and was successful with the less-dishes approach of adding the kale at the end of the mushroom cooking time. I let all the veg sit in the strainer I used to wash the mushrooms and pressed a bit before placing everything in the crust. It was gorgeous and delicious. Even my two young sons gobbled it up! Great recipe and incredibly awesome & wonderful post. THANK YOU!

  12. Heidi - Apples Under My Bed

    Thank you for that article link. So many gems in there, I kept nodding my head! It's very relevant to my younger brother at the moment, so I will forward it to him, with thanks. The author is so right "you won’t find your dream by standing still". I feel like after all these years of practicing as a dietitian, I've found my niche through this practice + living life and having a baby. I would not have found it with such clarity and certainty without this experience, nor appreciated it. I think telling young kids to find and live their passions, live their dreams!!!, from such a young age can be dangerous in this sense. They need to just live, sometimes, you know? I hope you get a little closer to a work + life reality that feels good and right. A couple of LA trips and In-N-Out burgers should surely help you get're not standing still! x

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