Don’t overlook chard for flavorful summer cuisine | NevadaAppeal.com

Don’t overlook chard for flavorful summer cuisine

Brenda Smith
For the Appeal

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Brenda Smith's pasta with tomato sauce, chick peas and chard.

This is the time of the year that most vegetables are easily eaten. By this I mean that the fresh sweet corn just needs to be roasted or boiled, green beans just steamed, tomatoes eaten just like an apple.

However, since each week we sell a mixed box of vegetables to our customers, there will also be the vegetables that some people welcome new ideas about what to do with them.

Chard is a terrific vegetable and has many wonderful traits. Some people call it Swiss chard, though I have chosen to drop the Swiss because I enjoy growing a variety called Rainbow chard, with an amazing array of stem colors.

One of those traits I especially appreciate is that it keeps regrowing after the leaves are harvested. We usually are able to offer a bunch of chard for many of the boxes throughout the season. Some people just can’t get enough, but others need inspiration on this wonderful vegetable. I haven’t quite come up with 101 things to do with chard, how about four or five? I have also added two recipes our customers have submitted this season.

If you don’t grow your own chard, the best place to buy some is at a farmer’s market. With greens you want the freshest possible and that being said, chard is gaining more space in grocery stores these days and usually looks quite good

Did you know though that cows love chard? We always give the cows, and chickens for that matter, the trimmings from the harvests of beets, turnips, chard and lettuce. Turnips are one of the cows’ all-time favorites, but chard is right up there.

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Sometimes the family will just look at plain old chard as not what they had in mind for dinner.

What to do? Well, chard is a perfect green to add to some pasta sauce, chop it up and add it to your favorite spaghetti sauce recipe and it will be great. You can also make a terrific lasagna if amongst your layers you put some chopped up chard. Or, add some to meatballs to make the best ever spaghetti and meatballs. What if pasta is not on your list? Blanch it lightly, rinse and squeeze out excess water and freeze it. Chard added to those fall and winter soups makes for such flavorful soups. If you have baby chard, it is quite good mixed with salad greens for a fresh salad. Versatile, tasty and easy to hide for the reluctant greens eaters.

Gemelli with Tomato Sauce, Chick-Peas and Chard

From Pasta Harvest by Janet Fletcher (published by Chronicle books, 1995)

Thanks to Lorna Doerr for passing along a nice recipe for chard & garlic.

• 2 medium bunches green chard (14 oz. each)

• 1Ú4 cup olive oil

• 4 cloves of garlic, minced

• 2 cup strained, diced tomatoes

• 1Ú2 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed

• 1Ú4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

• 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped

• salt

• pinch of sugar

• 1 cup drained chickpeas

• 1 lb. dried gemelli

• 3Ú4 cup grated pecorino/romano cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cut along edge of chard ribs to separate thick white ribs from leaves. Wash leaves in a sink filled with cold water and drain well in a colander. Add leaves to pot and boil until they wilt and soften slightly, about 3 minutes. Remove with a skimmer to a sieve and run under cold water to stop the cooking. When cool enough to handle, squeeze dry, chop and set aside.

Boil pasta in same water. Drain but keep about one cup of the cooking water. Transfer pasta to a large bowl. Heat olive oil in skillet and add garlic and sauté one minute. Add the next four ingredients. Bring to a simmer and taste. Add sugar if mixture seems too tart. Simmer 5 minutes, then add chickpeas and continue simmering until mixture is thick and saucelike, about five more minutes. Stir in chopped chard and basil, keep warm and add pasta water to make it saucy. Add contents to pasta and toss to coat. Add cheese and toss again. Serve immediately!

Swiss Chard with Olives and Raisins

Courtesy of Gourmet Magazine

Paula Baum offered up this recipe for chard.

• 3Ú4 lb of Swiss chard, washed well and drained

• 1Ú2 onion, chopped fine

• 1 tablespoons olive oil

• 1Ú4 cup water

• 2 tablespoons golden raisins, chopped fine

• Salt

• Kalamata or other large brine cured black olives pitted and finely chopped.

Cut stems and thick center rips from Swiss chard leaves. Discard center ribs and chop coarse stems and leaves separately.

In a 9-inch heavy skillet cook onion in oil over moderate heat, stirring until softened. Add stems, two tablespoons water, raisins and salt, to taste, and cook covered over moderately low heat until stems are softened, about 5 minutes. Add leaves, olives, and remaining 2 tablespoons water and cook covered, over moderate heat until leaves are wilted, about 3 min. Remove lid and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is evaporated and the leaves are tender.

• Brenda Smith and her family run Smith & Smith Farms, a small diversified farm in Dayton.