Swiss chard: A forgotten garden favorite
September 11, 2012
What in the world do you do with all that Swiss chard? It just keeps coming and coming and coming.
It is an “old fashioned” vegetable, related to the beet. In fact, the New Zealanders refer to chard as “silverbeet.” It is popular in Mediterranean cooking. “Swiss” chard usually refers to the classic green leaf, white-ribbed variety. There are several other colorful cultivars, all of which have green leaves – “rhubarb” and “red” chard have red stems, and will stain your cooking liquid the same way beets do. “Bright Lights” chard has stalks that range from white to yellow to oranges and pinks. This is the kind often available at farmers markets because it’s so pretty.
One of my very favorite vegetables, chard is easy to grow, extremely hardy, full of good-for-you vitamins and minerals, and very versatile. It is often part of a Community Supported Agriculture basket and available at local farmers markets. Sometimes it is sold at grocery stores, but my experience is that “fresher is better,” and the supermarket offerings have often seen better days. If you aren’t growing your own and need to purchase it, one pound, or one large bunch, will serve two or three.
My preference in preparing Swiss chard is to blanch it briefly in boiling water before any recipe except stuffing. To prepare for blanching, cut out the toughest stems – I usually just stack up same-size leaves and cut out a big V, which gets most of the stem matter.
Discard any damaged leaves.
After it is blanched and extra water squeezed out, it may be frozen for future use, or refrigerated until you are ready to use it. Blanched chard, like spinach, may be used in many ways: in omelets, quiches and frittatas, in minestrone (added at the last minute), lightly sauteed in butter and served as a base for Eggs Benedict, creamed, added to cream soups and on and on. Swiss chard also can be “stuffed” (more accurately, rolled around a stuffing), and baked, steamed or sauteed.
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If you have Swiss chard in your garden, you may be able to baby it along and cover it for hard freezes, thus giving you the opportunity to make a fabulous fresh-from-the-garden side dish for Thanksgiving. Otherwise, use the frozen chard you prepared this fall. (Defrost before using.) The recipe we’ll share today is my favorite chard recipe, and we serve it often.
With garlic, olive oil, pinenuts and lemon
You may remember, from a past column, that I am a “dump cook.” This is a classic dump cook recipe. Amounts are suggestions – you should vary as you choose. (For instance, lots of garlic or no garlic.) Preparation time is about 5-10 minutes if you have all ingredients ready to go.
Serves 3 or 4:
2 pounds chard, stems removed, blanched and most of water squeezed out (can do this way ahead of time)
2 cloves garlic, very finely diced
2 tablespoons butter, melted with
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
lemon juice, salt, pepper, to taste
Melt butter with olive oil in a saute pan. Add blanched chard and saute until chard is tender (add a small amount of water if chard wants to stick to pan) – maybe 5-6 minutes. Add pinenuts and stir. Add lemon juice (1 or 2 tablespoons), salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.
• David and Muffy Vhay are the owners of Deer Run Ranch Bed and Breakfast. Contact the ranch at 775-882-3643.