Saturday, October 11, 2008

Swiss Chard with Lemon and Garlic

Swiss chard is such an underrated vegetable, yet it has emerged as one of our favorites. Few vegetables are as constant as chard--always thriving, always ready to give. Chard seems to have hardly any season at all. It grows all year 'round, though it does seem to be especially happy in these cooler months of early autumn. It will survive straight through the winter and be ready for harvesting again first thing in spring.

This is what our chard looks like this morning--bursting with life. I have to admit, we've neglected it. We haven't been eating much chard the last few months, for no particular reason. But the plants don't mind. They just get bigger and sturdier.

I harvested some chard this week, which couldn't be simpler. You just break off the thick stems at the base, or cut them off with a sharp knife. For some reason Americans are fixated on the leafy part of the chard, but I find the stems have more flavor to go with an extra bit of texture. I feel we are at a bit of disadvantage where chard is concerned because we only grow the ruby type, with dark red stems. It has a sweet flavor like its cousin, the beet. The green variety of chard is more savory.

My go-to recipe for chard involves seasoning with pomegranate molasses. But in the interest of diversity, I wanted to try something different. So here's another method of cooking chard that's less sweet but does just as good job of showing off everything chard has to offer, which includes lots of good nutrition.

Take several large stalks of chard and wash them well. Tear off the leaves and cut the stems into bite-size pieces. Over moderate heat, pour some extra-virgin olive oil into the bottom of a heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add the chard stems, season generously with coarse salt and add a couple tablespoons of water. Cover the pot and let the stems cook.

Meanwhile, chop a few garlic cloves and add those to the pot. Chop the zest from 1/2 lemon, add that and the juice from the lemon to the pot.

Roll the chard leaves into a tight cigar shape and cut them cross-wise into a thick chiffonade. Drop these into the pot--they should be a bit damp from the washing. They may make a big pile in your pot, but not to worry. They cook down quickly.

Reduce heat and continue cooking gently until the stems are very tender, about 30 minutes. The chard leaves will have completely wilted. Adjust salt and season with freshly ground black pepper. Serve hot as a side dish with your favorite roast, or over rice as a simple meal.

Chard can be cooked like this ahead of time and frozen, or stored in the refrigerator for use another day.


Janet said...

Sounds good. Esp. like the idea of the zest. There's a quick way to something similar, but using only the leaves (sorry): Just heat some olive oil in a skillet and saute a garlic clove or two. When the garlic is soft, reduce heat to low, add torn (or chiffonade) chard leaves. Stir to coat with oil. Cover for 3 or 4 minutes. Stir again, then add some lemon juice or balsamic vinegar and salt and serve.

Divina said...

Love your Italian side!!!
am in palermo right now and just had a huge plate of chard!
garlic olive oil and a squeeze of lemon, heaven on a plate.

Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener said...

I agree: Don't neglect the stems. Actually, try to grow a really thick stemmed kind: if you are growing a thick-stemmed variety. I eat the leaves in one preparation and the thick stems in another: chop, saute gently with a little oil (or lard or butter - your choice of fat). Add a little minced garlic if desired. Put in a gratin dish, cover with heavy cream, sprinkle with bread crumbs and drizzle olive oil on top. Bake.

I don't care to use colored stems for this dish as I don't like the way they "bleed" into the cream. You really want to use a thick white stemmed chard like "Poiree a Carde Blanche de Lyon".


WeekendFarmer said...

I was thinking about the indian style pickle (aachar) for you given your interest in pickles. You can also do with green mangoes. My mom used to dry green mangoes and thinly slided onions under the sun for several days and then mix the spices and put in jars with mustard oil which stays under the sun for days. The jars never went into the refrigerators. As long as you put them under the sun every few days...they were good to go for months (years : ).

I also had green beans pickle but not sure how one would go about making it...maybe same as your cauliflower method. I will give it a try.

If you want to see pickles of all kinds - plan a trip to Kyoto. It is AMAZING to see the kinds of pickles they make. You can eat your way through the stores and be full : ).

Emily said...

Pomegranate molasses with chard? Details, please! That sounds fantastic, and I don't think I would have ever thought of it.

Ed Bruske said...

Divina, do you have to rub it in?

Sylvie, gratin is a great way to go with chard, especially the more savory, green variety.

WF, that's amazing, your mother making green mangoe pickles. Would you like to share more stories? As mentioned above, I would love to spend some time in Kyoto. Maybe in another life?

Emily, do a search for chard on this blog and you will find the recipe using pomegranate molasses. It's our go-to chard preparation.

Emily said...

I should have thought of doing a search. Thanks, Ed! I'll try it this week.