Posts tagged swiss chard

From Leaf to Stem

Every few weeks I find myself in the same position: Hunkered down in front of my open refrigerator with a plastic bag in hand, tossing withered produce and uneaten leftovers into the trash. Limp, yellowed parsley; saggy celery; dried-out chunks of onion; I’m always surprised at—and disappointed by—the amount of food that Jim and I waste each week.

In contrast to my guilt-inducing produce situation, Cathy Erway (of the popular blog Not Eating Out in New York) talks about her success with limiting food waste in her lovely new book, The Art of Eating In. As part of her desire to cook more and spend less, Erway employs often-discarded vegetable accessories such as beet greens and fennel fronds in her dishes, so that no part of the vegetable goes unused. While reading these pages, all I could think was I bet celery never goes bad in Cathy’s fridge. I hung my head in shame and once again vowed to change my ways. Surprisingly, I actually had some luck doing so.

It started with a big, floppy bunch of Swiss chard. I removed the stems and combined the pink-rimmed leaves with some leftover baby spinach, onions, feta cheese, and phyllo dough for a gorgeous Greek-inspired vegetarian pie. This light, flaky pie lasted us through one dinner and several lunches; not a single bite was left behind. And as I emptied the crisper drawers of plastic spinach containers and leftover cheese wrappers, I placed the Swiss chard stems in their place, instead of throwing them in the trash like I often do.

For the next few days, those stems stared at me every time I reached past them for tomatoes or salad greens. Finally, when they were about to turn, I pulled out a recipe for baked Swiss chard stems that I’d been saving for years. Similar to a casserole, the stems are layered with tomato sauce, garlic, and parmesan cheese, and baked in the oven until golden brown. Classic Italian flavors combine with an overlooked yet ruby-red vegetable for a satisfying side dish. And the best part was, not a single part of that Swiss chard went to waste. Not only was I proud of myself—and happy that I evaded another round of chard-induced guilt—but I discovered a delicious new side as well. I hope the trend continues; maybe I should try beet greens next. Thanks for the inspiration, Cathy!

Recipe for Baked Swiss Chard Stems with Tomatoes, Garlic, and Parmesan (adapted from Jack Bishop’s recipe as published in the New York Times on April 5, 2000)

  • 1/2 lb chard stems, bruised parts trimmed, halved crosswise
  • salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for baking dish
  • 2 small garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1-14 1/2 ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bring a few quarts of salted water to boil in a large pot. Add the chard stems and cook until they are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium in a medium skillet. Add the garlic and cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and simmer until sauce is almost dry, about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cover the bottom of a lightly greased baking dish with a single layer of chard, cutting stems if necessary to fit them in the dish. Spoon a bit of tomato sauce over the stems, and sprinkle with a little cheese. Repeat with the next layer of chard, alternating the direction of the stems. Finish tomato sauce and cheese. Sprinkle the parsley across the top.

Bake until chard is very tender and top layer is browned, about 25 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and let settle for 5 minutes. Cut into squares and serve. Serves 4 as a side dish. Enjoy!

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So Many Greens, So Little Time

Every two weeks, I grab a handful of plastic bags from the cupboard and stroll a few blocks over to my CSA pick-up spot. Immediately upon arrival I survey the bounty of vegetables I’m about to receive. The best weeks offer a large variety: perhaps a few zucchini, a head of lettuce, maybe some tomatoes, corn, string beans, or peppers. Usually I can barely contain my excitement as I start to fill my bags with produce, eagerly looking forward to the dishes I will cook that week.

But this year’s unpredictable weather has lead to an abundance of greens from my CSA. Arugula, spinach, bok choy, lettuce, kale, chard, you name it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against leafy vegetables. But receiving multiple bags of greens at once, all of which need to be eaten quickly before they wilt, presents a daunting challenge, especially when you hate wasting food like I do.

Last Saturday’s pick-up was one of those oh-my-goodness-how-will-I-finish-these-greens moments. When I arrived home and examined my haul on the kitchen table, I was faced with overflowing bags of bok choy, arugula, and chard, not to mention a huge head of romaine lettuce. How on earth were Jim and I going to eat all of these greens before they spoiled in a few days?

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1. Bok Choy, Brussels Sprouts, and Shrimp Stir-Fry
We didn’t waste any time. On Saturday night we whipped up a quick stir-fry using the bok choy, some week-old brussels sprouts leaves from the farmers’ market, and shrimp. Jim created a light sauce using sesame oil, rice vinegar, and soy sauce, and we also seasoned the dish with fresh garlic and ginger. The slightly sweet sauce perfectly complemented both the meaty shrimp and the crisp, healthy greens. For a very off-the-cuff sort of meal, we were pleasantly surprised by its success.

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2. Arugula Spanakopita
When I took my massive bunch of arugula out of the fridge on Sunday, it was already starting to wilt. Fortunately we had already planned to use these peppery greens in some spanakopita appetizers for the Sunday football games. In our version of this Greek snack, we replaced its traditional spinach-based filling with arugula. After some slicing and folding of filo dough, these bite-size, flaky triangles of ricotta, feta, and chopped arugula were quickly assembled on Sunday morning, and devoured just as quickly a few hours later.

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3. Italian-Style Swiss Chard
As a finale to our weekend of greens, on Sunday night after the football games I blanched and sautéed the swiss chard as a side dish to some lovely braised short ribs my sister and her husband prepared for us. Lightly dressed with olive oil and lemon juice, the chard was a fresh, simple side dish to accompany the rich beef ribs.

So that was our weekend marathon of greens. I think we did a pretty admirable job with them, don’t you? We’re still working our way through that head of romaine lettuce, eating salads as quickly as we can. I’m optimistic that we’ll make it to the finish line without wasting any food, just in time for our next CSA challenge.

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Rampless Risotto

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What are the most obvious signs of spring? Some might say the flowering trees and plants; others celebrate the arrival of warmer temperatures and lighter jackets. But in the world of food blogs, spring means one thing: ramps.

Food bloggers love these mild spring onions. Once they are sighted at farmers’ markets, new posts about ramps fill my RSS reader, almost to the exclusion of anything else. Ramps in pasta, ramps on pizza, ramps, ramps, ramps. I’m sure there are many good reasons for this unabashed ramp love, but I don’t understand it—I’ve never tried a single ramp. I don’t know how I’ve survived in this rampless state until now, but I sure hope I don’t get banned from food blogging because of it. 

In fact, starting last weekend I did everything I could to cure my ramp-related ignorance. Jim had picked up a local flyer advertising that last week’s farmers’ market would be “all about ramps.” On Sunday morning, with my shopping bag slung over my shoulder, I bounded down my apartment steps and made my way to the Carroll Gardens market. I went straight to the W. Rogowski farm stand and searched earnestly between the piles of lettuce, spinach, and green onions.

“Excuse me, do you have ramps today?” I asked, a hint of worry creeping into my voice.

“No, I’m sorry, I didn’t have time to go down to the swamp to look for them this week,” responded a harried-looking Cheryl Rogowski. “But we do have watercress.”

Boo. Boo on watercress. I sighed and bought some asparagus, swiss chard, and green garlic instead.

But I wasn’t ready to give up on my ramps. On Monday morning I headed to the Union Square Farmers’ Market. At 8 am. Before work. In the rain. 

I walked around and around the market. I saw more asparagus, and I saw more watercress. I spied bread, greens, and flowers.

But no ramps. 

And then, my friends, I gave up. 

That evening at home, I took the spring risotto recipe that I had planned to make with ramps and shifted the ingredients around a bit. The original recipe called for a ramp and swiss chard pesto to be stirred into a risotto of asparagus, fava beans, and peas. Instead of using ramps in the pesto, I chopped some leeks with the swiss chard. I didn’t have any fava beans, and I hate peas, so I concentrated on the asparagus and green garlic that I had purchased the day before. And in the end, even without ramps, I created two beautiful and creamy plates of risotto. Each lemony forkful was full of fresh, green specks of seasonal goodness. I’m not giving up on ramps for good, but with them or without them, spring has definitely arrived. 

Recipe for Spring Risotto with Asparagus, Green Garlic, Swiss Chard, and Leeks (Adapted from the New York Times, April 23, 2008)

For the pesto:

  • 1 leek, cleaned and chopped
  • 3/4 cups packed swiss chard leaves
  • dash of salt
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil

For the risotto:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced shallots
  • 3 sprigs of green garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • About 5 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 6 to 10 rods of asparagus, sliced into 2-inch pieces
  • Parmesan cheese

For the pesto: Place the chopped leeks, swiss chard leaves, and salt in a small food processor or hand blender. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil. Season to taste. Set aside.

For the risotto: In a medium saucepan, bring your chicken or vegetable stock to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Add 1/2 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a large pot. Once the butter has melted, add the green garlic and the shallots. Cook garlic and shallots together until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the rice. Stir the rice for a minute or two, until the edges become translucent.

Add the white wine to the pot, and stir the rice until it has absorbed most of the wine. You know the liquid has been absorbed when you can scrape your spoon through the rice and it sticks to the sides of the pan a bit, showing the bottom of the pan. 

Add a few spoonfuls of stock to the rice. I usually work with a ladle, and add 1 full ladle of stock at a time. Stir the rice until the liquid is absorbed, and then add some more stock. Stir the rice continuously. (Taking a few small breaks is fine.) Continue to add stock and stir the rice in this manner until the rice is al dente and quite creamy, about 18 to 20 minutes.

When the rice is about halfway done (at the 10-12 minute mark) add the asparagus to the pot. Continue to stir.

When the rice is done, remove it from the heat. Stir in the pesto. Stir in 1/2 tablespoon of butter and about 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, topped with grated Parmesan cheese. Serves 2. Enjoy!

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More Chard

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I may have to change the name of this blog from Artichoke Heart to Swiss Chard of My Heart (or something along those lines.) Lately I can’t get enough of this leafy green. That Swiss chard, cannellini bean, and barley soup should have kept me satisfied for at least a few weeks, but last weekend Jim and I returned for more, making a meatless lasagna layered with tomatoes, ricotta cheese, and yes, more chard.

The more I cook with Swiss chard, the more I realize how versatile it is. I first discovered it last summer when I made chard leaves stuffed with lemon rice, and since then I’ve tried to cook with it whenever possible. With its mild flavor—it’s not one of those bitter greens like escarole or broccoli rabe—and its sturdy, almost elastic texture, it holds its own in a variety of recipes. And as stated here and here by the New York Times, chard is one of the healthiest foods you could possibly eat, full of calcium, potassium, and vitamins C and A.

I should confess that I had never actually made lasagna before this past weekend. But with the help of this recipe, I got the hang of things quickly. I infused the tomato sauce with onions instead of garlic—I just happen to prefer my tomato sauces this way—and Jim and I used no-boil lasagna noodles. The result was wonderful: a light, healthy pasta dish where the sweet tomato sauce and ricotta cheese were perfectly complemented by the gentle chard. I’ll be honest, I didn’t miss the meat at all. I’m just trying to figure out what to make with the next batch of Swiss chard.

Recipe for Lasagna with Swiss Chard, Tomato Sauce, and Ricotta (Adapted from the New York Times’s Recipes for Health section. Tips on preparing no-boil lasagna noodles adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine.)

  • 1 large batch of Swiss chard, washed thoroughly
  • salt
  • 1/2 pound no-boil lasagna noodles
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • a pinch of sugar
  • 5-6 leaves of basil
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Put a large pot of generously salted water over high heat. While you wait for the water to boil, make your tomato sauce. Add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil to a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the chopped onion to the pot and cook, stirring, until soft. This should take about 5 minutes. Remove the onions from the oil and discard. Add the tomatoes, sugar, basil, and a pinch of salt and bring to a simmer. Stir often, until the sauce thickens, about 30 to 40 minutes. When finished, remove the basil leaves and discard. Set the pot to the side and turn to the Swiss chard.

Fill a bowl with ice water. Cut the Swiss chard leaves away from the stems. Discard the stems or save them for another use. When the water in the large pot is boiling, add the Swiss chard. Boil for 1 minute (from the time the water comes back to a boil). You want the leaves to be tender but still bright green; do not overcook. Remove the leaves from the water with a slotted spoon and add them to the ice water; this stops them from cooking further. Drain and squeeze out excess water. Chop the leaves coarsely. Put the tomato sauce back over low heat, stir in the Swiss chard, and set the pot aside again.

Prepare the lasagna noodles. Fill an oblong baking dish with hot tap water. Add the noodles and soak for 10 minutes, shaking the dish often to keep the noodles from sticking together. Remove the noodles to clean dishcloths and dab excess water.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Add a thin layer of tomato sauce to the bottom of a rectangular baking dish. Add a layer of lasagna noodles. Spread half the ricotta over the noodles and half the tomato-chard sauce over the ricotta. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of Parmesan over the tomato-chard sauce. Add another layer of noodles and top them with the rest of the ricotta, sauce, and 2 tablespoons of Parmesan. Finish with a layer of noodles and the remaining Parmesan. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the top of the lasagna. Cover tightly with foil. Bake for 30 minutes. If you like, finish the lasagna under the broiler for 3 minutes, uncovered, until top is browned. Let the lasagna rest for 5 minutes. Serves 4. Enjoy!

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Cooking from the CSA: Swiss Chard

A few weeks ago the New York Times printed a list of the eleven best foods you aren’t eating. I hate lists like this, as they always make me feel guilty about whatever I’m doing wrong or not doing at all. Anyway, a quick scan down this lengthy manifesto confirmed that the Times was right: Few of the cited items make a consistent appearance in my kitchen. But as if sensing my personal shame, my CSA came to the rescue on Saturday by providing me with a beautiful, floppy-leafed, pink-ribbed bunch of Swiss chard (#3 on that darn list).

Like most greens, chard is full of healthy vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. I don’t have anything against cooking with it, but when left to my own devices I always seem to reach for a big bunch of broccoli rabe instead. Luckily, being a member of a CSA forces me to experiment with different vegetables and be more creative with my cooking. Not all of the recipes I try are winners, but on Sunday night I discovered Jack Bishop’s recipe for chard leaves stuffed with lemon rice.

The recipe is quite simple, resulting in a more Italian interpretation of stuffed Greek grape leaves. Chard leaves act as sweet wraps for the lemony and creamy rice, while fried sage adds an herby, crumbly crunch. The chard, although boiled briefly before rolling, retains its elasticity and flavor against the explosively sunny rice. Confronted with these packets of summer goodness, I became an immediate convert to the charm of chard.

So I can check Swiss chard off that list and assuage my guilt, because this versatile green will certainly pop up on my table often. I also wonder what else I can stuff into its leaves; perhaps a mixture of rice and lentils, or rice and crumbled sausage. Any other ideas? Let me know while I deal with the other 10 foods I haven’t been eating.

Recipe for Chard Leaves Stuffed with Lemon Rice (adapted from Jack Bishop’s April 5, 2000 recipe in the New York Times and his 2004 cookbook, A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen)

  • 8 large chard leaves, washed thoroughly and with the stems cut off at the bottom
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • juice squeezed from half a lemon
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 16 sage leaves

Add chard leaves to a large pot of salted, boiling water. Briefly cook the chard for about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, carefully transfer leaves to a clean kitchen towel. Lay leaves flat and blot dry with paper towels. Let them cool completely.

Cook the rice in the same boiling water you used for the chard. This will take about 15 minutes. Whisk the egg yolk, cheese, lemon zest, and lemon juice together in a bowl. 

When rice is cooked drain and then return it to the pot. Thoroughly stir in the egg mixture. Add 1 tablespoon butter, cover the pot, and set it aside for 1 minute. Stir. Cool the rice for 10 minutes.

Place a small amount of rice mixture at the widest end of the chard leaf (this will be at the bottom end of the leaf, where the stem was originally attached). You will have to use your judgment on how much rice you can fit into each leaf, as the size of each leaf will be different. Do not try and overstuff the leaf. Roll the chard leaf over and around the rice, tucking in the sides as you roll them.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the sage leaves and sauté until browned. Remove them from the pan and set aside. Add the chard packets to the pan, seam side down, and sauté until lightly browned, turning them once. This will take about 4 minutes. Transfer the stuffed chard leaves to a serving platter and garnish with the sage leaves. Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side dish. Enjoy!

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