Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Chard Lovin'

We fell in love with chard a few years ago when hubby threw some seeds
in a shady part of the garden and it ended up being the season's best
crop. The fact that it is ranked as one of the world's healthiest
foods is a great added benefit, but really, since it's easy to grow
and fun to cook with, we'd probably still use it if it had the
nutritional value of a Twinkie. The plant grows happily in partial
shade, producing tasty tender leaves pretty much from June until
September or even October. And it looks beautiful. Hubby is
particularly smitten with this year's variety, called Bright Lights,
described in his seed catalog thusly: "Lightly savoyed, green or
bronze leaves with stems of many colors including gold, pink, orange,
purple, red, and white with bright and pastel variations. The flavor
is milder than ordinary chard, with each color a bit different."

Here is a favorite but simple recipe. Made with Bright Lights chard,
it will please the eye as much as the palate.

Swiss Chard with Garlic and Pasta

One bunch fresh chard, (approx 1 1/2 pounds)
3 cloves fresh garlic
1/2 yellow onion
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 lb. pasta (I prefer thin spaghetti, but any yummy noodle will do.)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Wash chard. Cut stems in 1 inch pieces. Cut leaves and ribs into
2-inch strips. Chop onions and garlic coarsely.

Cook pasta according to directions, toss with about half the olive
oil. Set aside.

In a deep skillet or wok, heat the other half of the oil, add garlic
and onions, cover and cook five minutes on medium heat until onions
begin to soften. Add chard stems and cook a few more minutes. Add
chicken stock and chard leaves and greens, salt and pepper. Cook about
8-10 minutes until chard is tender.

Add pasta, mix thoroughly. You can add Parmesan cheese while the meal
is still in the skillet, blending it in as best you can, or use it as
a topping at table.

Tom's tip: The secret to cooking chard and other greens (beets and
kale in particular) is accommodating the fact that the stems are
thicker and slower cooking than the leaves. When using chard in a
pasta dish or soup, add the thicker, tougher parts of the plant a few
minutes before you add the tender parts of the plant. Everything
should come out cooked to perfection.