Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A New Way To Love Chard

My cousin was working for a business mogul who dealt in broccoli–among other things­–when she tipped me off that the stems have more nutrients than the florets. And to think I’d snubbed my nose at whole-plant offerings at the school cafeteria! Though, in the end, my cousin’s broccoli boss turned out to be an oppressive jerk whose tip I've yet to validate, I did appreciate what he was driving at. When I became sophisticated enough, I took a break from broccoli for beet’s taller, brighter cousin: chard. I assumed it would be a bigger hassle and produce more waste than food, but I proved myself wrong.

Tips and facts

*There’s nothing Swiss about chard; I have no idea where that came from.
*To maintain freshness, wash soon after purchase.
*Store in refrigerator in a sealed plastic bag.
*You should wash and eat the entire plant. The stems are a bit like celery, with a twist. Note that the same cooking instructions apply to chard of any color.

Chard with Garlic and Olive Oil

  • Thoroughly wash the chard.
  • Pull or cut leaves from the stems.
  • Finely chop the stems. Don’t mince.
  • Saute the stems in olive oil and garlic, salt and pepper. They should be slightly tender, not mushy. Set aside.
  • To cook the leaves, boil them past wilting for 3 to 4 minutes. 
  • Drain thoroughly in strainer.
  • Puree the leaves, adding a pinch of salt.
  • Optional: add a splash of milk or cream. Surprisingly, almond milk works as well. And you can get away with a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg.
  • Sprinkle sauteed stems on top and eat.   

The beauty of this antioxidant-rich food is that it can be boiled, wilted, steamed, braised or microwaved. It goes well with sweet potatoes, with eggs, with rice and pasta, with baked fish, with cream or Parmesan cheese. It can be served as a side dish or hidden in your children’s lasagna. You can tell them it’s frozen spinach but they’ll catch on sooner or later.

Red chard! My lasagna recipe is coming soon.

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