I missed out on Swiss chard growing up. My parents were avid organic gardeners and literally grew enough strawberries, corn, okra, peaches, black-eyed peas, butter beans, green beans and tomatoes for my dad to share with folks at his office and still have plenty left for freezing and canning. It was a sustainable operation complete with chickens, a few cows and my horse. Even though my parents were prolific gardeners, they never grew Swiss chard.
My parents would have loved this wonderful leafy vegetable, especially my mother. She would have first of all appreciated the beauty of this plant. Chard is pretty enough to accent any flower bed. Each stem grows out of the ground unfurling into a large arrowhead-shaped leaf accented by prominent veins. The stems range in color from yellow to red, pinkish orange in between shades and white.
This nutrient-dense plant offers endless opportunity for incorporating into colorful side dishes or even elegant main courses. Most often, I simply cut across the stems and leaves in 1/2-inch slices, and saute it in olive or grape seed oil. With a little sprinkling of coarse-grained kosher salt, the chard is ready soon after the leaves wilt. Sometimes I start the stems in the saute first adding the leafy parts once the stems are underway. It is ready in minutes.
I have also used the leaves to encase a filling much like you would use to make cabbage rolls. Unlike cabbage that needs to be blanched before filling, the chard leaves are super flexible and soft. They can be used as a wrapper without the extra step of blanching. They are large enough to wrap around the filling in several layers so the finished little chard-wrapped package holds up beautifully during the final stages of cooking.
Chopped chard can also be incorporated into the filling along with cabbage, ground lamb, beef, veal or turkey, and onions, of course. You can get quite creative when it comes to making a filling for chard leaves. Carrots, peppers, squash and celery in varying quantities, along with a chunky tomato sauce, are hard to beat.
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