Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Red Swiss Chard

A fridge filled with leftovers is often one of the big advantages to cooking. Today was one of those days. I'd picked up a lovely big bunch of red Swiss chard at the produce market and knew it couldn't linger much longer before being used up.

As I wondered how best to use it, I thought of greens and beans, or greens and grains and knew the slightly bitter greens would do well balanced with a little something sweet and perhaps a little acidity.

The fridge held the answer. I had some leftover thick, spicy marinara sauce that I'd made for pizza topping and a bowl of baked quinoa. All I had to do was clean and cook the chard and then assemble a tasty lunch.

The stems require a bit more cooking time than the greens. Separate the thick stem from the greens and then slice the stems crosswise into small pieces. These I sautéed with a diced sweet onion and two cloves of garlic, finely minced. I started the onions in 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large 14" sauté pan to give the greens plenty of room to wilt down once they were added.

When the onions became fragrant, I added the sliced stems and a dash of water, covered the pan and let them sweat for a few minutes, then uncovered and added the minced garlic. Continue cooking the stems and onions until they become tender but not mushy. Meanwhile, stack the greens, roll up and slice into ribbons (chiffonade). Add to the pan tossing with the stems and onions. I added 1/4 cup of dry white wine (water or veggie broth are fine as an alternative). The greens cook down very quickly. While this was happening, I toasted 1/4 cup of pine nuts in a dry pan and measured out 1/4 cup of dark raisins.

When the greens are just about wilted, add the raisins tossing to mix everything and add salt and pepper to taste.

I chose to plate the combination using a mold and layering, first some marinara sauce, then the quinoa with a spoonful of sauce over top. Then I packed on a generous portion of the finished Swiss chard. I sprinkled the portion liberally with pine nuts.

It looked lovely but tasted even better.

The Swiss chard alone makes a wonderful side dish. Don't be afraid to combine it with grains or beans or even sweet potatoes for a quick flavorful meal. Rice and chard rolled up in a tortilla with a big dollop of spicy salsa is another super way to use these greens.

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