Q: Help! I’ve got Swiss chard and I don’t know what to do with it.
A. Swiss chard is a green that belongs the same family (chenopod) as beets, spinach and quinoa, according to The World’s Healthiest Foods: “Swiss chard is not only one of the most popular vegetables along the Mediterranean, but it is one of the most nutritious vegetables around and ranks second only to spinach following our analysis of the total nutrient-richness of the world’s healthiest vegetables.”
That’s means it’s great to eat — and a wonderful source of vitamins A, C and K — but it doesn’t tell you exactly what to do with it. The whfoods.com site recommends boiling it because of the high oxalic acid content, something to remember if kidney stones are as much of a problem in your family as they are in mine.
You could get similar results by blanching the leaves in boiling water for a couple of minutes and then finishing them off with a sauté, such as the recipe below, or in a casserole used as a substitute for spinach.
But you don’t have to cook the Swiss chard at all. You could eat it raw in a salad or a smoothie. You can even use it with or instead of basil in your favorite pesto recipe.
Here’s a recipe from epicurious.com that matches the pleasant bitterness of the greens with sweet onions. But you could vary the recipe by substituting a half-dozen anchovy fillets for the onions.
Swiss chard generally comes with a single colored rib, such as red, but there is a rainbow variety. No matter the type you grow or buy, remove the rib and use just the leaves.
Sautéed Swiss Chard with Onions
3 pounds green Swiss chard (about 2 large bunches)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Cut stems and center ribs from chard, discarding any tough portions, then cut stems and ribs crosswise into 2-inch pieces. Stack chard leaves and roll up lengthwise into cylinders. Cut cylinders crosswise to make 1-inch-wide strips.
Heat oil and butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat until foam subsides, then cook onions and garlic with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, covered, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to soften, about 8 minutes. Add chard stems and ribs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until stems are just tender, about 10 minutes. Add chard leaves in batches, stirring until wilted before adding next batch, and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a serving bowl.
Note: Swiss chard has a fairly high sodium level, so you may want to taste before adding salt.
- Chard can be washed, dried, and cut 2 days ahead and chilled in sealed bags lined with dampened paper towels.
- Chard can be cooked 4 hours ahead and reheated over low heat on stove or in a microwave oven.
Makes 8 side dish servings.