February 27, 2006

Swiss Chard

So my friend Alison has recently been obsessed with a website that quizzes you on the food you eat and then tells you just how vitamin-deficient you are as a result of your poorly chosen diet. Intrigued, I tried it out myself only to finish the process feeling too malnourished to move from my seat. Okay, so these websites do tend to set the bar pretty high as they are usually created by vegetable-hugging fanatics who think food like cookies are only meant for the devil, but it did make me rush to the produce section my market.

I stood in the produce section looking around for a new vegetable to try. As I was standing here paranoid about my lack of nutrition, the produce guy asked me, “Where are have you been? Hiding? I haven’t seen you here in a while!” Okay, okay, I get the idea. More vegetables, less dinners out. Check.

My eyes then settled on the Swiss chard. I have seen cooking shows prepare this leafy green, but I had yet to try it out myself. Knowing that I love spinach, I thought this would be a good variation to try out—and it is a great source of beta-carotene and dietary fiber! So I gathered a bunch of Swiss chard and headed to the checkout counter.

So what is Swiss chard? Well, this large leafy green grows from a special beet (not the kind you are used to eating, but one that is grown for its leaves). If you don’t like beets (for me, this is one of the few foods I dislike), do not let that deter you from eating this green as it has no beet taste! In fact, Swiss chard tastes a lot like spinach (and no bitter taste!).

The Swiss chard I have here has white stalks, but it also comes with red stalks. You may notice from the pictures that the stalks are quite meaty. When you cook the leaves, you need to cut out the stalks but you can save them to cook separately (you can’t cook them all as one since the stalks will take much longer to cook than the leafy part). I did not try the stalks, but I read that they can be prepared just as you would prepare asparagus. I think it would also be nice to add them chopped back to the cooked leaves to allow for a variety of texture to your Swiss chard dish.

As with most leafy greens, Swiss chard must be thoroughly washed. Since it is grown close to the ground, the leaves tend to hold dirt in their crevices. I washed the Swiss chard leaf by leaf under the running faucet, but everything I read suggested taking a big bowl of water and washing the leaves in this , two or three times if needed.

When it comes to preparing Swiss chard, you can pretty much make it just as you would make spinach. Here is how I prepared it (per 2 side servings):
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ bunch of Swiss chard (about 3-4 large leaves), chopped width-wise into 1 inch thick pieces (don’t forget to remove the stems)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ lemon zest
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Boil water in a large sauté pan.
  2. Add Swiss chard and cook until wilted.
  3. Drain water.
  4. In a small, separate pan over medium low heat add butter. Once butter is melted, add garlic and lemon zest. Let cook for a minute (this allows the lemon oils to release themselves from the zest, and for the garlic’s flavor to mellow).
  5. Add butter mixture to Swiss chard and mix.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Since I had some Swiss chard leftover, I made it again a couple days later (don’t let your Swiss chard sit in your refrigerator for more than two days). Since boiling Swiss chard causes much of the vitamins to transfer to the water, which only is later thrown out, I decided this time to sauté it.

Here is how I sautéed the Swiss chard (per 2 side servings):
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ lemon zest
  • ½ bunch of Swiss chard (about 3-4 large leaves), chopped width-wise into 1 inch thick pieces (don’t forget to remove the stems)
  • Salt and pepper
  1. In a sauté pan over medium heat add butter and olive oil.
  2. Once butter has melted, add garlic and lemon zest and let cook for a minute.
  3. Add Swiss chard and cook until wilted.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Overall, I have to admit that I liked the boiled version better—it was smoother tasting. Also the sautéed version left a little film in my mouth, similar to what spinach leaves behind. However, in my quest for earn a higher score on that darn nutrition website I will probably keep to the sautéed version to guarantee my intake of vitamins!

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Alison said...

Hmmm... strangely the nutritional website said I am deficient in swiss chard as well... maybe it is founded by a swiss chard farmer. Nonetheless, I am relieved to finally know how to cook it! Thanks for another great idea, Kristin!

1:24 AM  
Anonymous melissa said...

I too was dificient in swiss chard.....hmmmmm....I like your swiss chard farmer theory.

6:22 PM  
Blogger Carrie said...

For those of you who are swiss chard deficient, I was recently looking at another swiss chard recipe that looks really good - it's a soup with cannelini beans, pasta, swiss chard, and some other veggies. i think it looks delicious, and since swiss chard and cannelini beans are 2 of the foods that kristin has featured, i thought i would mention this recipe here!

11:31 AM  

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