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How to cook Swiss chard

I have planted my first vegetable garden and have 2 types of Swiss chard--even though I've never eaten it in my life and haven't the faintest idea what to do with it. (Went for it because it's easy to grow.) In a vegetable gardening book, there are a couple recipes using Swiss chard, but they both begin: "Cook 1 pound Swiss Chard..." Well...how exactly? Any way to figure out 1 lb of greens without a food scale, or am I going to have to get one? Any recommendations?

If you've got a favorite easy recipe for Swiss chard, would you share?

Thanks!

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  1. You don't need a scale, you can eyeball how much you want. Like all greens, it shrinks when you cook it but not as much as spinach does. If you have small leaves with thin stems, just wash and chop. As the stems get larger further into the growing season, you'll want to either tear the leaf off the stem or use a sharp knife to cut out the stem. Some people throw the stems out but I think they are delicious -- just slice like celery and start cooking them 2 or 3 minutes before adding the chopped-up leaves.

    So now, cooking. I think it's best to blanch first in boiling water -- stems in, back to the boil, 2 minutes, leaves in, back to the boil while stirring, another 2 minutes, then drain and pour cold water over. Now you can saute in your fat of choice, with or without garlic, onion, etc.

    I blanch a big batch and then make it different ways though the week. Jamie Oliver has a nice prep where you saute olive oil, garlic, anchovies, red pepper flakes, add a drained can of cannellini beans, heat through, add blanched chard, heat, then finish with a good squeeze of lemon juice and as much butter as conscience permits. Fantastic. Somewhere I got a recipe where you slice a thick fillet salmon on the diagonal and marinate in soy, lemon juice, sesame oil and probably other things, then sear off the salmon over high heat until just short of done, meanwhile sauteeing your blanched chard with sliced red onions, plate the chard, dump the marinade in with the salmon and serve over the chard. Can look up ingredients more precisely tonight if that appeals. Here is a great prep using whole leaves -- it does not say to blanch them but works better when you do for one minute. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo... Can you tell I LOVE chard????

    2 Replies
      1. re: GretchenS

        Thanks so much! I hope I'll love it too. (With some salmon alongside, I'll bet I could come to love it.)

        And thanks for being specific on how to blanch--I needed that.

        Ooh: just looked at those recipes--they sound terrific! I love the idea of using stuff I'm growing myself: thyme, onion, chard, chives, etc. etc. Very exciting to a former city kid.

    1. Prep and blanch chard as Gretchen described. I cook at least 2 batches of chard. Make a pot of carmelized onions. Use 6-7 onions and cook at least an hour. Saute some garlic , olive oil , crushed red pepper then stir in the chard and onions. OMG. Feeds me well for several days. :)

      1 Reply
      1. re: shaebones

        Really? So it's something that will keep? That's one reason I never have done much with greens (or most veggies)--because they always seemed to be something that you had to cook and eat immediately. I like to cook large batches of things that we can eat all week. (My husband doesn't mind.)

      2. I don't blanch the chard because I find the flavor to be fairly mild but I do slice the stems into thin bias strips and cut the leaves into wide ribbons. I do like to braise it after a light saute in olive oil with any or all of the following: onions, garlic, bacon/proscuitto/ham, raisins. I use either water or chicken stock as the liquid.

        5 Replies
        1. re: escondido123

          Can you expand on what you mean by braising it? You saute it with those items listed and then braise it? Does that just mean cooking in liquid? For how long? Sorry to be an ignoramus. ;-)

          1. re: Birmingham

            I am guessing that escondido123 sautes with the add-ins, then adds a bit of liquid and covers the pan (thus pan-braising it) till done. That works too, but especially if the leaves are big I do prefer to blanch. Good thing we all have our own kitchens! :)

            1. re: Birmingham

              Sorry Birmingham. Braising is when you cook something in a small amount of liquid, usually on low heat, while covered--like GretchenS said. I find that method allows the chard to get nice and tender. You can also take off the lid at the end, cook until most of the liquid evaporates (that's called reducing) and you'll have an almost sauce. At this point you could eat it as is, eat on toast, mix with pasta or rice, serve over polenta. If you want to make it extra rich you can, you can stir in a bit of butter right before you serve it or drizzle it with olive oil afterwards

            2. re: escondido123

              I never blanch either unless it is old and tough, which should not be a problem for the OP.

              1. re: magiesmom

                I never find a need to blanch first, since chard leaves are quite delicate.

                What you can do, though, is to remove the stems and refrigerate for use in a different recipe. You can either use this one from Marcella Hazan:

                http://www.cookstr.com/recipes/sautee...

                OR,

                you can blanch the stems only and then stack them in a baking dish with olive oil or butter and grated parmesan cheese. Bake this at 400F for about a half hour. Very tasty!

            3. The absolute best chard recipe I have ever tried is this fantastic dessert, which uses 2 whole pounds of that lovely chard: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

              I've made it with a whole wheat crust and served it for breakfast as well. I use lemon instead of orange, and I also replace the cream in the recipe with 1/2 cup of grated monterey jack cheese. And yes, you can skip the pine nuts if wish.

              1. I really love chard in a sweet/savory sort of combo with golden raisins, pine nuts and tomato. It is kind of Sicilian-inspired, and totally dynamite with fish!! http://fritosandfoiegras.blogspot.com...

                1. There's a Winter Greens lasagna recipe, I believe on this site, that is lovely - basically just a white lasagna layered with chard. I prefer it with lots and lots of garlic.

                  An easy though rich side or main is to butter a gratin dish, sprinkle bread crumbs on the bottom, fill with firmer greens like chard, pour bechamel on top, and top with cheese - gruyere is decadent, but parmesan works fine too. Bake at 325 or 350 until the greens are fully wilted and the cheese begins to brown.

                  1. I eat it for breakfast at least twice a week: pan sauteed with a bit of butter and once wilted, I scramble it with eggs and sometimes a little Parmesan cheese. Great way to get more greens in my diet!

                    1. Oh my goodness!!! Swiss Chard is one of my favorite vegetables. It's SO versatile. I use it as a side dish, in soups (makes a TERRIFIC addition to minestrones), omelet fillings, quiches, gratins - you name it. My favorite variety is "Bright Lights" (aka "Rainbow"), & I grow it every year in the garden & even in containers because it's so colorful & ornamental. I don't care much for chard raw in salads, so always use it in cooked dishes. Regardless of how you use it, just keep in mind that the stems will always take a little longer to cook than the leaves. Here's my favorite "basic" recipe for a side or omelet filling:

                      Breezy Sauteed Swiss Chard

                      1 bunch of Swiss Chard
                      Water
                      Extra Virgin Olive Oil
                      2-3 garlic cloves, peeled
                      Dash of crushed red pepper flakes
                      Grated Parmesan Cheese (optional)
                      Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs (optional)

                      Fill a pot large enough to hold the chard with water & bring to a boil.
                      Meanwhile, separate the chard leaves from the stems. Trim the stem ends & cut the stems into 1"-2" pieces depending on stem thickness. Roughly chop/slice up the leaves, keeping them separate from the stem pieces. When the water reaches a boil, add the stems & cook for around 5 minutes. Then add the leaves to the pot as well & continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes. Drain in a colander.
                      Heat some extra-virgin olive oil in a skillet. Smash the peeled garlic cloves with the side of a large knife, sprinkle them with salt & mince (the salt will keep the garlic from flying around your cutting board as you mince it). Add the drained chard, minced garlic, & crushed red pepper flakes to taste & stir until heated thru.
                      Sprinkle with grated Parmesan &/or Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs if desired, stir again, & serve.

                      Wonderful variations are to add pine nuts, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), or cannelini beans to the chard during the final saute, & the "Eating Well" website has a fabulous recipe utilizing Chipotle peppers & cheddar cheese that makes a wonderful Mexican side or even an interesting vegetarian enchilada filling.

                      Gee - can you tell that I love Swiss Chard? Lol!!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Breezychow

                        I second the idea that chard rocks in soups, in addition to the saute/braise ideas here. I make an Italian-style soup with chard, chick peas, broth, tomatoes and porcini mushrooms--it is really terrific.

                        1. re: Bada Bing

                          I second your second. I eat Swiss Chard or Spinach in my Ramon soup two or three time a week. Great way to get a lot of fiber in your diet.

                      2. Wow, everybody, thanks for all the great tips and recipes! The two kinds I'm growing are Fordhook (white and green) and Bright Lights (multi-colored). I have to admit that Bright Lights looks like something I was taught not to eat as a kid: Red Dye #3 and all... Hard to believe that they're really natural and not some kind of genetic mutant. (Shoot: I should have asked for Soylent Green recipes on April 1!)

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Birmingham

                          Oh one more tip - if you pick your chard while it's still in the baby stage (around 6"-7" or smaller), no blanching or separating stems from leaves is necessary - you can just cook them up - chopped or whole - as is. But obviously you'll need a bit more to equal the same amount of larger more mature leaves. And luckiily, chard works well as a "cut & come again" crop, so you can cut some for baby leaves, & then leave the rest to grow to a larger size.

                          (For those who don't grow their own, sometimes farmers market vendors sell bags of baby chard. It's scrumptious!)

                        2. if I'm feeling lazy on a work night, I just add a fruity vinegar, and maybe some bacon fat. If you saute some onions first, you can add the chard in batches, with salt, and just kind of steam it. Then add either feta or cherries to finish it (thanks to Mollie Katzan). My new favorite it with kalamata or other good black olives and lemon, either juice or slices of preserved lemon, and olive oil. If it's fresh, it's good almost any way!