From the Market: Swiss Chard

Checking out all the new spring vegetables at the local farmers’ market has been such fun the past few weeks. While I normally cook with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, that produce hasn’t been this fresh. Much of what I’ve been eating the past few weeks has come from local farms, picked hours before being sold. You really can taste the difference—once you wash off the dirt.

That’s right: dirt. One thing about fresh produce from the farm is that it literally comes from the ground. That means it hasn’t been cleaned in chemicals and there more than likely will be grit on the leaves and stems. It’s not difficult to clean, but it does take a few steps.

How to clean greens:

  • Fill a bowl with cool water, and place however much of the chard (or lettuce) you want into the bowl.
  • Swirl it around for a few minutes, then let it sit so that the dirt and grit can settle to the bottom.
  • Pull the greens out of the bowl, and refill with new, clean water.
  • Soak and swirl the greens again, and pull them out. The water should be clearer. If not, do it again.
  • Put the leaves into salad spinner, give them a little more spritz of water if you want, and then give them a spin so that they dry off as much as possible. Wrap the greens into a towel and put in the refrigerator until needed. They’ll be good for at least a day like this.

So, what is swiss chard? I realized that I don’t think I’ve had it before, at least that I can remember. I know that I haven’t cooked it for myself. Packed with nutrients, it’s a leafy green with bright stalks, that range from this simple (but bright!) pink to a rainbow of yellows, purples and reds.

The vendor at the mid-week market gave me a simple “greens and beans” recipe to use the chard in. I tweaked it to boost the flavor, and it turned out delicious, full of garlic, onion and lemon juice to offset the greens, which can sometimes be bitter. I served it with some tomato and basil bread, also from the market, along with some roasted asparagus and applesauce left in my freezer from last fall. Yum!

Swiss Chard with Chickpeas

  • olive oil
  • minced shallot, onion and/or spring onion (whatever you have around!)
  • minced garlic
  • swiss chard, both stems and leaves (I cut off the thickets stems and tossed them into the compost)
  • garbanzo beans
  • sundried tomato, or fresh tomato
  • fresh lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • green onions, if desired

Cut the stems into small pieces, and saute in olive oil over medium heat for several minutes. Add garlic and a combination of shallot/onion/spring onion, and cook until soft, but don’t let garlic brown. Add swiss chard leaves (cut/torn into smaller pieces), cover, and cook about 5 minutes, until soft. Like spinach, the leaves will wilt down to less than half of what they were originally. You can add a splash of water, if you’d like. Add a little sundried tomato (or fresh tomato, if you have it), half a can of garbanzo beans, and juice from about half a lemon. Stir until warm. Add a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper. Serve with bread.

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