20060504

ah the heartiness of chard-iness.

swiss chard

you know you need a change in scenery when the most exciting thing to happen to you is that you find chard in your normally chard-free supermarket (and by 'you' for the most part i mean 'me'). chard (beta vulgaris cicla)--sometimes known as swiss chard or spinach beet--is a dark leafy vegetable with either a bright white stalk, or a lovely ruby reddish one, and is closely related to beets and spinach. it's a rather "squeaky" vegetable in texture, and the flavour is much stronger than spinach, but not unpleasantly so. it just tastes green to me. so yes, i admit that my excitement at finding it in the vegetable aisle was probably alarming to the people around me, but after the initial thrill (sadsadsad) and purchase (evensaddersaddersadder) i thought, "wtf am i going to do with this?" rather interestingly, i was reminded of a scene in a book i once read, where the lovely young heroine challenged the dashing dark-eyed rogue of a chef to have his (culinary) way with some cardoons, a type of wild thistle; chard is thought to have gotten its name from the french carde, from provençal cardon, the translation of 'cardoon'. okay, moving on....

swiss chard gratin

i knew this woman who said the only vegetable she could cook was chard; even then she could only stir-fry it. i knew enough to completely ignore that, and decided that if the darned thing was named after a provençal word, i should probably look for a provençal recipe, which in my recipe universe means i should look in my british cookbooks. so i did, and quite fortuitously, there were a couple of french recipes in my latest purchase, "new penguin cookery book" by jill norman (no penguin recipes, however). ms. norman also provided some helpful cooking hints, the most interesting being that stalks and leaves of chard are generally cooked separately and used in separate dishes as well. i don't really know why this is as i come from the chop-and-stir-fry school, but perhaps it's more of a texture thing than a flavour thing? i didn't notice a difference in the flavour of the stalks compared to the leaves. i chose a provençal gratin made with the chopped stalks of chard sautéed with onion and garlic, then covered in a sauce of beaten egg, heavy cream and grated parmesan flavoured with nutmeg, then covered with a layer of (wholegrain) breadcrumbs and baked until bubbly. this dish did absolutely nothing to enhance the flavour of the chard, but when confronted by a richy, cheesy, almost custardy flan covered by a crunchy, carby coating, i don't think most people would care. the chard was there mainly for texture, and to also remind you that vegetables are an important part of your diet (again, when i say 'you' i mostly mean 'me'). this was quite good, but made me think that french people don't know wtf to do with chard, either.

swiss chard with coriander and peanuts

as i now had to tackle the greeny bits, and had a belly full of breadcrumbs and dairy, i decided to look for a completely different option. it easily came from my second-to-latest cookbook purchase, "simple indian" by atul kochhar, which was recommended by the inimitable j. i used the leafy greens as a substitute for spinach in a recipe for china bodam diye lal saag, a dish from calcutta. the chard leaves were gently torn up, sautéed with garlic, onions, tomatoes, and crushed peanuts, until just wilted, then flavoured with coriander seeds, dried red chili, turmeric, and mustard oil. the chard stood up well to the spiciness and almost mustiness of flavours, and the faint bitterness of the dark greens complemented them well.

and yes, i am getting that change of scenery....

28 comments:

Hey Santos, Sorry to have been away so long, I've been checking in but the move has made me too lazy to post... I love chard, too. Gratin is a great, if caloric, way to cook them, but I love it just stir-fried with garlic, too. So what's this change of scenery you're getting? I got mine already!

You think you need a change in scenery?....I just caught myself laughing aloud while reading a blog entry on swiss chard...

Chard sauteed with some pine nuts and dried cranberries in olive oil and garlic is the best. Add the cranberries into the oil before you add the chard. The cranberris plump up quite nicely The sweetness nicely balances the chardiness.

Clicking around your site -- you have a career in food photography if you want it, Santos! The photos are really beautiful.

'K, i'll pipe up with my take on chard: remove stems from leaves. steam leaves. finely chop stems, saute in a little butter w/ garlic (and whatever else... chopped ginger, onion, chiles, peas, whatever), then mix up w/ drained steamed leaves. it's pretty easy and kinda low-cal

we do hope you'll not toy with us and share the "where" on the scenery change. let us live vicariously, oh citizen of the world

(my word verification is coolly cosmic/appropriate: bye-oeoeo)

The picture of the red stemmed chard is gorgeous.

I'm trying to find chard recipes these days (have a friend who grows chard and gifts us) and your recipe with the Indian spices sounds great, as does TG and angrygrad's methods of cooking it.

That gratin looks fantastic- I'll have to try it that way, probably as a main dish.

BTW, I love the new look- very clean and fresh.

hi santos, utterly gorgeous - the gratin, i can tell from a glance at your lovely picture, i would probably kill for...isn't the atul kochhar number divine? my copy, despite not being very old, already has an embarassing number of tumeric stains

Never seen it in red, so thanks for pointing this out because if I did find it, it would have probably ended up was a particularly disagreeable swiss chard and apple crumble.

Wedo get the white stemmed silverbeet and the leaves ended up in a duck curry last night as an alternative to the less confronting cabbage. Shame to waste the stems though.

So did he get the princess

ok, scent of green bananas but you've got a picture of green mangoes. he, he, that's funny. and i just noticed it. anyway, i've never tasted chard. is it bittery like collard greens?

I haven't tried chard as yet - though i keep seeing them in the supermarket. Stares at it for a couple of minutes then walk away. I just didn't know what to do with them - how they'd taste, etc. I thought i need a change of scenery [i often find myself in the kitchen department of a store getting excited at a sight of different shapes plates, shiny pots and pans, etc]. Maybe one day i'll have enough courage to pick up a bunch of chard, walk straight to the counter [not leaving a moment to change my mind] and just cook it!

Hey Santos, wonderful pictures. I love the color contrast and the lovely mood you've captured in these. I could see these in a Nigel Slater book. The food, of course, also sounds fab!

purplegirl
It's the *image* of green mangoes but it's still the *scent* of green bananas, try scratching the screen - it works!

purplegirl
It's the *image* of green mangoes but it's still the *scent* of green bananas, try scratching the screen - it works!

hey, anthony, it works!

hmmm... what the heck is chard in filipino???

John Hennessy said...
5/11/2006 06:46:00 AM
 

Hi:

Penguin recipe? well......

No. Modesty and a sense of taste forbid it. Enough to say the punchline is "and go to McDonald for a Big Mac instead"

jh

it looks so lovely and delicious. And also the thing is that it is a healthy food.

Can you believe I've never tried it before? And I've even eaten seal. Geez.

halllooo all! wowow, i never expected so many comments on chard. surprising veggie, that.

thanks for the recipes, they sound great. i don't know what chard is called in filipino (can you find it there?), and i don't think i've ever knowingly tried penguin or seal. but please, don't send recipes.

and yes, chard looks like rhubarb. i think all in all i'd much rather have rhubarb to experiment with.

Hi Santos! I love your blog - it gives me all sorts of cravings, and after reading it I usually have to spend some hours in the kichen!:)

Anyway, my parents lived a long time in Spain, where they use a lot of chard, and they have this totally wonderful recipe: "tarta de bladas" (prolly got the spelling all wrong!). It's really quite simple, and so delicious. Just make a thin-crust pizza dough, bake it out and cover it with blanched chards (stem and all), sliced tomatoes (optional), chopped garlic, drizzle some olive oil over it and salt and pepper to taste. Cook in oven as you'd do with an ordinary pizza.

Might not sound all that good, but it is, trust me!

Hafa Santos; long time,

"Silverbeet" (whitestalk) they call it Down Here, is the usual spinach and until only recently much easier to find (in greengrocers and restaurants) than English spinach, or plain old "spinach" as I always new it before. It works a treat to use stalk and leaf in spinach & ricotta (cannelloni, puff pastry, raviolli, etc.). BabyBat made a mean palak paneer using the whole thing, too.

Now the scoop: Mrs and I will be living back on Guam by July!

gitto, that tarta sounds super-delicious! i am definitely trying that.

guambat, hopefully there will still be chard on the shelves to remind you of Down There. whooo! more blogger on guam, hoorah!

Perfect! We planted swiss chard in our garden this year, and they are just ready for pickin'. We'll be trying your take real soon.

jmom, you wouldn't happen to know if there's a tagalog name of chard, would you? just wondering if it's grown there.

I am guessing that enterprising Filipinos grow chard in the Philippines too, especially in Baguio where the weather is cooler. I'll have to check on this to verify. Sorry, I don't know what it would be called, but I'll investigate that too.

BTW, I tried a variation of your recipe last night, with a couple of changes one being use of pinenuts instead of peanuts. It's a hit! I'll post it on the blog soon.

article which is very useful for me