I love Swiss Chard, and so do the French (though they certainly don’t call it Swiss chard—rather, they call it blettes). Chard is a member of the beet family (being a nut about beets, no wonder I love chard so much). To me, the flavor of chard is a bit spinach-y, cabbage-y, and beetlike, all in one….though that doesn’t quite describe the wonderful cross between depth and freshness that the veggie brings.
Something I recently learned about Swiss Chard: Traditionally, in northern France, they ate the stems and threw away the leaves. And in Provence, they ate the leaves and threw away the stems. (Thanks to June Jacobs at Feastivals for pointing this little bit of lore out to me).
However, I like both, and use both. You can use Chard raw, cooked, or—my favorite way—just a little bit wilted.
Raw: The trick to using it raw is to chop it finely—almost as in a chiffonade (thin ribbons). Add it to salads with other, more tender greens, as it’s too coarse and hearty to make up a bulk of a salad on its own.
Wilted: In my Chicken, Swiss Chard, Apple, and Pistachio salad, warm chicken is tossed with the ribbons of chard so that they wilt ever so slightly. The chard does not make up the bulk of the salad—again, the leaves are too bulky and sturdy for that.
Cooked: Star it as a side dish—simply saute it in olive oil until wilted. It’s also great stirred into soups, tossed with hot pasta, pasta, tucked into ravioli or Spanikopita-style casseroles, and more. It can even be roasted.
The Pros Weigh In
I recently asked a forum of cookbook authors their favorite ways with Chard, and they gave me some ideas. (The links send you to their general websites; click away to learn more about these bloggers, writers, and authors):
• Jamie Schler suggested using Chard in a Portuguese Chard Soup: “Chard/kale and rice cooked in chicken broth. Simple and lovely,” she wrote.
• Nathalie Dupree says, “I just toss it in oil and bake it until crisp. I pull the stems out first, but roast them separately.”
• Kevin Penner says, “I like to use it in place of broccoli rabe with orecchiette, toasted garlic, red pepper flakes, crumbled fennel sausage and finished with a little pasta water and grana or parmigiano-reggiano.”
• Ruth Alegria says, “Here in Mexico it can be used in guisados (stews) as a filling for enchiladas and tamales.. very popular every day!”
• Linda Ziedrich offers this recipe for Pickled Chard.
• Lévana is a veritable font of Swiss Chard recipes. Try this frittata recipe, or search “Swiss Chard” on her blog for more ideas.
• Michael Natkin uses Chard in his enchiladas. Oh my! (P.S.: His book, Herbivoracious, will be released in May—published by Harvard Common Press, the same wonderful publisher who brought you The Bonne Femme Cookbook.)
• Domenica Marchetti told me about a recipe for Swiss Chard with Potatoes in her book, “The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy.” Stay tuned. I’ll be making this one myself, and posting it soon.
• Gisele Perez has a recipe for a Chard and Salume tart.
• Leslie Land, cook and gardener extraordinaire, tells us all about cooking the veggie, and offers a simple recipe for chard in the slaw-like Bright Salad.
• Paula Wolfert pointed me to her link to her fabulous Chickpeas and Swiss Chard recipe.
Of course, there’s also the very famous French way with Swiss Chard: Tart aux Blettes, a quiche-like tart that stars the veggie. Here’s a recipe from Laura Calder at the Food Network.
And here’s my recipe for this fabulous salad. It’s perfect for spring, when you’re craving greens, but those tender baby-greens of summer aren’t yet in the market. Enjoy!
Swiss Chard with Roasted Chicken, Apples, Pistachios, and Blue Cheese
1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing the chicken
4 ounces Swiss chard leaves, coarsely shredded
1 large tart red apple, such as a Washington Braeburn, peeled, cored, and diced
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped pistachio nuts
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and brush them lightly with olive oil. Place the chicken breasts in a shallow baking dish and bake until the internal temperature registers 170°F on an instant-read thermometer, about 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board to rest for 5 minutes or so.
3. Meanwhile, combine the Swiss chard, apple, blue cheese, and pistachio nuts in a large bowl. Whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper in a small bowl.
4. Using two forks, shred the chicken into bite-size pieces. Add the chicken to the chard mixture and toss to combine; the chard leaves will soften somewhat from the heat of the chicken. Add the vinaigrette and toss again to combine. Divide the salad among four shallow bowls and serve.