Swiss Chard: From “Old Acquaintance” to “New Best Friend”

Lately I’ve been on a mission to buy and eat primarily whatever is in season at the markets. I thought it would be a fun way to try new things, expand my food vocabulary. But as it turns out, eating in season has proven to be not as challenging nor as adventurous as I’d originally anticipated. And I like a challenge.

I needed to raise the stakes.

I decided that I would start buying unfamiliar, possibly even unidentifiable things: things I don’t know how to cook or — even better — things I suspected I may not really like. I figured if I bought it and brought it home, my sense of responsibility for it (combined with my strong desire to avoid waste at all costs) would result in culinary ingenuity. After all, necessity is the mother of invention, right?

First up: swiss chard. I’ve bought it and cooked it before, but never with overwhelming success… which led me to believe I probably just didn’t like it all that much. But no, I refused to admit defeat so quickly. I figured the problem was probably not with the swiss chard, but rather with the way I was preparing it. So when I saw the dark leafy bunches of chard sitting complacently in their little stacks between the mustard greens and Red Russian kale, I strode over with an air of assurance and confidently plucked one up.

Instead of letting it sit around in my refrigerator for a week, festering and growing heavier and heavier on my conscience, I decided to tackle them the very next day. All it took was a few minutes hunting around for some inspiration, and hit upon a winner almost immediately: Smitten Kitchen‘s Creamed Chard and Spring Onions.

Now originally I saw “creamed” in the title and thought “bad for you”.

Wrong.

The recipe actually calls for milk, not cream. There is a little butter in there, but the dish is thickened primarily with a butter-and-flour roux, rather than with copious amounts of cream — and if you’re going to object to a little butter, allow me to give you a piece of advice: learn to live a little. Seriously. I don’t use all that much butter on a regular basis, but it is SO worth it for this.

I’m not going to re-write the recipe, since Deb did such a great job of it already.

What I will do is tell you that I have tried the dark green chard with the smaller white stems and the rainbow chard with the thicker stems, and my preference is for the former. (The latter turns the cream a rosy hue, which is actually kind of lovely… but is slightly more watery. That said, I didn’t squeeze out any of the liquid, as the recipe suggests, and I didn’t find that to be a problem.)

I will also tell you that the recipe calls only for the leaves, but I sliced the chard stems and threw them into the pot first, to give them an extra minute to soften up, and used those too. I would recommend doing the same, unless you have other plans for those stems.

Most importantly, I would tell you to read this now.

Not only did it totally win me over (I’ve made it about three times in the past four weeks), it has apparently also made a convert of a friend of mine — a friend who (up until three weeks ago) Did Not Like swiss chard. She came over one afternoon while I was making it, commented on how wonderful it smelled, and — after a momentary hesitation upon finding out what it was — asked to taste it. After a good amount of “wow”ing, she requested a small bowl of it.

And then she came back for seconds.

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2 Responses to “Swiss Chard: From “Old Acquaintance” to “New Best Friend””

  1. Girl, you are a writer! and a damn good photographer too…imagine if you actually had a camera 🙂 ps clean the windowsill or drape it with fabric.

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