I’m not a natural born greens lover. It took me ages to appreciate the taste of kale and I shied away from other greens until recently. But now I’ve discovered Swiss Chard, versatile greens that have turned me into a fan. And it’s not just me. Even my meat-loving beloved gladly ate these greens two nights in a row.
While I’m trying to eat healthier, I still want food that tastes good. Is that too much to ask? I want meals to be enjoyable, with dishes that entice me. I didn’t hold out much hope for ever feeling as positively toward greens as I do now. And I credit this recipe with changing my attitude. I’m even thinking about how to use the basic recipe for other types of greens besides Swiss chard.
I first bought Swiss chard almost by accident. When my CSA (community supported agriculture) offered rainbow chard, I bought it in the late fall without knowing what I was getting. Taking out the enormous handful of rather tough leaves and stems from the CSA box, I was mystified. It was colorful to be sure, but also intimidating. How was I supposed to store and cook it?
Beginning my chard research Elizabeth Schneider’s fabulous book Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini: The Essential Reference, then moved onto The Flavor Bible and ended up adapting a Simply Recipes post called Easy Swiss Chard. The resulting greens are flavorful without being bitter. They work well as a main course with pasta, rice, or a baguette. Alternatively, they are a superb side for a simple chicken or fish dinner.
This month’s Progressive Eats theme is “making favorite recipes healthier.” While my Swiss chard isn’t really a healthier version of my Sautéed Spinach and Mushrooms, (there’s a good argument that spinach and Swiss chard are equally healthy), having simple, good ways to prepare both vegetables means that my plant-based recipe repertoire is bigger and better – and that’s got to be a good thing.
And now, turning to Swiss chard, let me introduce this “nutritional powerhouse.”
Tips for Making Swiss Chard – Versatile Greens
- Choosing chard. There are numerous varieties of chard, distinguished by their colorful stems. Technically only white-stemmed chard is called Swiss chard. But I’ve cooked with several different varieties (often packaged together and called “rainbow chard”) and they can all be cooked in this manner. Because many people refer to all the colors as Swiss chard, that’s what I’ve done in this post.
- Cleaning chard. Wash it well. Like spinach and other greens as well as leeks, chard needs a good soak or rinse to remove dirt and grit.
- Separate the leaves and stems. The stems take longer to cook than the leaves. Therefore, you have to separate them and cook the stems first.
- Make the leaf pieces bite-sized. Like kale, you can roll the leaves up like a cigar and slice thin strips, or you can cut them into small, irregular bits. Either way, remember that the final dish will be much more appetizing if the pieces are easily grabbed on a fork.
How to Make Swiss Chard In Just Minutes
- The spices are crucial. Adding just a few extra ingredients to the chard makes all the difference. On its own, Swiss chard is boring and can be bitter. But add a bit of sauteéd onion, a dash of spices (coriander and Aleppo or red pepper) and a splash of balsamic vinegar and you’ve elevated the chard to a whole new level. If you are missing one of the spices, experiment with adding something else. In any event, don’t skip the balsamic vinegar or a substitute – that added bit of tangy sweetness makes a remarkable difference in the taste of the dish. Don’t have balsamic vinegar? Try one of these substitutes.
- It’s not difficult. Remember mise en place? Once you have washed and cut the chard and cut the onion, the cooking itself takes only minutes.
- Everything in the recipe cooks at its own pace. A three-stage cooking process ensures that each element cooks as long as it should, but not longer. First the onions, then the cut-up stalks, and finally the leaves. By the way, frizzy and somewhat unkempt pile of leaves reminds me of my current hairstyle, but hey, that’s ok.
Welcome to Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a Progressive Dinner Party. This month’s theme is about making favorite recipes healthier, and our host is Susan, who blogs at The Wimpy Vegetarian.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a progressive dinner involves going from house to house, enjoying a different course at each location. With Progressive Eats it’s a virtual party. The host for the month chooses the theme and members share recipes on that theme suitable for a delicious meal or party. Then you can hop from blog to blog to check them out. So come along and see all of the delicious and inspired dishes!
Healthier Versions of Favorite Dishes
- Raspberry and Lime Vodka Soda – Creative Culinary
- Chicken and Sweet Potato Chili – The Heritage Cook
- Vegan Sloppy Joe Sliders – The Wimpy Vegetarian
- Baked Crab Cakes – Healthy Delicious
- Orzo Salad with Roasted Vegetables – That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Easy Swiss Chard – Mother Would Know (you’re here)
Swiss Chard - Versatile Greens
- 1 large bunch Swiss chard About 12 oz/340 g
- 1/2-3/4 medium onion, sliced into thin half moons About 3 oz/85-90 g
- 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pinch Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander, preferably roasted
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- kosher or sea salt, to taste
Prepare the Swiss chard by cleaning it well (see note), cutting off the stems and chopping them into 3/4 - 1 & 1/2 -inch pieces, then cutting the leaves into thin slices or small pieces. The total should be about 2 cups of stems and 6-8 heaping cups of leaves.
Heat the olive oil. Add the sliced onion on medium heat and sauté for approximately 5 minutes until the onion is transparent.
Add the stems, coriander and Aleppo or crushed red pepper, stir to combine, cover and cook for 3-4 minutes on low heat.
Add the Swiss chard leaves, stir, tossing the mixture so that the olive oil and semi-cooked stems and onion thoroughly combine with the uncooked leaves. Then cover again, this time cooking for an additional 4-6 minutes until the leaves are thoroughly wilted and taste fully cooked.
Sprinkle the balsamic vinegar over the vegetables and add salt to taste.
In order to clean the Swiss chard, either soak the leaves in a large pot of water or rinse them well in a colander. In either event, dry them before separating the stems and cutting both the stems and leaves.
I prefer Aleppo pepper to crushed red pepper in this recipe because the former goes so well with coriander. But given the times we're in, if all you have are red pepper flakes, that's fine.
Roasting brings out the flavor of the coriander nicely. I bought already roasted ground coriander. You could, of course, roast your own seeds in a small, dry cast iron pan and then crush them in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.