As I continue to share my farmer’s-market-makings, I take a moment to address an ever-feared topic in the food world: Trying New Things. I myself had a chronic case of the aforementioned condition for the first, eh, 17 or 18 years of my life—give or take a few months. As a child, my interpretations of food seemed logical. Tomato sauce: unidentified chunky pieces. Chicken nuggets: bland rubber. Soda: uncomfortable throat-burning sensation.
I’d like to believe I had a sensitive—perhaps even refined—palette from a young age. Though I cannot live without tomato sauce in present adulthood, I have yet to come around to poultry or carbonated beverages.
After said 18 years, I had exhausted my palette of peanut-butter and jelly, and decided I would have to try some alternative non-meat things if I were to ever hope for appealing, flavorful food. I fell in love with a number of vegetables and grains and nuts and new cheeses. And now I am still (moderately) open to Trying New Things. Hence, swiss chard.
Perhaps like you, I’ve heard the name in passing, thought the colors were beautiful, though never actually interested in figuring out how to cook and consume this rainbow leaf. But the health nut in me is lured by the benefits of this Vegetable Valedictorian.
Let’s talk about percent Daily Value for one cup of boiled swiss chard (though you know I find boiling vegetable too darn boring). Daily Value indicates our recommended daily intakes of certain nutrients per day.
1 cup of swiss chard, boiled: 716% Vitamin K, 109% Vitamin A, 52% Vitamin C, 28% potassium, 23% iron, 13% dietary fiber, and a mere 35 calories—among many other impressive accomplishments.
(Remember, there is too much of any good thing. Power foods that provide excess amounts of certain vitamins should be eaten in moderation and variety with other fruits and veggies.)
I purchased just a few leaves of swiss chard at the farmer’s market–intimidated by the large bunches at the other stands—so I could sample a single serving. Andrew was off exploring the mountains with his fellow backpacking friends, though had he been home I doubt he would have swooned over these vibrant veggies.
I didn’t know what I was doing, so I just washed and roughly chopped the leaves into 2″ pieces. As swiss chard is slightly more bitter than wilted spinach, I first sautéed garlic slices (thin slices from about 2 cloves) in olive oil on medium-low heat—not extra-virgin oil. As I mentioned in my last post, raw garlic can be so unpleasant, so I softened these slices in the oil until just before browning. This sweetens the garlic with a nice buttery flavor. At this point, remove the garlic from the pan, as it will burn once you cook the swiss chard.
Just slide the garlic out of the pan onto your plate and throw your greens into the hot oil. You can turn it up to medium or medium-high. Just stir until they are all wilted—they will still be a little crunchy, which I love because it makes them taste so fresh. *Season with salt (preferably not table salt) and pepper if you like.
If you’re looking for a light, super-quick accompaniment, what better time for my beloved couscous? I steamed whole-wheat couscous in chicken broth I needed to use up. If you have any (low-sodium) broth or stock, this flavors the couscous remarkably. It’s still a tasty side dish, so water will do just as fine. (Equal parts liquid to dry grains). Couscous, regardless of serving size, blessedly cooks in a mere five minutes. It will be completely done by the time you’re transferring the wilted chard to your plate.
*A few seasoning ideas? Top the chard (and even couscous if you want) with the golden garlic slices. Squeeze some lemon juice or even zest some lemon over your whole dinner. Most dried spices are completely pointless (aka flavorless upon aging), and I avoid certain salt mixes with their ambiguous ingredient lists.
However, my friend Anna introduced me to McCormick’s Mediterranean Spiced Sea Salt blend, and this platter is a perfect excuse to use it. I love that it has large, crunchy sea salt crystals, with dried lemon peel, red bell pepper, garlic, and oregano. Should you have no fresh garlic or lemons on hand (an unfortunate predicament), this magical tin offers welcome flavor! It’s great to season veggies, couscous, pasta dishes, etc. It adds a nice dash of spunk, and has more flavor than many dried herbs. In fact, it’s nice to use this in lieu of simply salt, as you’re adding less salt per serving by combining it with lemon and garlic and other spices.
I added a little paprika atop my couscous. This is a nutrient-packed, fiber-friendly little dish. Both of these accompaniments would also complement a meat entrée, if you’re not picky like this little chef. So reward yourself and Try New Things (note: apply motto beyond the kitchen).
It’s definitely an attractive vegetable, and in the words of Lucille Ball, “It’s so tasty, too!”