Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How do I pick out swiss chard in a line up?

Swiss chard is a large, sort of shiny, a little lumpy, green leafy vegetable that is as easy to incorporate into your cooking as spinach, though it is related to our friend the beet. In fact, it is almost interchangeable with spinach in many recipes except for a slightly longer cooking time and a bit of stem removal. Once the stalk is cut out (trim down the length of the leaf on either side of the stem) it can be chopped into pieces and enjoyed as well. Since it is a bit hardier, the stem needs to be thrown into the pot a few minutes before the leaves to give it a head start in the cooking process. It becomes quite tender and delicious, adding a great texture to the rest of the dish.

Chard can dupe the consumer by coming in a rainbow of colors such as white, yellow or purple or deep red and orange. Though the stem/stalk appears in multi-colors, make sure the leaves are nothing but crisp, bright green. Yellowing or browning can mean that the swiss chard is out-of-date. The stalk should snap, not bend and the leaves should not be wilted or tired looking. Store in the fridge until you want to cook, then wash and prep and go for it! Here is a simple recipe that puts chard and spinach together... a springtime all-star side dish that is super healthy for you too.

1 tablespoon oil
1/4 red onion, chopped
1 bunch swiss chard (about a pound)
4 cups spinach leaves (about 10 ounces)
1 tablespoon vinegar
salt and pepper

To prepare the swiss chard for cooking, cut out the stems and set aside. Wash the leaves and roughly chop. In a skillet, heat oil and saute the onions with a pinch of salt until translucent. Add chard stems and saute for 5 minutes. Add the leaves and allow to wilt with the help of the water clinging to the leaves and the tablespoon of vinegar. Stir until almost tender, about three minutes. In the last two minutes, add spinach and continue to stir until it is also wilted and combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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