Most commonly referred to as Swiss Chard, this leafy green vegetable is related to beets, but has been developed to maintain most of the nutrition ‘above-ground’ unlike its deep purple cousin.
Heartier than spinach and not as tough as cabbage, chard makes a great side to meat and potatoes. There are dozens of ways to prepare and serve it. Mature chard has a rigid stem and broad, stiff leaves. For this reason it is normally always cooked, and it is baby or immature chard that is eaten raw.
Chard comes in a variety of colours, and is another of those ‘leafy greens’ which contain high amounts of anti-oxidants. They are low calorie, low fat, high fibre and high in calcium and other nutrients making leafy greens high on any nutritionists’ lists and we just don’t ever seem to eat enough of them.
I have always liked Swiss Chard steamed and served with fresh squeezed lemon or a bit of melted butter. I like the mild, slightly bitter flavour and don’t find it needs a lot of masking to make it palatable.
The leaf can be trimmed from the stalks and you can make two different dishes from the two. Leaves can be prepared whole, torn or chopped, and the stalks can be roasted with some olive oil and parmesan cheese as they take longer to cook or could be discarded if they are not your taste.
A great way to prepare and prolong the freshness of any leafy green is to remove any dark, soft or yellow portions, rinse well in cold water and then pat dry and store in a perforated or sealable plastic bag with some paper towel. Local chard will keep in the fridge for up to a week this way until you are ready to use it.
Some of the most popular methods of cooking chard include boiling, steaming, adding it to stir fries, or roasting the stems in the oven.
CHARD, TOMATO AND RICOTTA BAKE
butter for sautéeing
450g Swiss chard, shredded
1 garlic clove, crushed
½ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
250g tub ricotta
75g parmesan, grated
3 or 4 ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
extra-virgin olive oil
1.Heat the oven to 220C/425F. Melt a knob of butter in your biggest frying pan then fry the chard for 5 minutes or until completely wilted and tender. Add the garlic, cook for 1 minute, then season with the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Press against the pan with a wooden spoon to squeeze out any excess juices and pour them away.
2.Meanwhile, beat the ricotta with the eggs and most of the parmesan. Season, then stir in the chard. Pour into a baking dish, lay on the tomato slices and sprinkle on the rest of the cheese then drizzle with a little oil. Bake for 10-15 minutes until just set in the middle.
Broil for 2 minutes until golden. Serve with a crisp green salad.
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