If you're tired of spinach, try Swiss chard

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Swiss chard doesn't usually win popularity contests in the produce world.

But this member of the beet family is a great and healthy way to add some variety to your greens repertoire, especially if you tend to grab the same bags of baby spinach week after week.

Swiss chard, also simply called chard, comes in a number of varieties and is easily identified by its large, firm leaves (dinner plate size) and its celerylike stalks. It is available year-round but is at its peak late summer and early fall.

When purchasing Swiss chard, buy bunches with crisp, shiny leaves and tender stalks.

Chard is relatively perishable compared to other leafy greens. Store it loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in the coldest part of the refrigerator for no more than three or four days.

Swiss chard with caramelized onions and pine nuts is a gorgeous side that gets its inspiration from the Catalonia regions of Spain. It goes well with grilled meat, fish or poultry. Or for a special treat, try slices of grilled polenta.

Swiss Chard with Caramelized Onions and Pine Nuts

Start to finish: 45 minutes (15 minutes active)

Servings: 4

2 tablespoons pine nuts

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped

1 bunch Swiss chard (about 1 pound), washed, leaves and stalks separated

2 tablespoons golden raisins

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

Ground black pepper, to taste

In a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven, toast the pine nuts over low heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside to cool.

In the same pan, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and soft, nine to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile cut the chard stalks into sticks 1/4 inch wide and 2 inches long. Tear the leaves into 2-inch pieces.

Add the stalks and golden raisins to the caramelized onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the stalk are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the leaves and vinegar. Continue cooking until the leaves are wilted and tender, about 5 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving dish and top with the reserved pine nuts.

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