It’s one of those “dark, leafy greens” we’re supposed to be eating like 10 times a day. And you may have eaten it before and wondered why someone was serving you stringy weeds that taste bitter get stuck in your teeth. But I promise Swiss chard can be really tasty. Delicious in fact. The first few times I got chard in my organic box, I sighed, chopped up the chard, tossed it in a pan with some olive oil (which seems to work pretty well for most vegetables), and hoped for the best. But what I ended up with was undercooked, tree-like stalks and mushy, tasteless leaves. I decided chard was best for shredding into salads or, even better, as a garnish. Its leaves look beautiful under a wheel of goat cheese…
But the problem with that thinking is that chard is really, really good for you. Thanks to its combination of minerals, nutrients, and fiber, chard is like an anti-cancer pill. Plus, it’s an excellent source of vitamins A, K, C, E, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and iron — all things we want and probably don’t get enough of. And chard does seem to come in my box a lot. So, I did some more experimenting until I finally discovered this method of cooking chard. I guess it seems obvious, but the secret to cooking something with a tough stalk is to start cooking the stalks first, give them some time to soften up and mellow out, and then toss in the leaves.
This recipe makes a great and very quick side dish. Shallots enhance the chard’s flavor, which, in this dish at least, is nutty and savory and not at all bitter. My husband, who has always told me he “despises” chard, loved this. While I wouldn’t use the word “love,” the kids ate it happily, which is about all I can hope for when I’m serving something that slightly resembles the things poking out of the playground asphalt at their school.
Rainbow Chard with Shallots
Give the chard a bath in a sink full of cold water and rinse. You may have to do this twice to get all the dirt and grit off. Dry on towels. Using a large cutting board, cut the chard’s leaves from the stalks by running a knife down either side of each stalk. You can also do this by hand by tearing the leaves off the stalks, but I found the knife method faster. Chop the stalks into one-inch pieces. Thinly slice the shallot. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chard stalks then the shallots and saute until the stalks soften and the shallots start to caramelize, about 10 minutes.
Slice the chard leaves into ribbons and add them to the pan. It will seem like a lot of chard at this point, but the leaves really cook down (like spinach). Add a few drops of vinegar and the red chili flakes; season with salt & pepper to taste. Continue cooking until the leaves are wilted, about 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately.