Chard is one of those dark leafy greens packed with fiber and nutrients–you know, the stuff that we’re always being told to eat more of. Luckily, it’s also delicious–provided you don’t mind a bit of bite to your greens (though chard is definitely milder than, say, kale). You’ll find green, ruby, and rainbow chard for sale; they’ve all got green leaves, but their ribs and stems differ in color (rainbow is green, ruby, and gold-ribbed chard bundled together). Both stems and leaves are good eating, but stems need to cook longer. There are two main recipe schools: parcook, then finish with a brief saute, or don’t parcook, but add liquid and braise.
It’s best to parboil chard, believes jen kalb, who says the ribs can sometimes turn gray when steamed or sauteed. She adds that if the stems are thick, it’s best to pull some of the strings from the outer layer and cut them into smaller pieces before proceeding.
Chard’s great in minestrone, jen adds: the ribs never lose their crispness. Will Owen says chard enhances any variation of lentil soup–vegetarian, meat based, simple, or complex: “the earthiness of both lentils and chard intermingle and enhance each other.” Add chopped chard for the last hour or so of simmering, and put a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice in your bowl at the table.
Alan Divack calls his prep “Korean-ish”: shred and and boil the chard; put the stems in, cook about 3 minutes, then add the leaves and cook for 5 minutes more. Drain, refresh in cold water, and squeeze dry. Mix sesame oil, white sugar, salt, and cayenne or Korean red pepper in a serving bowl to taste. Add chard and stir well.
Chop rainbow chard and parboil in a little chicken stock. Once the chard is softened, add some olive oil, sea salt, lemon zest, and a big squeeze of lemon juice. Great mixed into orzo that dressed with olive oil, parsley, and more lemon zest to taste, says MaspethMaven.
phoenikia offers this variation a classic Italian spinach preparation: saute 2 cloves of minced garlic in 2 or 3 Tbsps. of olive oil, then add 1/2 cup pine nuts, and sautee a bit more. Add 6 or7 cups of parboiled, drained, chopped chard to the skillet, along with 3/4 cup of raisins soaked in warm water for 5 minutes to plump, then drained. Sautee for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
JasmineG cooks a dish she says is terrific as is, but also makes a great topping for pasta shapes like penne–it’s especially pretty over pasta if made with rainbow chard: cut the stems and ribs from a bunch of chard, and chop them and the leaves up (keeping them separate). Put just enough olive oil in a big skillet to coat the bottom and add some minced garlic and red pepper flakes, then add the chard stems and some water and cover. Simmer for about 5 minutes, then add the leaves and more water, cover again for about 3 minutes. When the chard is tender, add feta, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, some grated pecorino, and salt and pepper, and toss it all together.
Chary of chard