Thursday, April 20, 2006

My favorite green, showcased

As you can see from the photo on my recent Eat Local Challenge post, our winter-season chard is still alive and kicking. Trying to bolt, yes, but kicking. I will keep it going into May if it kills me!

Chard and its close cousin, beet greens, are absolutely my favorite greens. More favorite than kale, spinach, turnip greens, mustard, collards, escarole, or even arugula. I love chard leaves when they are tiny and new in a salad. I love them when they're huge and overgrown in braises and pies. I can't say a single bad thing about them. They're even easy to grow. Your mileage may vary, but I've never lived anywhere where they've failed me.

I currently have Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison's Kitchen on loan from our local library, and last night I decided to make her "Chickpeas and Chard with Cilantro and Cumin." However, I altered the proportions and deviated from the instructions a bit along the way. And then later, when the s.o. and I were eating it and raving about how good it was, I realized I'd never added one of the ingredients in the title. So I think I have created something new:


a bunch of chard (about 10 large leaves), chopped coarsely
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
pinch of saffron
1 to 2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 c. chopped cilantro
2 Tbs. chopped parsley
1 to 2 Tbs. tomato paste
a 15-oz. can of chickpeas with its liquid

Put the chard in a covered saucepan with about a half-inch of water and cook over medium heat, uncovering and stirring occasionally, until it is as soft as you like it.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet and add the onion and saffron. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and translucent.
Pile the garlic, salt, cilantro, and parsley on a cutting board and chop the mixture very finely until it all begins to hang together (sort of like the texture of mint chutney). Scrape this mixture into the pan with the onion and saffron. Add the tomato paste and the chickpeas with their liquid. Simmer for a few minutes to blend the flavors.
Add the chard and simmer five minutes more. Serve.