Trying to get more veggies and leafy greens in? Yeah, me too.
Trying to make them taste a whole lot more interesting? Yeah, me too.
I created this chard dish on the fly, when my lovely partner-in-crime Lo was over for dinner. You can absolutely swap some ingredients out for each other; I’ll write substitutions at the end of the post. Leafy greens cook pretty fast, are very nutritious, and can be delicious.
Swiss chard looks really pretty, especially the rainbow chard, but you lose the colors in the cooking process.
The stems are a bit tough. You can cut them into bite-size pieces and saute them till they’re soft, and eat them like a veggie. (I didn’t use them in this particular dish.) Remove the stem by making a v-shaped incision into the leaf, close to the stem, using a sharp knife.
Shallots and ginger are lovely things; I saute them in butter before adding the chard and cooking it down with a bit of stock.
Meanwhile, I toast pine nuts.
You have to toast them in a dry pan over medium low (or low) heat, stirring occasionally in the first minute and then more often, to ensure even browning. They brown in just a few minutes and burn really fast. So don’t take your eyes off them. They are too delicious and too expensive to ruin. I very nearly ruined mine, as evidenced by the photograph below.
Then I chop up a quarter of a preserved lemon and a small handful of raisins (plumped in hot water) and stir them into the nearly-cooked chard. I add the pine nuts just before serving. Obviously, the only way to serve the chard is accompanied by a totally burnt leg of chicken. Sigh. (Despite the burning, the chicken turned out to be pretty decent. But the chard was amaaazing.)
1 – 2 shallots
Ginger, 1 – 2″
Butter, 2T (or coconut oil, for vegans)
Chard, 2 bunches
Stock/broth (chicken or vegetable), or just water – about 2 – 3 T
Pine nuts, a handful
Preserved lemon, a quarter
Raisins, a small handful
Salt and pepper
- Prep: place the raisins in a small bowl and cover with hot water; peel, then mince or thinly slice the shallots; peel and mince the garlic; finely chop the preserved lemon, discarding any seeds. Remove the thick stems from the chard leaves, using a knife to make a v-shaped cut, then tear each leaf into 3 – 4 large pieces.
- Toast the pine nuts: place them in a single layer in a pan over medium-low heat. Stir and turn every so often; keep your eyes on them. When they start to color a tad, watch very carefully, stirring and flipping them, till there’s a golden color on most of the surfaces. Remove the pine nuts from the pan into a small bowl.
- Cook the chard: Melt butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add shallots and ginger; let them cook a bit. Once the shallots are softened and the ginger’s browning, stir in the chard. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt over it. Once it starts to cook down a tad, add the stock/broth/water. Cook for a few more minutes, stirring occasionally, till the chard is almost all wilted.
- Dress the chard: the raisins in the bowl should be plump now. Chop them coarsely. Stir the chopped raisins and the chopped preserved lemon into the chard (still on the flame). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in pine nuts, reserving a few for garnish, and remove chard from heat.
- Serve as a side dish, or toss as a sauce with pasta, or fold into an omelet. Do’t forget to garnish with reserved pine nuts.
Loren and I ate the whole dish between the two of us, as an accompaniment to chicken; we are both off gluten right now. You might serve smaller amounts to four people if you’ve made a number of other dishes too.
You can customize the hell out of this dish. Don’t fear failure; if your dish doesn’t come out quite right, work on analyzing what went wrong so that you can fix it next time. And in the moment, you can adjust the flavors for sweetness, acidity, saltiness and “bite” by adjusting the amount of the corresponding ingredients, in this case, raisins, lemon, salt and pepper.
- Chard: instead of chard, you can use spinach or kale. Spinach cooks really fast and does not require the use of stock/broth/water. Kale might require extra stock/broth/water, and you should cover the kale while cooking to help it soften better.
- Shallots: Use onions if you prefer, whatever kind you like.
- Ginger: Use garlic if you prefer, or a mixture of garlic and ginger, and as much or little of it as you like. Fresh is just a million times better than powdered.
- Butter: use whatever fat you want, just be careful of fats with overwhelming flavors (like bacon fat)–they need to work with all the other ingredients too. You can use less or more, if you want.
- Stock/broth/water: I used homemade chicken stock that I freeze in ice cube trays and store for this sort of use. You can use just plain water if you want to. I don’t much care for store-bought stocks and broths but if you have one that you like, go ahead and use it.
- Pine-nuts: substitute toasted almonds if you like. Peanuts or walnuts could be interesting, too. If you’re allergic to nuts, skip them. You can stir in fresh sliced scallion greens just before serving to add a little texture instead.
- Preserved lemons: Don’t have? Don’t fret. After you take the chard off the heat, you can either squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the dish, or grate some lemon zest in. Toss with the chard to combine. Taste and add more as needed, to create a bit of brightness without an overwhelming tang.
- Raisins: They add occasional little bursts of sweetness to balance the acidity of the lemon and “vegetable-ness” of the chard. You can experiment with other dried fruit like apricot, or cranberry, or just skip this component if you want to. If you use raisins or other dried fruit, use sparingly, and don’t use anything overly sweet.