I thought it might be fun to track what I get as part of the farm share I am splitting with some friends this year, and what I do with it. We are splitting a half share from One Straw Farm, which translates into a total of four items each week. Our first pickup was Saturday, June 13. I took home a small box of strawberries, and a bunch of swiss chard.
The strawberries were easy – I ate them all in two batches. I had intended to pick up a couple of biscuits at the grocery store to go with them, but forgot. So, instead of strawberry shortcake I made a quick chocolate sauce by taking a small handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips and a splash of half and half, and zapping them in the microwave. Yum. If I had any greek yogurt around at the time, I would have just eaten them with that, as I found it was a delicious combination a couple of weeks ago. (Yes, I have already had local strawberries multiple times. This is one of the good things about Maryland.)
The swiss chard was not so obvious to me. I have only worked with it once before, and that was in the fall (and it was rainbow chard, not that I have any idea how much of a difference that really makes). This time of year it is a little warm for a heavy stew, but most of the other recipes I was finding online were for a side dish – saute it with some olive oil and garlic, and in some cases a few spices. I tend to cook meals that are one-pot (or close to it) and thus all-inclusive of your vegetable, starch and protein. So, I decided to make up my own all-inclusive swiss chard dish. Working at what I already had on hand, here’s what I did. Since this isn’t really a recipe per se, I haven’t broken out the ingredients.
All-Inclusive Slapdash Swish Chard, al’Italia
I started off with a big frying pan. I heated a splash of olive oil, and then added half of a small onion and all of a small red potato, both diced. I threw on a few cranks of pepper, a pinch of sea salt, and a couple of shakes each of crushed red pepper flakes and dried thyme. Had I any other dried Italian herbs on hand (I am out of a lot of herbs right now) they would have gone on as well. Substitute as your heart desires (and your pantry dictates).
I let that cook over a medium-low heat, stirring it around often. (The key here is to make sure that it is low enough that the onions will not burn, but high enough that it doesn’t take forever to make dinner.) While that cooked, I washed and chopped (minus the stems) my whole bunch of swiss chard, which I did not think to weigh until it was too late. I can tell you that I used six stalks (one was too beat up), and that it got very limp in the couple of days between when I brought it home and when I ate it. I am not sure if that is because of how I stored it (unwashed, in the fridge) or for some other reason. Had they been less limp and flabby, I probably would have chopped up some of the stems and thrown those in with the potatoes. I also chopped up a generous handful of grape tomatoes and two cloves of garlic, and put half the garlic aside with the tomatoes.
Once the potatoes were starting to get golden brown on most of their sides, I tossed in about 2/3 of a cup (I think) of white beans. (These were whatever dried white beans I decided most resembled cannellini beans, already soaked and cooked through, so they were ready to go. These are a great addition to salads in the summer, as they pretty much blend in with any other flavors.) I gave them a couple of minutes, then made a spot in the middle of the pan for half the garlic, and threw that in. I let it heat up for something less than 30 seconds, and stirred it in. I gave that maybe a minute or two, and then put the chard in the pan and stirred it in. I decided it looked like it needed some more oil, so I added a generous splash of olive oil. I’m not sure how long I let it cook—maybe 2 minutes–but I did stand over it stirring it around so none of the leaves would get scorched. Since it was already limp, I didn’t really have that visual cue of happy greens wilting. Anyway, once I decided it had been long enough, I dumped everything in the pan into a large soup bowl (which I later ate it out of). I squeezed about 1/3 of a lemon over top of that and stirred it up.
I put the pan back on the heat and added a little more olive oil. I gave that a minute to heat up (long enough to rinse off three large basil leaves from my pot of basil), then tossed on the tomatoes and the other chopped clove of garlic. I gave that a good stir and let it cook for a couple of mintues, while I chopped the basil and then stirred tomatoes some more. I didn’t want them to cook down too much, so after another couple of minutes I threw on the basil and a couple of splashes of balsamic vinegar. I gave that maybe a minute to come together, then dumped it on top of the chard mix in my bow. I finished it off with a grating of parmesean.
This made what I consider to be enough for me to eat for dinner – as a reference, it filled up most of a soup bowl that can comfortably fit an entire can of Progresso soup, with plenty of room to mix it around. If you take out the potatoes and cut down the beans a little, it would probably make a nice side dish to a simply-prepared chicken breast, and you could probably get two or three side dish servings out of it. (Though I feel like you’d need a third thing on the plate – howsabout some bruschetta?) But as I noted, I’m not sure how much chard I had by weight, so your mileage may vary.
Overall it was good, though I am as yet not sure how much I like chard – it had a taste that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. A strong taste, not bitter but edging in that direction. I’m wondering if maybe I didn’t let it cook long enough, but I was wary of having a bowl of mush for dinner (the potatoes brown, but don’t get crispy—I suppose you could cook them for a shorter time at a higher heat, but then you’d have to pay more attention to what was going on over on the stove). The balsamic and the tomatoes were a good balance to that flavor. The tomato topping was actually not part of the plan I came up with on the walk home – they were added because after I chopped up the chard, it didn’t look like quite enough for dinner. I looked around the kitchen and spotted my box of grape tomatoes, and immediately thought of the pasta primavera that Andrea and I made when she and Bill were visiting last weekend – the tomatoes were treated in the same way, which added a great dimension to the dish. I am glad that I thought of it, because it really brightened it up.
I briefly thought about starting off the whole thing by cooking a piece of bacon in the pan (hard to believe but I actually have some on hand right now), and then frying the potatoes & onions in the fat that rendered from that, but I decided that I wanted to keep this vegetarian, so I didn’t. But you certainly could (though I am not sure how the balsamic and the bacon would go together). Other delicious Italian meats and sausages would also work here.
I think next time I get chard I will try a similar dish – maybe something with chickpeas and a combination of Indian spices.