Saturday, January 26, 2013

Chard ~ The leafy health food of the Mediterranean


This winter I discovered chard.  Granted it's been around for centuries, but until this winter I had never prepared it.  Our local produce shop had it in fresh bundles and even our Trader Joe's had it cut in bags and marked 'holiday chard', presumably for the colors of the stalks.  While the leaves are always green, chard stalks vary in color.

Chard has highly nutritious leaves and is considered to be one of the healthiest vegetables available.  A member of the beet family, it is often called "Swiss Chard", which was used to distinguish it from French spinach varieties by 19th century seed catalog publishers. I'm told Chard is very popular among Mediterranean cooks and that the first varieties have been traced back to Sicily.

Purchase one pound of raw chard for four people.  It will look like a lot but it cooks down considerably.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound chard (any color combination)
crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
salt (to taste)

To prepare the chard simply wash thoroughly and cut off the bottom, tough part of the stems (leaving the top more tender colorful stem pieces and the leaves.)  Cut into 1-2 inch squares and spin or towel dry.

Quail on Chard
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or wok.  When hot but not yet smoking, add teh chopped garlic and toss in the oil for one minute.  Add the chard to the skillet one handful at a time, stirring and turning constantly, and adding more chard to the pan as it cooks down.  Add the crushed red pepper flakes and salt to taste.  Serve hot.

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