The Pleasures of Chard

062905_chardfordinnerOne of the more reliable crops for POD has always been chard. This year, magically, we managed to plant the perfect amount. Six plants per square foot (for a total of 12 plants) have kept this little family, and our neighbors, comfortably fed with crisp, brilliantly red chard.

And, a bit surprisingly, it’s turned into on of the Hurricane’s favorite veggies. Upon seeing a pile of chard in the Endurer’s motley summer salad, she plucked up a fork and snatched a few off his plate.  Last year’s hit, Swiss chard goma-ae, has been trumped by a couple of new recipes. Enjoy.

A Soup of Lentils, Bacon, and Chard

This recipe is brought to you courtesy of the wonderful and envy-making (the book I would hope to write were I a far better writer, gardener, and cook) Tender, by Nigel Slater. If your passions are evenly divided between your harvest and your snug kitchen, you must add this book to your shelves.  It’s so satisfying to wander out the back door and gather a basket brimming with chard, parsley, and mint. This is a man who looks at his bounty and puts it to noble use.

a large onion
olive oil
garlic — 3 or 4 cloves
unsmoked bacon or pancetta — a good handful, chopped
flat-leaf parsley — a small bunch
chard — a large bunch
Puy or Castelluccio lentils — 1 1/4 cups (250g)
stock or, at a push, water — 4 cups (a liter)
a bay leaf — optional
juice of a lemon
mint — a small bunch

Peel the onion and chop it finely, then let it soften in a deep pan over medium to low heat with a little olive oil. Peel the garlic, slice it thickly, then add to the onion with the chopped bacon or pancetta. Chop the parsley and stir it in.

Wash the card thoroughly, set aside four beautiful stalks and their leaves, then separate the remaining stalks and leaves. Chop the stalks coarsely and set the leaves aside. Add the chopped chard stalks to the onion and bacon and continue cooking.

Wash the lentils thoroughly, then stir them into the onion and bacon. Pour over the stock or water and bring to a boil, skimming off any froth that comes to the surface. you can add a bay leaf or two if you like. Decrease the heat so that the lentils simmer merrily, then almost cover the pot and simmer until they are tender, but far from collapse — about thirty minutes, depending on your lentils. [I find that 20 minutes is usually sufficient for Puy lentils.]

Tear the reserved chard leaves up a bit. Stir them into the soup. Steam the reserved whole leaves and stalks until tender.

Season the soup with salt, black pepper, lemon juice, and the mint leaves, tasting as you go. Ladle the hot soup into warm bowls, add the steamed chard, and serve with more lemon and mint for those who want it.

POD’s Garden Farro Salad

10 ounces farro (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 cups chicken stock (optional)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces green beans, cut into 1 to 2-inch pieces
8 ounces Swiss chard stems (leaves removed), cut into 1 to 2-inch pieces

1/2 cup pitted black olives
1 medium red pepper, cut into thin strips (about 4 ounces or 1 cup)
2 ounces Parmesan, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
1 small bunch chives, snipped
1 small bunch parsley, chopped

1/3 cup sherry vinegar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups of stock and 2 c. water with the farro and salt (the stock is optional, but it adds a nice depth to the dish). Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until the farro is almost tender, about 20 minutes.  Drain well (the remaining liquid can be saved for your next batch of farro). Transfer to a large bowl and let cool.

Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the green beans and chard. Cook for 2 minutes. Transfer the cooked green beans and chard to a bowl of ice water and let cool for 2 minutes. Drain the green beans.

Once the farro has cooled add the green beans, chard, olives, red pepper, Parmesan, and chives. Stir to combine. In a small bowl mix together the sherry vinegar, olive oil, mustard, pepper, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir to combine. Pour the sherry vinaigrette over the farro salad. Toss to combine and serve.

Fresh Eats

Not that there’s much on deck just yet, but the bounty out front is nicely rewarding. The unusually cool spring meant a bumper crop of Swiss chard in containers usually reserved for flowery-type things.

swiss chard pastaHappily, all this chard makes for quick, cheap, and easy [well, easy for me — the chief cook now insists on making his own pasta — not that it isn’t absolutely out-of-sight delicious] vegetarian dinner.

Simply saute the chard (diced and sliced into thin ribbons, as above) in a little olive oil with a couple cloves of thinly sliced garlic. Let it get good and wilty. The stalks should crunch a little, but not taste completely raw. This takes just a touch longer than sauteing spinach. Then toss in a little lemon zest. Serve over the pasta of your choice. No, you can’t have the hubby’s pasta. Sprinkle with a hard cheese of your choice and pepper to taste.

Steak Salad

Oh, the pleasures of climbing the sladder and returning with a bowl full of dinner.

Minus the cow.

steak salad

Serves 2
Got cucumbers? Check. Tomatoes? Check. Lettuce? Check. Swiss Chard? Check. Very par-boiled peas? Check. (Peas courtesy of the farmers’ market.) Fresh, crunchy bread? Check.

Steak and Croutons
1) 60z flat iron steak (a relatively thin cut that will grill quickly) at room temperature.
1b) slice bread into 1/2″ rounds, rub with olive oil and garlic.
2) Blot steak dry with paper towel.
3) Brush with a splodge of olive oil.
4) Rub in some coarse ground black pepper and salt, press it into the meat.
5) Heat your grill as hot as you can. Sear each side for 2-3 minutes, depending on your preferences. Your grill lines should be nice and black.
6) Grill bread until golden toasty — it won’t take long.
7) Remove from heat, rest for 3-4 minutes. Break the bread into bite-size pieces. Slice the steak thinly and arrange over your salad.

Swiss Chard and Preserved Lemons

It’s so ridiculously satisfying to climb up the sladder, pick chard, climb down, chop it,  throw some other stuff in a pan, and eat. Of course, you’ll need to have made the preserved lemons two months ago, but still. Good stuff. If you don’t have preserved lemons lounging in your fridge like some food nerds do, lemon zest, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a pinch of coriander and cinnamon also happens to be pretty darn tasty.

swiss chard with preserved lemons
swiss chard with preserved lemons

Swiss Chard and Preserved Lemons
1 bunch swiss chard (about 6-8 stalks), chopped
1 tbs olive oil
a slosh of sherry vinegar (about 2-3 tbs, depending on taste)
¼ preserved lemon (pulp removed and well-rinsed), chopped finely
black pepper or red pepper flakes, to taste

1) Heat olive oil
2) Drop in chard
3) Sauté for a few minutes, until leaves have wilted
4) Add vinegar to hot pan, swirl until it mostly disappears
5) Remove from heat and stir in chopped preserved lemon and pepper

Preserved Lemons
Quoted directly from: Casa Moro (2004) by Sam and Sam Clark

Preserved lemons are a great feature of North African cooking, especially in Morocco. They have a strong, distinctive flavour used to give character to tagines (stews), sauces, fish dishes and salads

10 organic lemons, washed and drained
1 kg (2.2 lbs)
3 cinnamon sticks, broken up roughly
1 tbs coriander seeds
1tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp cloves
5 small dried red chilies
5 bay leaves (preferably fresh)
juice of 8 extra lemons

Make a cross in the top of each lemon and continue to cut until two-thirds the way day. Open out slightly, pushing some salt inside each one and press together again. In a large, sterilized preserving jar about 1.5 litres, alternate the salt with the spices ad the lemons so that everything is more or less evenly packed in the jar. Press down on the lemons to help extrude some of the juice. Pour on the extra lemon juice to cover completely. Close the jar and leave at room temperature for about 2 months, or until the skins are soft all the way through. When you are ready to use a lemon, remove it from the jar, rinse under cold water to remove any excess salt, pull out and discard the pulp, then chop the skin as desired. Preserved lemons are deceptive in their strength, so only the smallest amounts will b e necessary in most recipes: although it may seem like nothing, beware of adding more. The lemons should keep for up to a year in the fridge.

Spring Panzanella

Hey, fresh peas! And the asparagus looks awesome! Oooh, swimming in Swiss chard. What to do? What to do?

Ta da! Here’s a welcome-to-garden-fresh-produce panzanella-like salad. The bread was sliced off a lovely husband-baked loaf (both the husband and the bread are lovely, thank you) of French bread and POD provided the Swiss chard, basil, tarragon, and thyme. Coulton Organics via South Philly’s Headhouse Farmers’ Market must be thanked for the amazing little peas and toothsome asparagus. Genovese basil seedlings from Longview Farm joined the ranks several weeks ago.

Spring Panzanella

GRILLED BREAD
8 oz bread, cut into thick slices — stale is fine
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper

VEGETABLES
¼ c. + 1 tbs. olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
¼ c. fresh basil, chiffonaded
1/3 c. parmesan
1 bunch fresh asparagusSwiss chard, basil, tarragon, thyme
3 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
3 c. fresh peas
5 c. fresh spinach OR Swiss chard
salt and pepper

CHICKEN MARINADE
1 chicken breast (appx. 6 oz)
1 tbs. olive oil
3 tbs. fresh herbs (tarragon and thyme or basil and oregano, for example)
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper

1) Marinate the chicken breast for 1-5 hours (ideally 2-3, but whatever works).

2) Prep the bread for the gill by brushing the crushed garlic clove over both sides of the bread. (Actually, try grating the clove on a small cheese grater — you get more of the garlic oil on the bread that way.) Brush the bread with olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside

3) Whisk ¼ c. olive oil with lemon juice in a large bowl. Brush the asparagus with the sauce and place the asparagus in a grill tray (line the tray with aluminum foil so none of the tasty asparagus slips out – supposedly you can skewer asparagus, but it’s never worked for us). Leave remaining juice and oil in the bowl – add a little more if you like your panzanella wet. Toss in basil and parmesan. Stir.

4) Heat  remaining 1 tbs. olive oil over medium high heat. Add thinly sliced garlic and sauté until the garlic turns a light golden brown. Scoop the garlic out and set aside.

5) Place a few ice cubes in a small bowl with cold water. Toss the spinach or chard into the hot, garlicky oil. Sauté very briefly until barely wilted. Scoop the spinach or chard out of the pan and into the ice water to “shock” it. This will prevent further cooking and maintain a nice bright green color. Squeeze out most of the water and add to the big bowl of lemon juice and oil. Stir.

6) Bring to boil enough water to cover the peas. Throw in the peas. Cook until desired consistency. We like our peas tender-crisp – maybe 3-4 minutes. Drain the peas and add them to the big bowl. Stir. Add salt and pepper to taste.

7) Grill the asparagus until desired tenderness, grill the chicken until it’s cooked through but not puck-like – we usually cheat and slice open the center of the breast before turning off the heat and accidentally serving raw chicken. Grill the bread until it reaches your desired crunchiness.

8 ) Slice the asparagus and bread, mix them into the vegetable base. Spoon onto plates, sprinkling reserved garlic chips on top. Slice chicken on top of the panzanella.