23 June 2009

Swiss chard

We eat swiss chard almost daily during the summer and fall. We grow the beautiful variety called Five Color Silverbeet, a variety that was maintained by the Digger’s Garden Club in Australia after it was dropped by commercial seed companies. It was first re-introduced to US gardeners through Seed Savers Exchange, and in the past few years it’s been picked up by many seed companies in the US. The multi-colored ribs and big crinkly leaves are as pretty as anything grown in a Minnesota garden.
Beets and swiss chard are different varieties of the same genus and species, Beta vulgaris. Over time, beets have been bred for their tuberous root while swiss chard’s ribs and leaves are prized by cooks. Marcella Hazan, in Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, has a delicious swiss chard torte we’ve been making for years, but our daily standard is a bit simpler, and it’s quick and delicious. Here’s what I do:
Add a hefty pour of olive oil to a saucier or other fry pan;
Mince a few cloves of garlic and add them to the hot oil;
After the garlic cooks, add the diced stems of the swiss chard and sauté it like celery;
When the stalks are soft, add a whole tomato, preferably a paste variety with lots of meat and few seeds;
Mash the tomato a bit and turn the heat up pretty high to cook off the excess moisture;
Add a little salt;
Lay all the chard leaves on top of each other and roll them up like a fat cigar, then cut the fat roll of leaves into thin strips – maybe ½” or so;
Add the leaves to the hot pan, and stir it all around;
I usually cover the pan for a minute or two to let the steam wilt the chard leaves quicker. Cook the leaves for three or four minutes total.
When I come home from work and make this for lunch, I usually serve it with rice, and I always have a little bowl of nahm prick, a homemade, fiery Thai condiment, on the side.


  1. Patrick, I enjoy your blog and read it regularly. We are both fan of John Whiting and of duck fat!
    Can we trade links?
    Very best,
    Nicole Peyrafitte

  2. Nicole, I just added your link - thanks!

  3. We have a plethora of Swiss chard this year. I use it in soups, omelets, quiche, stir fry, quesadillas, and of course, green salads. We're not too big on "fiery side dishes," but your meal sounds great!