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Chard is a type of beet, which along with spinach, is a plant in the goosefoot family; so named because some of the plants in this category have leaves shaped like their namesake.
Unlike traditional beets, chard roots are inedible. Chard is prized for its large leaves and crunchy stalks. The two main types found in most supermarkets are red chard and green.
The red has red stems and dark green leaves with red veins. The green has lighter green leaves with white stalks. The red variety has a stronger flavor.
Chard is often referred to as Swiss chard because of its extensive cultivation in Switzerland; however, it is also widespread in the Mediterranean and particularly popular in the Provence and Rhone Valley regions of France.
Swiss chard has also been referred to as silver beet, spinach beet, Sicilian beet, leaf beet, Chilean beet, sea kale beet, white beet, strawberry spinach and Roman kale.
The word “chard” originally comes from the Latin word cardus, which means thistle. It evolved into the French word carde, which the English then adopted as chard.
The general rule of thumb when cooking chard is to treat the leaves as you would spinach and the stems as you would asparagus. In reality, there’s really not that much differentiation since either spinach, chard leaves or chard stems can be boiled, steamed, braised and sauted.
In addition to serving as a side dish, Swiss chard can be incorporated into stuffings, pasta sauces, soups, salads and other preparations.
Sauted Swiss Chard
1 large batch of Swiss chard, stems removed
Olive oil as needed
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 oz. sherry
1 Tbsp. vinegar
Heat a large skillet, add the oil, and then chard leaves, salt and pepper. When the chard has reduced and starts to soften, add garlic and saut one more minute. Add sherry and vinegar and cook on high until at least half the fluid has evaporated. Add additional salt and pepper if necessary and serve.
Other optional ingredients could include: chopped shallots, diced bell pepper or a sprinkle of nutmeg. Saut shallots and bell pepper with chard leaves before adding the garlic. Nutmeg is added at the very end.
Beef with Chard
You can assemble the beef in advance, wrap it well and refrigerate it. Allow it to warm up before roasting or the outer part of the meat will be close to well done before the interior portion cooks to medium-rare.
With a starch and vegetable enclosed by the sirloin, one or two slices are a meal in itself, although a green salad is a nice addition.
4 oz. chard leaves only, ribs removed (about 1 bunch)
5 tsps. olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup instant couscous (uncooked)
3 Tbsps. finely chopped pitted kalamata olives
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme
1-1/2 lbs. sirloin steak, butterflied (see note)
1/2 cup dry, fruity red wine
1/2 cup beef broth or stock
1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes and juice
Pinch of sugar, if needed
Note: To butterfly the sirloin, make one horizontal cut through the middle of the steak, stopping about 1/2 inch before slicing it all the way through. It should open like a book or “butterfly.”
Rinse chard leaves and chop into 1/2-inch pieces. Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and saute until it starts to soften. Add garlic and cook until aromatic, and then add chard with any water clinging to the leaves. (If there is not enough water, add a few splashes to the pan.)
Season with salt and pepper and cook until wilted but still green. Stir in couscous. The mixture should be moist. Cover the skillet for a minute or two to steam before transferring the mixture to a bowl. Stir in olives and thyme. Season to taste (the olives will add some saltiness).
To even out the butterflied sirloin’s thickness, place it between two pieces of thick plastic wrap and flatten with a skillet or mallet. Season both sides of beef with salt and pepper. Spread the chard-couscous mixture evenly over the beef then roll it up, beginning with the shortest edge. Secure with string or toothpicks.
Heat remaining 3 teaspoons oil in another skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef roll and sear on all sides.
Deglaze the skillet with the wine; add the broth, tomatoes and their juices. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, turning meat over and basting every few minutes. Transfer beef to a warm platter and cover loosely with foil.
Simmer the liquid in the pan for about 5 minutes, or until it reaches sauce consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning; add a pinch or two of sugar if the sauce is too tart.
Remove string or toothpicks and slice. Spoon sauce to the side or over the slices. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
with Crispy Bacon
This recipe isn’t low fat—that’s why it’s so good. The flavors really develop if made a couple of hours before serving. To complete the meal, just add a salad and toasted unbuttered rye bread slices. For a really hearty dinner, serve with baked smoked kielbasa.
16 oz. shredded cabbage (any coleslaw mix)
3 Tbsps. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 slices bacon, diced
12 oz. wide egg noodles, cooked
1 tsp. thyme or dill weed
For garnish: sour cream or yogurt
Melt butter in a deep pan. Add shredded cabbage. Cook down until cabbage is browned, at least an hour. Stir occasionally at first, then frequently as the cabbage starts to brown.
Mix in salt (to taste) and the pepper. Push cabbage over to one side of the pan. Add bacon to the cleared area and fry until crisp. When bacon is done, combine all contents of pan together.
Gently mix-in the cooked egg noodles and dried spices; warm on low heat. Taste to adjust seasonings.
If desired, garnish with sour cream or yogurt and a sprinkle of thyme. Makes 6 servings.
Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at email@example.com.