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The first few CSA boxes of the season evoke a number of feelings in me: enjoyment of the season, creative fervor on how I’ll use all that produce … and a little thing I call “greens fatigue.”
Among a few other odds and ends, the list of what was in my last CSA box included spinach, arugula, bok choy, cilantro, kale, head lettuce, and chard. Greens are crunchy, tasty, and nutritionally rich, but their never-ending parade in early summer sometimes turns that old creative fervor a little sour. There are only so many salads and stir-fries you can assemble before you start to wonder how else you can spice up your next serving of greens.
For my part, I like to take the “spicing up” literally. A little kick of chipotle can add some zest back into even the most trite of leafy greens. Not that chard – the subject of today’s recipe – is what you could call trite!
Chard is probably my favorite of all the leafy greens thanks to its sweet, tender leaves. Because it does have a fairly mild flavor compared to certain other greens (I’m looking at you, kale) it’s pretty versatile in recipes, too, never overpowering the other foods present. It’s also a more delicate leaf than what you get with mature spinach or kale, and easy to overcook. Be gentle with your chard or you may find yourself with a mushy mess!
Chard, like most other greens, makes a nice salad while the greens are still young and at their most tender, and makes a fine addition to most pasta dishes. It adds a touch of flavor as well as and vitamin A. Chard can also bring color (besides green, of course) to your favorite dishes: its stems vary in color depending on the cultivar, from red and hot pink to yellow and bright white. It should keep in the fridge for at least three days if you wrap it loosely in a damp paper towel (but check your crisper drawer regularly for mold or mildew, both of which thrive in moist conditions).
If you haven’t got any chard on hand, you can always substitute in beet greens (beets and chard are closely related, which you may have guessed if you’ve examined the similar shape and color of their leaves). Or if you’re looking for a way to use up that last bunch of chard languishing in the back of the crisper drawer, look no further! Here’s a recipe that’s sure to please.
Beans and Greens
1 bunch chard (any variety)
3/4 cup dried black beans (or 1 can, rinsed and drained)
1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
2 small tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
With dried beans, you have the option either to use a slow soak or a fast soak. If you opt for slow, rinse them and remove any debris that got into the package, and leave them in a covered pot of water overnight. If you’re impatient like me, go for the fast soak: boil the beans in water for two minutes; then remove them from the heat. Let them soak for 1-2 hours, rinse them, and then cover with water and put them back on the burner over low heat to simmer for another hour. Drain them before you use them in the recipe. (If you opt to use a can of beans, on the other hand, just rinse them in a colander right and let them drain when you’re ready to start cooking.
Prepare the chipotle pepper and the chard. I use about ½ to one chipotle pepper per serving – this should be finely diced, and leave the seeds in. We want some kick to spice up that chard, don’t we?
Chop chard into pieces of about one inch square. (My favorite cutting method is to fold the leaf in half along the rib, then slice perpendicular to the rib. I cut the resulting pieces into thirds by cutting about halfway between the folded rib and the free edge.)
Heat olive oil in sauté pan, and add the chard and peppers. (Make sure to add a liberal dollop of the adobo sauce the peppers were canned in, too – this gives the dish a nice smoky flavor that combines nicely with both the spicy pepper and the sweet greens. If your beans are still hot from their recent simmering, you can wait to add them in, but if they’ve been off the burner too long you can throw them in now to heat up with the rest. Be sure not to overcook the chard! It should start to soften and change color, but take it off the heat before it wilts away.
Before serving, top with your diced tomato. I like the sun-gold tomatoes I can find at the farmers market for their color and super-sweet flavor, but any red tomato will work just fine. Serve with your favorite sourdough, or even better — cornbread with butter and local honey.
Take pictures of your finished product and send it to your friends – they’ll be green with envy!