You know how everyone is agog over Swiss chard these days? Maybe I’m hopelessly out of it (well, I am, forget the maybes) but a few years ago I don’t think I had ever even tasted it, and at best had only a vague idea of what it was when I started seeing it constantly at farmer’s markets–first in London, then back in the US. Indeed, it appears to be a favorite among the farmer’s market set, kitchen gardeners, seasonal eaters, and locavores. It’s also well-pedigreed, as it has been popular since Roman times, which, given my ever-increasing fascination with the classical world, is a compelling enough recommendation in and of itself. (Sidebar: Have you read Cleopatra? Go get it now!)
So, I really want to like chard, I really do. Still…I have to admit I’m not totally with the program. We get along well in the right situations, but are not best friends. Some love its earthy flavor; to me if done wrong that ‘earthiness’ veers a bit too much towards muddiness. Other times it’s just too tasteless for me. I keep an open mind: I still do buy chard from time to time and I’ve happily learned that I do like it, if prepared right. There’s a lot of vegetables like that for me–cooked up one way, I’m just not interested; done up another, and I’m crazy for it. (Yes, even brussels sprouts and cauliflower!)
Such is the “allure” of chard that I keep an open mind. I have had success with gratins, frittatas and more recently in my “turta,” and I keep on buying it. Most recently, I decided I wanted to turn my 3 bunches of chard into a substantial, Ottolenghi type salad–something satisfying and substantial, not just a bowl of baby greens. I had some lovely yellow eye beans cooked up and leftover boiled lasagna noodles–seemed like all the necessary components were assembled. I poked around my cookbook collection and the internet, but oddly enough there are not a lot of recipes out there for white bean and chard salad. Soup yes, salad no. Seems like there should be more, right? So I made up my own.
I used three bunches of chard, which seems like a lot, but you know how greens are–a bit of heat and they dramatically collapse to almost nothing.
Adding the beans and pasta expanded out the volume again. The smoked paprika and cumin liven up the earthier aspects of the chard, which itself stains the silky lasagna noodles a deep pink color. Beans make the dish satisfying and filling, lemon juice brightens the whole mix.
Since this is best enjoyed warm or at room temperature, it is versatile–it’s great for dinner, it’s also great to take to work the next day with some rustic bread for a light lunch that’s still hearty enough to fill you up until dinner. Even better, since chard is generally available year-round, it works well both in winter and summer.
For more recipes in this vein, check out my potato kale tahini salad here.
- 1/4 c + 1/4c olive oil
- 2-3 bunches of Swiss chard or beet leaves with stems, coarsely chopped (about 1 1/2 lbs)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- juice of 1-2 lemons
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 2 cups white beans (I used Rancho Gordo’s yellow eye beans)
- 4 oz cooked lasagna noodles, torn (or other leftover cooked pasta)
- 1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4c chopped fresh cilantro
Rinse the chard in cool water and drain (but some water clinging to the leaves is fine). Cut off the stems (reserve for another use, such as this). Chop the chard leaves. Heat 1/4c olive oil in a large skillet or braising pan and briefly saute the garlic for about 30 seconds (or until the aroma rises). Stir in the paprika and cumin, and then add the chard to the pan and hold the heat at medium-low. There will be so much chard that it will be nearly impossible to turn, but after a few minutes you can carefully stir. The leaves at the bottom of the pile will have wilted and shrunken substantially in volume. Using a spatula, bring these greens to the top and fold the chard at the top underneath so these can wilt as well. Allow to simmer and steam in the water that is released in the process and stir gently from time to time, always bringing the fresher leaves to the bottom until all the leaves have gently cooked down.
In a bowl, mix the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the second 1/4 c of oil. Taste and adjust for salt. Add the beans, lasagna, and chard. You can stir in a bit of liquid that has been released during cooking as well.
Garnish with fresh parsley and cilantro. Serve warm or at room temperature.