Delicious, healthy and easy to cook – get more out of the vegetable aisle
It’s delicious, massively healthy, and easy to cook. Swiss chard may be the best vegetable you’re not eating
BEFORE YOU MICROWAVE ANOTHER
Tsad bag of peas, consider, if you will, humble chard. Swiss chard is a tall, sturdy, leafy green with fibrous stalks that come in a range of bright colours.
Maybe the name sounds weird to you. It did to me. But I picked up a bundle at the store because like many men, I felt compelled to put something green next to my steak. Once I figured out how to cook the stuff, though, I didn’t even need the steak. If you know how to cook things, healthy eating almost always means better eating.
Because chard is fairly kalelike, it is able to withstand slow cooking. Because it’s a hardy plant, it’s available for purchase and in decent shape whatever the season. And because it’s rich and tender with a less vegetal flavour than the other big leafy greens, it’s delicious in a lot of contexts where kale or collards would be overwhelming.
Good food doesn’t get much simpler than this recipe. First, you’ll need a few things that aren’t chard: eggs, olive oil, and a hard Italian cheese, like pecorino. Feel free to use this project as an excuse to clean out your fridge and pantry too. Got half an onion left over from taco night? Great. Some lonely broccoli in the greens drawer? Perfect.
And you’ll need some chard. Buy two big bundles. In the produce aisle, you can spot it among the other prehistoriclooking leafy greens by its pinkish red or sunny yellow stalks.
At home, rinse the leaves and lie them down on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to trim off some of each stalk because, although fibre is good for you and you may discover that the stalk is surprisingly tasty, it is undeniably the less delicious part. Now that you are a grownup, no one can make you eat the whole plant if you don’t want to.
Trim the stalk by cutting a little V at the bottom of the leaf and removing the leaf from the bulkiest part of the stalk. This will ensure that you have some of that colourful, fibrous spine of the leaf, which will contribute to a bright, hearty dish. But don’t discard the separated sections of stalk; hang onto them for a few minutes.
Take a big pot, add about an inch of water to it, and set it over high heat. It’ll boil quickly; now throw in all the chard pieces (including the stalks) and slap on the lid. You’re steaming the chard in order to soften it, and no part of the plant will benefit more from this softening than the stalks. Give it, say, eight or 10 minutes; then check on it. The leaves should have wilted significantly but not turned to mush. Pull the leafy sections out. As for the bare stalks, plan on giving them another five to seven minutes in the steam, or until they’re loose and floppy – kind of like very thick, colourful al dente pasta. Then cut the heat and pull everything out of the steam and back onto your cutting board to cool.
While the chard is cooling, beat six eggs till frothy and grate a half cup of that hard Italian cheese; add it to the eggs. Next, take a bite of one of the cooked stalks. If it’s not too fibrous for you and the texture is otherwise to your liking, keep the stalks and use them. If you like the idea of them but are concerned that 15cm lengths of armoured plant matter might be too much, maybe chop them down to bite-sized pieces. Or if you’re grimly masticating and wondering when it’ll end, just toss the stalks in the garbage and move on.
At this point you’ll need to grab a square baking dish and decide which leftover vegetables you want to add. Your egg-andchard bake will be delicious just as it is, but it will be even more amazing if you spend five minutes caramelising some chopped taco-night onion with a bit of minced garlic. Toss that right into the dish. Or you could throw the florets of your forgotten broccoli back into that steam for a couple of minutes and then into the dish. Or strips of roasted peppers and maybe a pinch or two of red-pepper flakes could find their way on and around the chard. Or some crumbled bacon. Or hey, all of the above.
Point is, once your baking dish is loaded to your satisfaction with chard and the other stuff you felt like throwing in there, pour the beaten eggs and cheese over everything and shake on some salt and pepper. Bake it in a 180° oven until the eggs are set and the top is golden brown. This will take at least a half hour and maybe as long as an hour, but at this point your work is done. Check on it now and then and, once it’s cooked, haul it out of the oven and give it 10 minutes on the counter to cool before you dig in. That’s it.
You may be skeptical that this fridge-scavenging could produce something worthwhile, but then you will take that first bite, and, whoa: delicious. It has most of what you enjoy about quiche – the fluffy, salty, rich, eggy flavour, the happy bits of treasure studded throughout. It’s packed with chard, so it will also be rich in fibre and nutrients, and there’s no crust, so it will fit whatever keto-gluten-free-Atkins-franken-diet happens to be sweeping the nation.
Whichever way you make this dish, do it in private. When people try it, they will look at you with newfound respect. But if they knew how easy it was to make, the game would be up.
Once youknow how to cook things, healthy eating almost always means better eating.
You say frittata, I say egg bake. Chard’s bitterness offsets the creamy eggs and sharp Italian cheese.