Chard packs a healthful punch with all its glorious colors. Not only do you get the benefits of a leafy green vegetable (like kale), a nice dose of vitamin K and calcium plus other anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agents, you get the beautiful addition of a red and yellow vegetable from the same plant. Red and yellow foods, rich in vitamin A and vitamin C, support healthy skin, joints and immune systems.
WebMD agrees that chard is a nutritional powerhouse packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber. In our house it is also appreciated because it is easy to prepare, if you want it to be, and it's versatile. And if anybody says avoid the stems because they are tough, don't listen. If you cook them right, they are just as yummy as the rest of the plant and they brighten up your plate.
Here are three (really four!) ways to enjoy this superstar:
Easy Does It
For a quick meal, simply chop the leaves and the stems separately. For two of us, we use one bunch (about seven stems or 3/4 of a pound). Start oil and chopped garlic (amount of garlic depends on you) in a pan and add the stems on medium heat. Cook the stems until slightly tender. Then add the leaves and a dash of tamari or soy sauce. The leaves will cook down quickly. Sometimes I finish it with a dash of water and a lid on the pan for about 30 seconds. It's nice over rice, but served over roasted delicata squash is our absolute favorite!
A variation on this is to start with chopped onions in the pan with oil, add the chard stems, then add leaves along with chopped tomatoes. Salt and pepper to taste then serve over rice or eggs.
Some simple additions to both dishes include tofu, sausage or olives.
My Quick Saag
Find your favorite saag recipe to prepare the chard or try this:
In a cast iron skillet (low to medium heat) add:
3 tablespoons of oil
1 medium onion, chopped
6 cloves of chopped garlic
1 bunch chopped chard stems
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, chopped
1 teaspoon of coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
A couple shakes of turmeric
Cayenne to taste
Cook and stir until onions are translucent, then add:
1 pound chopped fresh tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped basil
1 bunch chopped chard leaves
Cook until the leaves are tender and the liquid from the tomatoes has thickened. Then transfer to a food processor (if desired) to puree. Stir in broiled tofu or paneer cheese (non-melting cheese) and serve over rice.
Pickled chard stems made a dramatic presentation on a plate or as a present in a jar. Here's a recipe for Sriracha Fridge Pickles from bonappetit.com. Some folks say it is worth the time to "string" the stems before pickling so that they aren't a tough bite. We don't bother in our house and don't find it necessary if you chop the chard into small chunks before pickling or serving.
This simple plant provides an easy and yummy way to fill your plate with color without a ton of calories and is one happy way to build a healthy meal.
Nutritional Data for Chard: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2399/2
Swiss Chard -- 9 Healthy Facts: http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/swiss-chard-9-healthy-facts
Sriracha Fridge Pickles: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2011/06/sriracha-fridge-pickles
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