Chard in the Kitchen & Recipes
Now is prime time to enjoy and explore local greens. Visit our Produce department and find organic, sustainably sourced greens from many Skagit family farms, including: Moondance Farm, Blue Heron Farm, Ralph’s Greenhouse.
Many salad fans are familiar with standard salad greens: from tender butter head lettuce to classic ribbed Romaine to spicy arugula and mustard greens. Then there are the hardy greens, like spinach and kale. Not only are these sturdy leafy greens packed with nutrients, they can add taste and texture to a host of dishes. Chard in particular, is an outstanding green, rich in vitamin K, magnesium and calcium.
Choosing & Storing Chard
Have you tried using chard in your meals? Often inexpensive and long-lasting, chard – also known as rainbow or “Swiss Chard” – goes by as many aliases, such as: silverbeet, leaf beet, seakale beet, perpetual spinach, and mangold. Chard is closely related to beets, and is in fact, a beet that has been bred to have fat, juicy stems and big leaves instead of channeling most of its energy into big roots.
When choosing fresh chard, look for the snappiest, most vibrant leaves and stems. You’ll likely find white stemmed, red stemmed, and a rainbow bunch that contains white, red and yellow stem chards. Use whichever chard suits your culinary ambitions. Multi-colored chard adds a bright flair to salads and stir fries, and the colors contain extra antioxidants.
To store chard, wrap it in a paper towel and put it in a plastic bag, to ensure it’s kept humid, but not too wet. To prep, immerse and swish in plenty of cold water, then dry in a spinner or on towels. Strip the leaves from the stems with your fingers, holding the stem in one hand and ripping with the other, or you can lay them flat on the cutting board and slice along the stem.
Cooking with Chard: the Basics
Early connoisseurs grew chard almost exclusively for the crisp, expansive stems, which can be boiled, steamed or stir fried solo. Nowadays many people throw the stems away, opting to focus on the leaves. To reduce waste: add the stems to the pot or pan a few minutes earlier, then add the quicker-cooking chopped leaves later.
Pair chard with strong flavors, such as: garlic, chiles, olives and tomatoes stand up to the mineral-rich, vegetal flavors of the big green leaves. Any cuisine that cooks greens has great flavors to go with chard, from the spices of India, the soy/sweet and sour of Asia, to spicy south of the border tastes.
The hefty leaves of chard are like all leaves, made up of open cells that will collapse when cooked. A huge pile of leafy greens will cook down to a fifth its size. If you are looking for a pretty presentation, you can blanch the whole leaves, stems included, dry them well, and use them like grape leaves. Wrap cooked grains, or even an herb smeared chicken breast or fish filet to bake in a covered casserole.
Ways to use chard:
- Blanch or boil – Chard is a handy ingredient when you blanch it first and keep it moist and tender. Drop chopped stems into a pot of boiling water and wait one minute before dropping in the leafy parts. Bring water back to a boil and cook for about a minute, just until the leaves are tender. Drain and rinse with cold water. Squeeze out the leaves and you have a ready ingredient for everything from sandwiches to pasta, lasagna or a frittata or even scrambled eggs.
- Quick sauté – enjoy chard simply. It holds up well in a quick in a hot pan with flavorful olive oil, or a spot in a stir-fry. Sprinkle with cheese or serve with pasta.
- Roasting/Grilling – You can roast it in a hot oven, like the popular kale chips: just toss with a bit of oil and roast for about 10-15 minutes at 350 F. Some grill buffs even grill it in a similar way, with oil and a little heat.
- Soups – skip blanching and add chard in the final 5 minutes or so of cooking.
- Sauces – add a few handfuls of chopped chard to enrich spaghetti sauce, chili, curries, or simple bean stews.
- Salads – Tender baby chard can be tossed in salads, or shredded into slaw, uncooked.
Read on for some Co-op staff tips on Rainbow Chard, including this favorite recipe for an earthy, nutritious side salad that combines a light lemon dressing with Swish chard and beans.
White Bean & Chard Pasta Salad
- 1/2 pound orecchiette (or other small pasta)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
- 1/4 pound carrots, diced
- 1 pound chard, washed and roughly chopped, with any tough stems removed
- 1 15-ounce can cannellini or Navy beans, drained and rinsed
For the Dressing:
- 1/2 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried dill
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, rinse and set aside.
- In a medium-sized skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onions, garlic and carrots for a few minutes, then add the chard and cook a few minutes more until it is tender. Remove the skillet from the heat, stir in the white beans and set aside to cool.
- In a large mixing bowl, mix the lemon juice, olive oil, dried dill and mustard together. Toss with the pasta and beans and chard mixture. Season with salt and pepper, and gently stir in the grated Parmesan cheese. Serve chilled or at room temperature.