Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Simple Sautéed Chard

There are few vegetables as brilliant and enticing as rainbow chard in the garden.

Not only is it beautiful to look at, it is easy to grow and keeps coming up if you just cut a few leaves on each plant as you go. Small, tender leaves taste so good just straight from the garden.

Chard was likely introduced to me by my mother, probably sometime when I was a teenager. She seemed to have more time on her hands with her kids growing up and out of the house more often. She was keen on trying new things in the kitchen and we were often on the receiving end of her creativity.

I still remember the day she brought home cactus to cook up for dinner. Yes, cactus. I'm not sure how successful that venture was since I wasn't inclined to repeat that attempt at cross-cultural studies in cookery but I was keen to make her sautéed chard for years afterwards.

This is a simple recipe with simple technique and simple ingredients. However, there is one secret ingredient that most people would probably never guess is in it. Don't pre-judge, ok? It's ketchup.

I know, I know. Ketchup is overused: on hot dogs and hamburgers, its fine. On macaroni & cheese and grilled cheese, its plain weird. On sautéed chard? I know what you are thinking- wildly inappropriate.

However, if you come across some chard and try this recipe, you may become a convert too. There is something about the sweet, rich edge of ketchup that gives the slightly bitter chard new life.

Maybe you aren't inclined to try something as crazy as cactus, but maybe your crazy experiment will be chard with ketchup?

Simple Sautéed Chard
Chard really tends to cook down significantly, so I always start with a huge pile of greens. For this recipe, you'll need about 2 big bunches. Use the biggest sauté pan you have, or use a wok as I do. And, if you are too much of a food snob to use ketchup, use a touch of tomato sauce or a chopped tomato in its place.

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
approx. 2 large bunches of chard
3/4 tsp dried thyme leaves (not the powdered stuff)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp ketchup

1. Let chard soak in water for a few minutes and swish around to remove debris. Rinse.
2. Rip stems from leaves. Separate into stems and leaves. Finely cut stems. Roughly chop leaves.
3. Heat sauté pan or wok over medium to medium high heat. Add oil and add stems, onions and garlic. Sauté until tender, approximately 5 minutes, stirring often.
4. Add dried thyme and salt and continue to cook for another minute.
5. Add chard greens and sauté until just wilted. Add ketchup and cook for another minute. Serve immediately.

Note: Cooking the long stems for a few minutes before makes them much more tender. Small, tender chard stems do not need this treatment and can be roughly chopped and cooked with the greens.