Eat Your Chard!

The spinach mystery is still with us, and this just in: Giant Food stores are putting the leafy green back on the shelves, as is Wegman's, starting today. The stores are promising signs stating where the spinach comes from - NOT from California farms, where the focus of the E. coli investigation continues.

Sounds almost as confusing as what kinds of liquids you can take on an airplane -- Colorado spinach, anyone? New Jersey? Pre-washed bags or loose bunches? It's enough to make me fall in love with other green leafy vegetables.

Chard, the beautiful alternative to spinach. (Kim O'Donnel)

Steam it. Blanch it. Saute-garlic-onion it. Give some love to the chard, ladies and gents.

Not only is it a respectable stand-in for spinach, chard can stand on its own culinary laurels, thank you very much. In a beauty pageant, chard, with its gorgeous red veins and multi-colored stems, would steal the tiara from plain-Jane spinach. What's more, chard offers a slime-free zone, a common complaint heard over plates of sauteed spinach.

To get you started on a Chardian path, below are three recipes that have become staples in the O'Donnel kitchen:

Lentils, Syrian style, a luscious autumnal dish in which chard figures prominently; and then two takes on the spinach pie - first, the lunch box-sized, hand-held
fetayer (just use chard instead of spinach) and a by-the-slice, fully-fledged savory pie, flavored with dill and feta, a great make-ahead supper that can be reheated throughout the week.

With these chard secrets up your sleeve, spinach may soon become a figment of your imagination. If chard is old hat for you, share your favorite ways of cozying up with her in the kitchen.

By Kim ODonnel |  September 27, 2006; 12:49 PM ET Fall Produce
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That lentil recipe looks yummy. I just wanted to ask about the garlic. You say to pulverize, not mince. Should the resulting garlic be pasty? Or larger chunks than mincing? I don't have a mortar and pestle, any other idea about how to get the proper result?

Posted by: Eggplant | September 27, 2006 4:21 PM

What do you think the lag time for spinach will be? I want to serve spinach dip at a party on Saturday, but my husband thinks people will be too afraid to eat it. (even if it's frozen or comes from Colorado)

Posted by: MD | September 27, 2006 4:24 PM

Eggplant, it was ideal to have the garlic pasty, but if you don't have a mortar/pestle, don't sweat it. Mince, and enjoy.

MD: I think, instead of worrying, to try the luscious chard. I'm telling you, you (and the guests) will never know the difference!

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | September 27, 2006 5:26 PM

I have made this many times and people love it! From The Complete Middle East Cook Book.

2 cans canned black-eyed peas, rinsed
1-2 pounds of swiss chard
kosher salt
3-4 cloves of garlic
juice of 2-3 lemons
1/2 c olive oil

Remove stems from swiss chard and chop the stems. Boil the stems for about 3 minutes and then add leaves. Boil for 5 more minutes and drain.

Rinse chard under cool water and wring water by squeezing. Place on cutting board and chop coarsely.

Peel garlic cloves. Place salt in a mortal and pestle and place garlic on top of salt. Crush garlic into salt to form a paste. Add oil to bowl and stir to get all of the garlic and salt.

Squeeze juice from lemons.

Place black-eyed peas in serving bowl. Pour olive oil and garlic mixture and then lemon juice over the peas. Stir gently to combine. Add chopped chard and stir again.

Serve with crusty bread and cheese.

You can also serve this warm or hot by heating the beans first.

Posted by: Becky | September 27, 2006 5:48 PM

I like to cook chard with boiled ham or Canadian bacon. I saute onions and the ham until the ham starts to get brown, and then put in sliced chard. Once the chard cooks down a bit, I put in some vinegar (red wine or apple cider) and cook until the vinegar reduces. Just before I take it off the heat, I add a little honey. The honey and vinegar mix together to make a sweet glaze, and the ham pieces are salty and sweet. It's pretty good and simple/quick to prepare.

I love chard and once I got used to preparing it, I started to prefer it to spinach for many uses because I think chard can stand up to longer cooking and to stronger flavors than spinach.

Posted by: JC | September 28, 2006 12:07 AM


We're on the same wavelength -- I too started eating chard when spinach was no longer an option. It's actually in the same food family as spinach. I do find the chard to have more of a bitter taste than spinach, so I'll be happy when spinach is completely safe again.

Posted by: Carrie | September 28, 2006 12:09 AM

A variation on AC's dish:

Chop chard stems, sautee with chopped onion. When soft, add torn washed chard leaves. Cover for a few minutes to let steam (no need to add water as the leaves will exude it). Uncover, salt, pepper, a bit balsamic vinegar, turn heat to high to condense the juices. Add some sliced kielbasa. Pretty good. Nice with plain boiled potatoes on the side too.

Posted by: Rita | September 28, 2006 2:36 PM

Stuffed Swiss chard. Yes! Yum! Stuff with vegetarian stuff. A little stiff to handle but don't steam first.

Posted by: deb | September 28, 2006 5:51 PM

Hi Kim,Thanks for the blog. I'm tempted to try the Syrian lentils as a vegetarian main course. What would you recommend as a side dish? Thanks!

Also, to add to the chard idea. I love it in a pasta sauce. Saute an onion, garlic, add diced tomatoes, some red pepper flakes, and 5 min or so before the end add red chard leaves.

Posted by: tdp | October 3, 2006 10:27 AM

Just enjoyed a delicious chard appetizer at Coppi's Organic on U St the other night (fyi -- the rest of the meal was pretty mediocre). I believe the chard was steamed and served with olive oil, pine nuts, lots of garlic, and yellow raisins -- sort of like a Spanish-style spinach side dish. Definitely the highlight of the dinner. It would be so easy -- and cheap! -- to do at home.

Posted by: Owen | October 4, 2006 9:26 AM

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