I grew up with swiss chard as a staple of my summer diet, as my father grew it in our backyard garden every year. I thought it was a totally commonplace vegetable as a kid—it wasn’t until years later (when Laura asked me “what the heck is ‘swiss chard’?") that I really figured out that nobody’s ever heard of it.
If you're unfamiliar with this humble green, you’re missing out! Swiss chard is amazingly healthy, packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals and important antioxidants like lutein. It is delicious, mild in taste and really inexpensive--usually only 99c to $1.49 for an entire pound at the grocery store.
And of course, because of the “no net calories” rule (meaning you burn almost as much energy eating and digesting it as you take in by eating it in the first place), you can eat swiss chard until you’re green in the face and never gain weight.
So today my goal is to give you a few quick instructions on how to cook swiss chard and encourage you to cook it for your family. And in the next few days, I’ll also post a great vegetarian soup recipe that uses either swiss chard or kale, which is another high lutein green.
How to Cook Swiss Chard:
First rinse the leaves well in water. Then cut the last half-inch or so off from the ends of each stem. This is for aesthetic reasons only (you know, the way it looks), as the stems are usually a bit discolored at the very end.
Then, put 2-3 inches of water into the bottom of a 4 or 5 quart sauce pan, and put on the stove on high heat. You can chop up the rinsed leaves and stems while the water comes to a boil. This is a textbook example of using parallel processing to save cooking time.
To chop everything most efficiently, I usually lay the full stack of leaves (with stems still attached) into one big pile on my cutting board and hack them crosswise into strips about one to two inches wide. You should be sure to slice up the stems. They're good too, with the consistency of a celery stalk but a milder taste.
Then I’ll turn the knife 90 degrees and cut the greens once or twice lengthwise. In just a quick minute or two you've reduced an enormous pile of swiss chard into reasonable, bite-size pieces.
Another hint: always prep more swiss chard than you think you need. The greens will cook down quite a bit in the pan.
Then, once the water is boiling well, pack the chopped greens into the pan and cover with a lid. Reduce heat to medium and let the greens steam for 10-11 minutes. Swiss chard is one of the sturdier greens out there, so you’ll want to give it a few more minutes of cooking time than more tender greens like spinach which cook fully in just 4-5 minutes.
Then drain and serve! I encourage you to avoid adding butter or salt, but you can certainly add pressed garlic for an extra kick.
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