Healthy plate: Give chard a chance
Explorer file photo, Swiss chard is identifiable by its large leaves and celery-like stalks, which grow in a multitude of colors.

Swiss chard doesn’t usually win popularity contests in the produce world.

But this member of the beet family is a great and healthy way to add some variety to your greens repertoire, especially if you tend to grab the same bags of baby spinach week after week.

Swiss chard, also simply called chard, comes in a number of varieties and is easily identified by its large, firm leaves (dinner plate size) and its delicious celery-like stalks. It is available year-round but is at its peak late summer and early fall.

Common varieties include white, which has bright, silvery stalks; ruby, which has deep red stalks and veins; and a multicolored chard — often labeled “bright lights” — that has red, pink, purple, orange and white stalks.

White chard is the most common and usually has a slightly milder flavor. All varieties have dark green leaves that are loaded with calcium, folic acid and vitamins A, C and E.

When purchasing Swiss chard, buy bunches with crisp, shiny leaves and tender stalks. Avoid chard that is yellowed, wilted or ratty looking with a lot of torn leaves.

Chard is relatively perishable compared to other leafy greens. Store it loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in the coldest part of the refrigerator for no more than three or four days.

Just before cooking chard, wash the leaves and stalks in a large bowl or sink full of cold water.

Swiss chard can be sauteed, steamed or braised with a bit of liquid. The stalks take longer to cook than the leaves, so it’s best to separate them.

For a simple take on this super-versatile green, you can drizzle sauteed or steamed chard with extra-virgin olive oil and some balsamic vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Additionally, the large leaves can be blanched and used as a great wrap for various fillings, such as grains and roasted vegetables. They even can be used as wrappers to steam fish in.

Chopped up Swiss chard leaves and stalks can be added to soups and pasta dishes or used as the vegetable filling in lasagna.

Swiss chard with caramelized onions and pine nuts is a gorgeous side that gets its inspiration from the Catalonia regions of Spain. It goes well with grilled meat, fish or poultry. Or for a special treat, try slices of grilled polenta.



Start to finish: 45 minutes

Servings: 4


2 tablespoons pine nuts 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 1 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped 1 bunch Swiss chard (about 1 pound) 2 tablespoons golden raisins 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 1/4 teaspoon salt Ground black pepper, to taste

Preparation: In a large deep skillet or Dutch oven, toast the pine nuts over low heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside to cool.

In the same pan, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and very soft, 9 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile cut the chard stalks into sticks 1/4 inch wide and 2 inches long. Tear the leaves into 2-inch pieces.

Add the stalks and golden raisins to the caramelized onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the stalk are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the leaves and vinegar. Continue cooking until the leaves are very wilted and tender, about 5 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving dish and top with the reserved pine nuts.

Nutrition information per serving: 117 calories; 59 calories from fat; 7 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 13 g carbohydrate; 3 g protein; 3 g fiber; 578 mg sodium.

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