From Mediterranean Harvest (Rodale, 2007)
Of all the greens I cook with, chard is the most versatile; it’s sturdier than spinach, yet has a more delicate flavor than other sturdy greens like kale or turnip greens. I learned to work with the green when I lived in France, where it is widely eaten, particularly in Provence. The bunches sold in French markets are huge, with wide stalks that can also be cooked.
When we make dishes with chard, the stalks are so often cast away. But they’re welcome in this Provençal Swiss Chard gratin, whose many textures are only enhanced by the chopped stems.
- 1 1/2 to 2 pounds Swiss chard – usually 2 bunches from the farmers’ market
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3 large eggs
- 3 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (3/4 cup)
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup medium grain or Arborio rice, cooked
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil while you clean the chard. Strip the leaves from the stalks, but hold onto the stalks. Wash the leaves in several rinses of water. When the water comes to a boil, salt generously and add the chard leaves. Blanch for about 2 minutes, just until tender. Using a deep fry skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer immediately to a bowl of ice water, then drain. Squeeze out water and chop medium-fine.
- Preheat the oven to 375º F. Brush a 2- or 2 1/2-quart baking or gratin dish with olive oil.
- Trim both ends off the chard stalks, then dice. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large, heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the diced chard stalks and a little salt and cook, stirring often, for 5 to 8 minutes, until the stalks are just tender. Add the garlic, stir together for a minute or so, until the garlic is fragrant, and stir in the chard. Stir together for 30 seconds to a minute, just to blend the mixture and coat the chard with oil. Season with salt and pepper, and remove from the heat.
- Beat the eggs in a bowl. Stir in the chard mixture, the cheese, parsley, rice and thyme. Stir together, taste and add more salt and pepper if desired. Transfer to the baking dish. Drizzle on the remaining oil.
- Bake 40 to 45 minutes, until firm and browned on the top. Remove from the heat and cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. You can serve this warm or at room temperature.
- Prepare Ahead: The blanched greens will keep for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator in a covered bowl, and can be frozen in a freezer bag for a few months. The recipe can be prepared through Step 3 up to 2 days ahead. It can be completed several hours or even a day ahead and reheated for about 15 minutes in a 325ºF oven, or served at room temperature. Leftovers will keep for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator.
Variation: Cook the mixture of chard, onions, and chard stalks through Step 3. Rather than making a gratin, serve the greens as a side dish.
©Martha Rose Shulman, reprinted with the author’s permission.