Friday, June 02, 2006

Swiss chard

All vegetables are beautiful but some more than others -- I'm thinking of the sexily curvaceous aubergine and its deep purple sheen, or the prettily ribbed fennel and its delicate fonds. Swiss chard too, is a particularly striking vegetable, with its giant chiffons of emerald green leaves shot through with ruby red veins and stalk.

Another characteristic of chard is that it's a "two-in-one" vegetable; its leaves and stalk offer different flavors and textures in addition to contrasting colors. Sometimes called "spinach beet," chard leaves have the mineral surface texture of spinach and its pleasantly bitter taste. Like spinach leaves they must be bought in daunting quantities as cooking dramatically reduces their bulk. Chard stalks on the other hand have the smell and sweet taste of beets. And like beet root they will stain your fingers red.

In the following method the two parts are cooked separately then combined. The red stem bits caramelized to sweetness perfectly complement the bitter leafy greens and together make a delicious side to pan-fried pork chops:

Wash the chard leaves and gently tear off the leafy parts. Blanch the greens in salted water (drain but do not squeeze). Chop the stalks and cook in vegetable oil over low heat until caramelized. Add the leafy parts and cook until the juices are absorbed.


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