Braised Mediterranean Rainbow Chard
We are going to have a mammoth garden this year and started with only a few tomato and pepper plants. Or so I thought. I had no idea Rob planted the rainbow chard (and the spinach and the beans!) and all of a sudden…the rainbow chard was HUGE and something had to be done… Beautiful isn’t it?
It’s only June and there’s a tomato! The other surrounding flowers will be tomatoes someday when they grow up. That should be August, but in the meantime this one is on course to be the size of 1/2 our backyard. I hope the pool doesn’t get in the way!
So let’s get this rainbow chard into the house and do something with it. But, wow there’s quite a bit of it and I’ve never made chard. I’m operating under the assumption that it will cook down to about 1/4 of its original size like most greens. Fingers crossed…
All (about 2 big bunches) is in the pan at this point and it continues to wilt down. It’s not long – only about 8 to 10 minutes total and it is just like cooking other greens: what starts off as a huge pile (what did I get myself into?) quickly becomes very manageable. If it looks like you have too much, you’ve got the right amount. If you start with only a few leaves, you’ll end up, once it’s cooked, with about a tablespoon and will be very disappointed!
I admit that normally I have to be in the mood for greens, but seeing these in the garden with their big, ruffly green leaves and brightly colored stems, inspired me to find a recipe to use them. I also had no idea how much longer they would last in the garden. They weren’t starting to flower or go to seed, but they were definitely ready. The garden does not wait for you! In the end, I was inspired by a recipe that combined the salty brine of olives and capers with the sweetness of golden raisins. What a great sweet/savory combination for the buttery, slightly peppery chard. The pine nuts add a great texture too and their mild, mellow flavor compliments the the other flavors. The original recipe called for anchovy which I omitted, decreased the amount of capers and olives (too salty) and increased the amount of golden raisins. In the end, I was very satisfied with my decisions and can now say I’ve grown, prepared and really like rainbow chard. I also like the way it sounds: pleasant and artistic like something you would add while creating a stained glass window.
Braised Mediterranean Rainbow Chard
- 2 bunches rainbow or other chard washed, thoroughly dried and stem ends trimmed
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 Cup yellow onion, chopped
- 1/2 Cup golden raisins
- 1 Tablespoon capers, drained
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 Cup whole pitted kalamata olives, chopped
- 2 Tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
- 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Slice the chard stems from the leaves. Coarsely chop the stems and set aside. Cut the leaves crosswise into 1 inch wide strips and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and raisins and cook until the onion has softened, about 3 minutes.
Add the capers and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the reserved chard stems and cook until they soften, about 2 minutes.
Add the chard leaves starting with a handful at a time. Add more as it begins to wilt and toss with a spoon and tongs until all the leaves are added and wilted down, about 5 minutes. Stir in the olives, pine nuts and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Recipe inspired by CHOW – originally adapted from Chef Ana Sortun