What to do with all that chard?

Swiss chard is one of the easiest vegetables to grow. Here in Austin, it thrives almost year-round and is the last of the leafy greens to die when the summer kicks in in full force. The rainbow and red varieties are also highly ornamental and are ideal for edible landscapes. Still, some people don’t quite know how to use it in the kitchen!

‘Ruby Red’ Swiss chard and mojito mint surround my Meyer lemon tree

‘Ruby Red’ Swiss chard and mojito mint surround my Meyer lemon tree

With all the rain we had a few weeks ago, my chard just went crazy, so we have been using it a lot. It has found its way, stalks and all, into the veggie juices we make on weekends. I made a white bean and chard soup a couple weeks back that turned out delicious. I also make a simple salad by shredding the leaves finely, then tossing with lemon or lime juice, a splash of soy sauce and a drizzle of olive oil. The stalks are wonderful in their own right, with their crunchy texture and a tangy flavor similar to rhubarb. Inspired by a fabulous braised celery dish I had at Foreign & Domestic, I peeled the stalks to remove as much of the fibers as possible, then sauteed them with garlic until just translucent and added chicken stock and salt. I braised them until they were almost melted. They were spectacular!

Rainbow chard stalks, ready for braising

The delicious final product

As temperatures rise, the chard is starting to wane so it needs to be picked and eaten soon to make way for more eggplant and chile plants. So last night, I made my favorite chard dish of the year which was inspired by my mom, who loves Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. Talking to her on the phone one day, she told me how she stuffs the leaves with a picadillo of ground lamb and beef mixed with cooked rice and seasoned with garlic, pepper, oregano and thyme, then serves them covered in a tomato sauce. I did a mix of lamb and beef to make it more economic and used brown rice that I had in the pantry for its nutty flavor and firmer texture. For the seasoning I used Zatar, which my friend Rae had brought back from her trip to Israel, and made my basic tomato broth simmered with a few sprigs of fresh mint. They turned out so good that they’ve joined the regular menu rotation. It’s a simple, economic and healthy recipe. Here is a step by step guide:

Take four to six large Swiss chard leaves. Cut off stem and reserve for another use. Cut out the rib from the middle. Blanch the leaves briefly in salted boiling water, drain and let dry a bit.

Make the stuffing by browning a pound of ground meat of your choice with some garlic and chopped onion. Add a cup of cooked rice (or barley, quinoa, couscous, etc.) and season to taste. Place a portion of filling in the center of the leaf, making sure the sides overlap in the middle so the stuffing doesn’t fall out.

chard roll

Fold in sides to cover filling, then carefully roll to seal. Repeat with all leaves and filling. Steam the chard rolls until filling is heated through and leaves are tender, about 8 minutes on the electric steamer.

Make the tomato broth by blending tomatoes (canned ok) with onion and garlic. Add a little oil to a heavy pan and fry the puree until it changes color and reduces a bit. Add salt and pepper to taste and a sprig or two of fresh mint or cilantro. Add water to thin it out to desired texture and bring to a boil. Simmer until well seasoned.

Serve the rolls drenched in the tomato broth.

This is a very appropriate wine to serve with them. Enjoy!


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  1. Thanks for the unique ideas. I don’t grow chard but do buy it and don’t like the idea of not using the stems, so this seems like a great recipe. I also like your modification of stuffed cabbage to fit your ingredients on hand.

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