It was a pleasure to find chard on sale on the ground floor of SM Makati. I have noticed it in stock every so often and have tried several times to find uses for the chard in the hope that they will grow more and it will become a standard options for healthy leafy greens. I still like it best in hearty soups, but here are two slightly Italian (at least in ingredients) inspired dishes…
First I separated the leaves from the rather crisp somewhat more fibrous steams. I chopped them up into 1/4th inch pieces and ended up with a wonderful bowl filled with multicolored stems. Next, I simply blanced these in hot water for some 30-40 seconds and drained them. I buttered a small baking dish and set that aside. In a small skillet, I heated up a little bit of olive oil, added chopped guanciale or pancetta and sauteed until some of the fat was rendered. I added some chopped onion and sauteed until these were translucent and fragrant.
Add in the chard stems and saute for a minute or two more, Mix in a hand full of grated parmesan cheese, some salt (but judiciously, the parmesan and pancetta is already salty) and freshly ground black pepper and transfer this to the buttered baking dish. Stick it in a 350F oven for some 12-15 minutes until it looks and feels done. This was quite good, an excellent side dish to some roast chicken. A great way to use up the chard stems…
For my second chard dish, I think I got the inspiration from an Alice Waters recipe if I am not mistaken. Simply chop up the greens and set them aside. Heat up a pan over medium heat, add olive oil, some minced garlic and a few good quality anchovy fillets. The anchovy will disintegrate and form a pungent sauce. Add the greens, turn the heat up on high and saute for a few minutes until done.
This was just edible. :( I found the greens almost too earthy, and I suspect it has to do with their growing in warm tropical conditions. I know chard is earthy and that’s normal, but this was just too earthy.
It is an incredibly nutritious dish, but I think I would consume a healthy serving of almost any form of bitter gourd (ampalaya) instead! At any rate, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Keep your eyes out for slightly unusual vegetables like these and experiment a little. The more we buy vegetables that are a little unique in the local context, the more farmers will be encouraged to diversify their produce offerings… :)