by Dori Fern
If kale is today’s leafy green prom queen and spinach is the easy-to-love Everygreen, then think of swiss chard as the verdant, soulful-yet-populist artist type. With its buttery depth of flavor, chard is typically more supple than kale and has a bit more body than spinach.
June is the perfect time to enjoy swiss chard not only cooked, but also raw in salads. It’s a cinch to prep right now, since the stalks–which get bigger and tougher later in the season and are then best baked like this–are tender enough to be chopped up and added to whatever you’re making. Swap in chard for your favorite spinach salad recipe (and don’t forget to add Ray’s slab bacon, cooked into lardons).
Swiss chard, in either the standard or red leafed variety, is my go-to weeknight veggie. Sometimes I’ll just saute it, with onion or a little garlic, but often I add it to make a simple one-dish meal. Think protein (ground or cubed meat, fish or beans), plus grain (pasta, farro, barley, etc, quinoa), plus green leafy vegetable (where the chard comes in) plus any tasty extras (maybe cheese or tomatoes or herbs or additional legume like peas or favas) and that’s dinner. And while it’s a familiar presence in Italian dishes, I often fancy using chard in Indian recipes.
When company’s coming, as a potluck take-along or when I’ve got time to spare on weekends, swiss chard dresses up real nice. Given its round, easy-to-love flavor and good body, chard makes a terrific star for tarts, gratins and frittatas.
Here are some tasty options to try, including this intriguing sweet tart by the inimitable David Lebovitz:
Alice Waters’ Swiss Chard Gratin (Serious Eats)
Goat Cheese, Chard and Herb Pie in a Phyllo Crust (The New York Times)
Swiss Chard Tart: Pasticcio di Bietole al Forno (Food Network)
Swiss Chard, Onion & Cheese Frittata (Williams-Sonoma’s Taste, pictured above)
And when I’m feeling particularly ambitious, I will make my daughter’s very favorite dish of all times, Malfatti a la Al di La. It will take some time and it’s impossible to overstate the need to thoroughly dry the chard, but the results are most rewarding when well done. On the other hand, you could always stick simpler swiss chard recipes at home and let Chef Anna Klinger–a longtime Bradley Farm customer–serve you the fancy stuff at their beloved Park Slope trattoria.