Sauteed Swiss Chard

Yesterday, we hit the farmer’s market at Pepper Place, which specializes in locally grown, organic vegetables, eggs and meats along with a variety of baked goods and offerings from local artisans. For those of you unfamiliar with Birmingham, Pepper Place is the old Dr. Pepper bottling plant that was saved from the wrecking ball and turned into an assortment of artisan shops, antique stores, architectural stores, design firms, etc. Needless to say, we stocked up on all sorts of wonderful organic vegetables. Included in our haul were heirloom tomatoes (which I have a great salad recipe for that I’ll share in a future post), rattlesnake beans, yellow wax beans, lady peas, fresh okra, silver queen corn, heirloom potatoes and some beautiful Swiss chard.

I’ve never eaten, or cooked, Swiss chard before. Hard to believe as a chef but it’s not something I grew up eating, and a lot of my cooking revolves around memories of time spent in my grandmother’s kitchen. She grew up on a farm and fresh vegetables were a staple, but chard was never one of them. Since I’m an expert at cooking greens, I figured I could come up with a tasty way to cook this chard. For those of you that don’t know (I didn’t until I started cooking it), chard is in the beet family. The roots are inedible, but the tops are one of the best sources of vitamins and minerals of all the vegetables grown today. As I was chopping up the chard, I smelled that earthy fresh beet smell, so I knew I’d like it. Here’s what I did, and it turned out wonderfully:

  • 1 bunch of fresh Swiss chard, stems separated from the leaves
  • 1/2 of a Vidalia onion, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp bacon grease or olive oil (bacon grease would have added to the flavor but since I didn’t have any bacon on hand, I used olive oil, which is healthier)
  • 1 cup semi dry white wine (I used a Pinot Grigio I had on hand)

In a sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Chop the stems of the chard into small slices, like you’re chopping celery to make chicken salad. Once the olive oil is hot, add the chard stems and the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-6 minutes or until chard stems and onion are tender. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more, then add the chopped chard leaves and cook one more minute to wilt the leaves. Sprinkle with salt, then pour in the white wine (which will flash off the alcohol) and cook 1 minute uncovered, then loosely cover the pan (a fitted top tilted to let out steam works just fine) and continue cooking for 10 minutes.

That’s all I did and it was delicious. The taste profile was more like fresh spinach than other cooked greens, which is why you don’t have to boil this on the stove for hours on end like you do with turnip greens, collards, kale or Poke Salad. Yes, here in the south, we cook that wild weed called poke salad. The only thing I’ve never seen anyone cook (although I’ve heard some people do) is kudzu!

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