Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Swiss Chard, Cannellini Beans, and Fire-Roasted Tomatoes

They call it a “Valedictorian Vegetable”.  While Swiss chard is not the secret to a stellar GPA, it is a smart vegetable pick.  Though uncommon to most kitchens, especially in college, it should not be overlooked.  Swiss chard is a standout on taste and appearance.  This leafy green should receive kudos for not only being an excellent source of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals, but also coming in a rainbow assortment of colors: red, yellow, green, and purple. 
I met Swiss chard on a blind date at the grocery.  I knew its background, I knew what dishes it was often involved in, and what nutrients it could provide me, so it came down to looks.  I figured it would be just another leafy green on the long produce aisle.  Turns out, it looks like the love child of spinach and celery, with punk-rock flair.  This particular Swiss chard had a brilliant red stem running down the middle and red veins bulging through the wavy, fan-like, dark green leaves.  Quite the “looker”, I must say.    
 Back at home, I had originally planned to discard the stems because they looked tough and fibrous.  However, once boiled, they turned out to be delicate and added a pleasant root taste to the dish.  The leaves appeared sturdier than spinach, but after blanching, they took on the buttery smoothness of wilted greens, with a bold, earthy taste all its own. 
 Adding creamy Cannellini beans and fire-roasted tomatoes made this a hearty dish.  It was stew-like, without the typical time commitment.  It was hearty, warm, and will satisfy your craving for earthy stews all in about 30 minutes, prep included.  A well-deserved meal for a chilly autumn night.  

 Swiss Chard, Cannellini Beans, and Fire-Roasted Tomatoes
1 lb Swiss chard (could substitute spinach or kale), stems ¼ inch slices, leaves roughly chopped
2 T olive oil
½ onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 (15 oz) canned diced tomatoes (I used Muir Glenn Fire Roasted)
1 (15 oz) can of cannellini beans, or other white bean, drained
½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
3-4 Sprigs of thyme and rosemary (or a pinch of dried)
1.       In a medium sized pot, boil about 3-4 cups water and season with about 2 tsp salt.   Bring water to a boil over high heat.  Once water is boiling, add the Swiss chard stems to the water and boil for about 3-4 minutes.  Then add the leaves and continue boiling for another 3-4 minutes.  Strain the chard in a colander, trying to drain off as much liquid as possible. 
2.       Meanwhile, heat up a large skillet over medium heat.  Once hot, add olive oil. 
3.       Then add onion and garlic.  Sautee for about 5 minutes over medium heat, until onions are translucent.  Be careful not to burn garlic.
4.       Add in canned tomatoes (with their liquid) and cannellini beans (drained).
5.       Season with red pepper flake, oregano, salt, thyme, and rosemary.   Let stew for about 8-10 minutes.
6.       Remove any sprigs/stems from the herbs.  Add Swiss chard.  Mix until heated through. 
Serve along with rolls or bread.

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