Wednesday, August 4, 2010

How to cook Swiss chard (or the Secret to Happiness in Life)

Update on bake sale posts: The pictures from our baking day for Sophie's Yard Sale are on Maria's computer, so we have to wait for her (the perpetually busy grad student) to get the baking post done. When she's done with that, I'll do my post about the actual bake sale. In the meantime, here's a little recipe for you from me, the slightly less busy mom. Julia, the cowgirl/epidemiologist is busy gallivanting around Colorado and crunching numbers, so when she gets a chance to sit still, she'll do a post about eggs. She knows all about eggs, thanks to the 11 chickens and one turken who live in her backyard.


Life is better because of Swiss chard (Okay, from now on, I will just call it chard - apologies to the Swiss). It's true! Chard is one of those vegetables that you totally knock before you try. I did. I remember when my friend, Vickie "Gardener Extraordinaire" gave me a bunch of it and said, "Here. Have some Swiss chard. " I was like, uh, Swiss what? It looked way too green, way too big and way to healthy to eat. I think I passed it on to a friend who had discovered, but not yet shared with me, the secret amazingness (is that a word?) of chard.Time passed and I finally got brave. I googled (can you believe that word is in the dictionary?) "how to cook swiss chard" and found this recipe on After adding a bit of my own flair in the form of pancetta (or bacon if you're lucky), I've concluded that this recipe is the best way to prepare chard. So, here you go. The secret to happiness in life. Who knew!?

Swiss Chard: "The Bitch Stopped Cooking" Way:

What you need:
  • a big bunch of Swiss chard. Organic if you can find it. Look for a PLU that starts with the number nine, which indicates an organically grown veggie.
  • two or three cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup pancetta in cubes or a slice of bacon
  • olive oil

What to do:
Make this the same day you buy the chard, if possible. Chard can get bitter if you wait. Wash the chard in a salad spinner. Cut off the stems and remove the ribs if they're thicker than about 1/4 inch. To do this, fold the chard leaf like a book and cut down along the rib. Easy as pie! Set the stems aside (don't chuck them out). Gather the chard together and cut it into 1 inch strips. No need to be exact or graceful here, it's going to shrink down to a piddly amount. Cutting it into strips is really just an attempt to make the large, slightly unwieldy leaves more manageable. Cut a few of the stems into 1 inch pieces. The rest can be tossed, composted, fed to the worms - whatever you do in your house. In a large frying pan, over medium to medium-high heat, add a tablespoon or so of oil or the pancetta (or bacon). Add the garlic and red pepper flakes. How many red pepper flakes is up to you and depends on your tolerance for heat. Even if you're a big wimp when it comes to spice, try at least a few flakes. They're not really that spicy in small amounts and they add some nice flavor. Now, add the stem pieces. Push the garlic, red pepper flakes, stems and pancetta around in the pan for a bit and let them get cozy with each other. I am out of pancetta tonight, so this is the vegetarian version.

After about three minutes or so (whatever, just don't burn the stuff), dump in the chopped up chard.

If it doesn't all fit, wait a second till it wilts a bit and then add more. I usually just put it all in even if it's overflowing, but it's up to you. Cover it all with a lid and wait. After about 4 or so minutes, check on it. If it's mostly wilted and looks a bit like this:

flip it all over with tongs or a spatula. Cover it again and let cook for another 4 or so minutes. Four minutes seems so exact, but really I have no idea how long I actually cook it for. I think it's about 4 minutes, definitely not longer than 5 minutes. It's something you just have to do by sight, you know?

A caveat: don't have the burner on too high. Burned chard is NASTY.

When it's all wilted and you find yourself in shock to see that the massive amount of green leaves you so recently crammed into your frying pan has turned into a piddly pile of green soggy mess, it's all done and ready to eat! Salt and pepper if needed and there you go.
Enjoy the sweaters it leaves on your teeth!!

Yes, those are fish sticks. Admit it - you love them, too. We got these at Trader Joe's. Yum!

The beans are from my garden!

If you're wondering about the things in the background of the picture of the chard in the dish drain....
  • the pink water bottle is by Crocodile Creek - love it!
  • the high chair tray is from my favorite high chair, made by Svan
  • I miss fresh off the tree California oranges
  • if you don't have an alcohol filled ice cream scoop, get yourself one ASAP


  1. Oh, Hannah, you are so funny. Great photographs! Thanks for making me laugh.

    I swear, I'll get those pictures up as soon as I am done procrastinating studying for finals by reading our blog.

  2. I'm glad I could make you laugh! Now, get back to work! :-)


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