Triple “S” 101
In honor of the start of the school year this week, I thought I’d do a more informational post with a little Triple “S” 101.
Swiss Chard 101
Unless you’ve grown up in the South or with a southern cook, you probably haven’t been exposed to a lot of cooked greens in your diet. Swiss Chard is the superstar among the greens family that includes kale, spinach, beets and collards. It literally is off the chart in Vitamin K (great for your bones) and Vitamin A (good for vision and warding off cancer). In addition to that, it’s got loads of fiber, iron, potassium, magnesium and even some calcium. All in a mere 35 calories per cooked cup! Pretty impressive, eh?
I know what you’re thinking though… how does it taste? Surely something so healthy is gonna be gross. Nope. It’s quite tasty and easily added to a great number of dishes. Two of the most common ways of preparing Swiss Chard are sauteing (as we’ll be doing with today’s recipe) and using it in soups. You can also throw it into just about any stir fry and any baked dish that might normally call for spinach (such as a quiche or lasagna). It’s great over pasta, rice or spelt, and it’s flavor, while a tad bitter, melds nicely with just about anything. It also retains a nice bright color after being cooked so for once your kids might not think the green stuff on their plate is slime.
When selecting Swiss Chard, look for perky full bright green leaves and flexible (not too stiff, not too wilted) stems. The smaller leaves will cook faster but become next to nothing after a few minutes in the pan. Larger leaves will hold up more in the pan but will take longer to cook and sometimes be a bit chewier. I like to aim somewhere in the middle for leaves that are about the size of my outstretched hand or a little bigger.
Sorrel’s a little funny. It started out as a rather common plant growing in many European pastures. Cows are quite fond of it. It seems that peasants took to collecting it for salads and then eventually it made its way into French cuisine and now it’s considered rather gourmet.
With a tangy, bright flavor, sorrel is a favorite in soups and sauces, particularly those that are cream based. Due to its intense flavor, it has the unusual designation of being both an herb and a green (generally, plants harvested for their leaves are considered one or the other). I can’t vouch for this myself, but it’s supposed to be excellent with lamb. I personally most enjoy it in pesto or quiche.
It is very high in Vitamin C and A, which is why it was used to prevent scurvy back in the day. It was also ground into a paste to use as an antiseptic on the skin. It was also used in folk medicine as a diuretic so don’t eat too much of it!
An ancient grain, spelt is a member of the wheat family and dates back to medieval times (or maybe even earlier as it’s been found with neolithic remains). While it was quite popular in those olden days, once the modern form of wheat was cultivated (the type that makes bread), spelt dropped off the radar.
Spelt is now returning to some markets as a healthful substituted for those folks looking to limit their wheat/flour intake. Since it has a different gluten level than regular wheat, folks with wheat allergies sometimes find spelt does not bother them. It also is much higher in fiber and contains a fair amount of protein. Spelt can be found in natural food stores (such as Weavers Way Co-op and Trader Joe’s) as an unprocessed grain that look like rice, as pasta and as flour.
Directions for cooking spelt:
To cook spelt when it’s a whole grain, it’s best to rinse it a time or two in cold water and then let it soak for at least 4 hours or overnight. When it comes time to cook it, heat a little oil and sauté it for a minute or two to get it toasted. Then add enough stock or water to just cover the grains. Let it simmer with the lid on until all the liquid is absorbed (about 45 minutes). Its texture is very chewy and the flavor is mildly nutty. And, boy, does it fill you up fast!
Now go earn an A+ by making this dish that’s guaranteed to satiate your “I’m so hungry I could consume a horse and the wagon it’s pulling” tummy grumbles. It’s ridiculously full of vitamins, riboflavins (what the heck are those?) and fiber. Not to mention it’s fun sinking your teeth into trying something new.
Suateed Swiss Chard and Sorrel over Spelt
A Straight From the Farm Original
1 bunch swiss chard (about 15 stems)
1 bunch sorrel (about 6-8 stems)
5 cloves of garlic
1 large shallot
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
3 – 4 c. vegetable or chicken stock (amount will depend on spelt)
1 c. spelt
salt and pepper
grated parmesan cheese
Begin by putting the spelt on to cook. See above for full directions. Reserve a half cup of stock for greens.
While spelt is cooking, mince garlic and shallot. Removing the stems, roughly chopped the sorrel. For the swiss chard, if you are using larger leaves, cut around the main vein in the center and then remove the stem (see picture for illustration). If you have really young/small leaver, you do not need to remove the vein. Roughly chop the swiss chard.
Place two tablespoons of good extra virgin olive oil in a skillet. Add shallot and garlic and sauté until golden. Add the chopped greens and stir briefly to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir again. Add half cup of stock and reduce heat to low. Allow greens to simmer until most of liquid is absorbed and greens are tender. Add additional salt and pepper as needed.
To plate up, mound up spelt and grate some cheese over it. Then mound the greens on top and grate some more cheese. Serve with sliced tomatoes or other fresh seasonal vegetable on the side.