The competition is fierce. The vibrant colors, shapes, and flavors of local produce make selecting the most appealing harvest item a lot like trying to choose your favorite child. It’s not so much that you need to pick a “best vegetable,” but sometimes, during certain seasons or maybe just certain weeks, one vegetable entices you like no other.
Consider this: a nutritionally packed veggie with curly and crinkly leaves ranging from grass green to deep maroon, with stalks streaked with fiery reds, oranges, and yellows, standing tall and sturdy, and cooks up to be tender and bursting with flavor. Bright lights, or rainbow Swiss chard is a superstar. The leaves and stems are both edible. Swiss chard’s vitamin-rich greens have a savory and satisfying flavor.
While chard can be cultivated and harvested throughout the growing season in New England, leafy greens like chard gain prominence this time of year for their appearance in soups as autumn draws near. When you do add to soup, carve out the central stem, chop, and add while you are sautéing the veggies. Once the soup is nearly done, add handfuls of the chopped greens and they will still retain their color. Visit your favorite local farm and get a bunch, or two.
Here are two flavorful side dishes, versatile enough to make a simple dinner exceptional, and take a look at the for a touring route that will bring you by some of Concord's great farm stands including , , and
Sautéed Swiss chard with pine nuts
1 large bunch Swiss chard, rinse, with stems and leaves separated
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/3 cup pine nuts
½ teaspoon salt
Cut stems into 1-inch pieces and roughly chop leaves crosswise into 2-inch strips. Heat large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil, then onions. Sauté onions for about 5 minutes. Add stems and sauté another 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and pine nuts and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring all the while. Add chard leaves, add salt and stir until all the leaves are just wilted, 2-3 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Will serve 3-4.
Swiss Chard Rolls
(inspired by Moosewood Restaurant Low-fat Favorites)
20 Swiss chard stalks — approximately one large bunch
1 large leek
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
dash of slat
3 scallions, minced
1 pound part skim ricotta cheese
3 sprigs fresh oregano
3 sprigs fresh thyme
salt and ground black pepper to taste
½ cup vegetable stock
Separate stems from chard leaves, being careful to leave the leaves intact. Chop approximately 1/3 of the stems, reserve remaining stems for future use. Set chopped stems aside.
Sauté leeks in 2 teaspoons of the oil for 8-10 minutes. Add chopped chard stalks and sauté another 4-5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and remove from heat. Strip the leaves from the oregano and thyme stems. To the leek mixture, add the scallions, ricotta cheese, oregano and thyme leaves, salt and pepper to taste and mix well.
Pre-heat oven to 350. In the bottom of an 8X8 Pyrex pan, coat the bottom with the remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil.
Place about ¼ cup of filling in the center of each leaf. Fold the sides of the leaf toward the center, and then roll the entire thing from stem side to the tip into a compact and neat package. Place the roll, seam side down in the baking dish. Continue until the filling or all the leaves are gone, whichever comes first. The rolls will be packed in tightly, side by side. Pour the vegetable stock over the rolls. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Serve hot and enjoy!