What Do You Do With Chard?

September 16, 2009


Chard. It’s not the sexiest of vegetables. But if are part of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), chances are you have gotten it in your produce box. Or if you are a vegetarian looking to boost your iron (dark leafy greens are a known source of iron), chances are you have bought it. Now what to do with it?

I’ve used chard a number of ways and I can’t say that I love it. I actually like kale better, as long as it is cooked way down. But in this dish the chard actually added to the overall flavor instead of just being a guest invited for nutritional purposes only. So often you will see recipes that call for the leaves only – what to do with those colorful stems? This recipe uses both the leaves and the stems brilliantly.

Here is what this dinner is not:

1) A “stick to your ribs” meal
2) Something eat on those days when you can’t seem to feel full, no matter what you eat
3) A meal to serve to non-adventurous eaters

Here is what this dinner is:

1) Healthy and very tasty
2) Something to make when you may have overindulged over the course of a day or two
3) Food that you can eat to your heart’s content without feeling like you need to loosen your belt

Because I am an oldest child and a rule follower, I tend to follow recipes the first time I try them. After that I take liberties. I made this once before for my clients and found it a little…lacking. This time I added just a bit of small pasta to give it more body and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese just before serving. A little more substantial and a lot more yum.


Chickpeas and Chard with Cilantro and Cumin
Adapted from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen
Serves 3-4

If you don’t want to add the pasta, you might consider serving this over rice. You can use any type of chard here, but the red will give you that gorgeous color.

Olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
Pinch or 2 of saffron threads
3 ounces small pasta such as orzo or diatilini
2 garlic cloves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup parsley leaves
1/2 tsp. ground cumin, or more to taste
2 tsp. tomato paste
14 chard leaves with stems
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained
Parmesan cheese, for serving

1. Heat a wide skillet over medium heat. Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom, then add the onion and the saffron. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 12-15 minutes. Meanwhile, pound garlic with 1/2 tsp. salt, the cilantro, parsley, and cumin to make a rough paste. (DT: I used a mortar and pestle for this.) When the onions are golden and soft, add the paste to the pan along with the tomato paste and work it into the onions.

2. Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until very al dente. (Pasta will cook a little more when added to the mix.) Drain and reserve.

3. Slice the chard leaves off their stems. Put them in a wide pot with 2 cups of water and cook, covered, until wilted and tender, about 5 minutes. Set the leaves aside ina colander, reserving cooking water.

4. Trim the chard stems so that you’re left with planklike pieces of even width. Cut the planks into strips, then into fine dice and drop them into the reserved chard water. Simmer until tender, about 10 minutes, then turn off the heat. Scoop out the stems, set aside. Reserve the cooking water.

5. Add the chickpeas to the onion along with the chard cooking water. Add the cooked pasta. Coarsely chop the chard leaves and add it as well. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add the stems. Taste for salt and season with pepper. Serve dusted with Parmesan cheese.


  1. Healthy meals are the best kind of meals:) This looks great!

    Comment by Maria — September 16, 2009 @ 9:42 pm

  2. I never cooked from chard. What a great way to introduce chard to the family. That meals surely looks really good.

    Comment by Hélène — September 16, 2009 @ 10:04 pm

  3. i love chard.. but like you mention, only if its well flavored. I think I’ll go with yours adding of swapping the pasta for a nice mound of brown rice. Looks like a gentle intro into fall, i like it.

    Comment by Sprouted Kitchen — September 16, 2009 @ 11:04 pm

  4. I make chard like this quite often over rice! Last night I had some chard and kale in my CSA and made a very delicious meal with pasta. Yum, I love me some pretty chard. Great photos, too!

    Comment by kickpleat — September 17, 2009 @ 12:24 am

  5. I love the colors…gorgeous! I love chard as long as there is some garlic involved and aren’t limits on the amount of Sea Salt I can add! I also love any recipe that includes Garbanzos! Count me in as “adventurous” I guess!

    Comment by Deb — September 17, 2009 @ 7:22 am

  6. This looks really wonderful, Dana. Like you I prefer kale to chard, and have only bought chard a few times- simply because I’m never sure what to do with it! Several weeks ago I made a similar dish (minus the pasta) with cannellini beans, but this looks better. Anything with cumin, and I’m sold :)

    Comment by Ele — September 17, 2009 @ 8:57 am

  7. I’m not in love with chard either, but I can never put my finger on why. The best way I’ve had it was a chard gratin that my mum made last year with a cheesy, breadcrumby topping. But even that was just OK.

    Comment by Hilary — September 17, 2009 @ 9:04 am

  8. I really love chard – I even like to put a big handful in my morning green smoothie. Have you tried the Fettucine with Swiss Chard, Currants, Walnuts, and Brown Butter from Fields of Greens? It is lovely, easy and so satisfying. Another weeknight favorite is the Red Lentil and Chard Soup from Ottolenghi.

    Comment by Yannik — September 17, 2009 @ 12:04 pm

  9. I’m always looking for new chickpea recipes this seems like a winner!

    Comment by chocolate shavings — September 17, 2009 @ 1:03 pm

  10. Yes, on the same wavelength again! I like kale better, too…just bought some seeds to plant in my garden, so in a couple months, it will be kale and chickpeas!

    Comment by The Leftoverist — September 17, 2009 @ 4:08 pm

  11. I recently made Ashley’s Chard and Caramelized Onion tacos; they were fantastic. The sweetness of the onions balanced the sharpness of the chard beautifully. Highly recommend!

    This looks exceptionally good, too – I do love chickpeas.

    Comment by tara — September 17, 2009 @ 5:59 pm

  12. I just found you through “in praise of leftovers.” I wish I liked dark leafy vegetables – your plate looks so pretty!

    Comment by Biz — September 17, 2009 @ 6:08 pm

  13. Indeed sounds healthy and very tasty as well :-)

    Comment by Juliana — September 17, 2009 @ 9:38 pm

  14. I guess I’m in the minority, but I like chard’s flavor, but then again, I usually cook it with onions and garlic, and sometimes a splash of vinegar. I LOVE chickpeas, though, and these pictures are so enticing. Bet any grain (like quinoa) would work, too. Thanks Dana. You always write great intros to the recipes.

    Comment by Chef Gwen — September 17, 2009 @ 9:48 pm

  15. Sounds fantastic. I will use this next month as the chard pops up in my beds. Thanks, Dana!

    Comment by redmenace — September 18, 2009 @ 12:14 am

  16. I can say I love chard! I actually like it better than kale. I don’t know what my problem is with kale, but it’s always the last of the leafy greens I’ll pick up. I can also say I love this dish. Absolutely something that would show up on my dinner table often. Before I even noticed that you mentioned rice, I was thinking how wonderful it would be over brown rice. Chickpeas and rice together are great for protein – especially for vegetarians.

    Comment by Allison Arevalo — September 18, 2009 @ 1:41 am

  17. You know I’ve never bought chard before. I really should. I love how you described this meal and when you should and shouldn’t eat it. =) Definitely going to try it out.

    Comment by Ashley — September 18, 2009 @ 1:50 am

  18. Mm, I love any combination of beans, greens, and cumin.

    Comment by Lele — September 18, 2009 @ 4:10 am

  19. I have only cooked with chard once in my life… and that was not a success. I love your recipe tough, the combination of flavors is great!

    Comment by Karine — September 18, 2009 @ 11:28 am

  20. not sexy, but delicious! i’m a big fan of chard, kale and any other rabbit treats. :) your dish melds together some of my favorite flavor combos and i’m looking forward to giving it a try.

    Comment by {kiss my spatula} — September 18, 2009 @ 5:08 pm

  21. I stumbled across your picture on Tastespotting! We have some chard coming our way from our CSA in the next few weeks, so I will keep this recipe in mind. It sounds delicious!

    Comment by Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — September 19, 2009 @ 3:19 am

  22. I just picked a large bunch of chard at the farmers’ market this morning. Great recipe! It just may get me to love the greens. Yum!

    Comment by Eralda — September 19, 2009 @ 5:18 pm

  23. […] In fact, I was specifically hunting some Swiss Chard to make Dana’s delicious-looking Chickpeas and Chard dish, but it wasn’t to […]

    Pingback by Routine Veg – A cooking blog - Kitchenist — September 20, 2009 @ 6:47 pm

  24. […] But of course I’ll eat again, and that’s where this week’s market haul comes in. After searching in vain last week, I was happy to find a lovely bunch of chard at the market today. As originally planned, I’ll be cooking up Dana’s medley of chickpeas, chard and pasta. […]

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  25. i have never been a “normal” child
    i absolutely loved chards and broccoli, and i still love them

    the greener, the better

    this is an amazing simple recipe, but full of flavour
    see you soon!

    Comment by desperate.viz — October 2, 2009 @ 11:28 pm

  26. […] i’m not the only one who has ever attempted a recipe like this before {fatfree vegan kitchen, dana treat, your vegan mom}. and for good reason. it’s an amazing combination of […]

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