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
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.
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.