Swiss chard is our favorite green vegetable around here, partly because we grow it. I’ve tried and failed to grow spinach, and we don’t particularly care for beet greens or collard greens. But we all really love chard. What a surprise when we found out you don’t harvest the plant; you just cut off the big outside leaves and the plant keeps on producing. Now we have it whenever we want.
Greens are usually associated with Southern food, and it’s true that it goes great with ham and fried chicken. We also use it with other dishes as well, not only because it’s delicious and good for you, but its bright green color looks great on the plate.
Chard comes in two basic varieties, white and red. The color refers to the stem, and frankly I don’t notice much difference. But then, I’ve also never fixed both at the same time to make a taste test. We are sure of this: the home grown variety tastes better than either of the market varieties.
After you rinse the big leaves, hold them by the stem and with the other hand strip the green leaf off of the stem. I discard the stems; if you want to make soup or something it’s probably a good idea. Maybe with leeks and potatoes.
Anyhow, I fill a pot with leaves, and add a cup or so of water to the bottom of the pot. Bring the water to a boil to steam the leaves. The leaves will shrink in volume as they cook. After five or six minutes, they will have shrunk to about 1/5 their original volume. The pot I use, starting full, serves five or six people.
Drain the pot by opening the lid a crack and holding it with potholders while you pour out the water. Use kitchen shears or a knife and fork to chop up the chard. (If you’re using a non-stick coated pot, don’t use a knife!) Add about one pat of butter per serving, and salt and pepper the chard. Add a few dashes of Tabasco and you’re done.