Well, it’s been a while. A very eventful while.
In the past month since I last posted, I witnessed Paul’s graduation and celebrated Mother’s Day. I’ve seen a roommate evicted and discovered that the kitchen sink was clogged. I’ve finished the first draft of my project for Cincinnati Children’s. I’ve done a six-mile run, my longest to date. And though I haven’t told you much about it, I have done quite a bit of cooking.
I’ve had to be creative the past couple of days because the kitchen sinks are still clogged, which means I can’t make too much of a mess. It’s difficult to clean up without a garbage disposal, a dishwasher, or even just a place to wash your hands. So, I’ve armed myself with paper plates and plastic utensils for the duration, and gotten friendlier with the microwave and toaster oven. More on that later.
For now, it’s back to happier times. To cat times. To these cats:
|Lila & Squish.|
These cats belong to my friends Doug and Stacy, who went off to Boise last week and needed a house/cat sitter. Which means that I got to spend almost a full week with these little (adorable) balls of fur. The cats really aren’t important to this story. I just like them and the picture.
Anyway, the point is that taking a mini-vacation from my house was pretty nice. I’m a creature of habit, but sometimes I need to shake things up.
A food related example: spinach. I have been buying pre-washed, organic baby spinach in plastic tubs for months now. Every week it went in the cart at the store. Every week it ended up on my sandwiches, sauteed with my eggs, wilted in my pasta…and finally I just couldn’t take it any more.
Enter the new leafy green on the block: Swiss chard. Similar health benefits, but prettier. And cheaper, too. I got a bunch (organic) for about $1.50.
|My roommates’ reaction: “What is that giant vegetable?”|
Now I’ve seen chard popping up in recipes for a while now, and had a vague idea of what it was, but it took my spinach ennui to help me take the leap. And I have to tell you, this stuff is pretty tasty. To me, the greens taste like thicker spinach, but in a way that is different enough to keep me interested. It’s a little crisper, maybe. The stems taste sort of like beets. Which is odd, because I don’t really like beets, but I like these stems. So in short, Swiss chard tastes like things I don’t feel like eating, but in a way that makes me feel like eating chard. (My relationship status with Swiss chard: It’s complicated.)
Anyway, here’s how you prepare it:
1. Fill a large bowl or a clean sink with water. Add your chard and swish it around to clean the leaves. If there is any grit, it will sink to the bottom.
2. Using paper towels or a salad spinner, dry the chard. (I suppose you could also do this after you cut it–might be easier that way!)
3. Lay a leaf on the cutting board. Cut off the end of the stem and discard it. Run the tip of a sharp knife along both sides of the stem to separate the greens.
|Easier than it sounds, I promise.|
4. You can leave the stems whole or cut them up (assuming you want to eat them–some people throw them away). I chopped mine up like celery.
|Chard comes with different colored stems. Mine was just red, but
I’ve also seen yellow and white in the supermarket. Sometimes stores
bunch several varieties together and call it “rainbow chard.”
5. Bunch or roll up the greens and slice them. I don’t think it’s the conventional way of doing things, but I like to roll them up from a short end and then slice so that I end up with long ribbons of chard. They mix well with pasta that way!
|Pretty and healthy.|
6. Store your chard greens in a paper towel-lined bag or plastic container. I washed out one of those spinach tubs and used that. Store the stems separately.
|You’ll probably end up with more than you thought.|
After you chop it all up and see how much space it takes, you’ll probably be wondering what you are going to do with all this chard. Well, you can eat it raw, saute it, steam it, boil it, stir fry it…you name it. But for some more specific options, The Kitchn’s Open-Faced Ravioli is a great choice. Or, if you’ve cut it into nice long ribbons, a noodle dish might be appropriate.
Noodles with Swiss Chard and Peanut Sauce
2 oz long pasta, such as linguine or fettuccine
1 1/2 cups Swiss chard greens, cleaned and cut into ribbons
1/4 cup of Swiss chard stems, cleaned and sliced
1/2 cup snap peas
1/4 cup carrot, sliced into disks (half a medium carrot, or a handful of baby ones)
1 clove garlic
1-2 tsp cooking oil
Sriracha hot sauce
2-3 tbsp prepared peanut sauce (homemade or store-bought–I don’t have a good recipe yet!)
1. Boil a pot of salted water (or add soy sauce to the water) and add the pasta. Cook it for the minimum time indicated on the package. When there is about 4-5 minutes left of cooking time, add the carrots. When there is about 2 minutes left, add the peas. Drain.
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Add the chard stems and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the chard greens, garlic, and soy sauce and sriracha to taste. Saute for another minute or two, until the greens are just wilted. Turn the heat to low. (You could just as easily boil the chard with the noodles too–I just happen to like the sauteed texture better–or saute all your veggies. It’s up to you!)
3. Add the drained noodles and vegetables to the frying pan. Pour the peanut sauce on top. Toss everything together (tongs work well for this) and cook for another minute. Serve with extra condiments, if desired.
|Noodles, veggies, and sauce. Does it get any better?|
The great thing about this recipe is that it’s adaptable and a great way to clean out the fridge. With so many veggies, you don’t need a huge serving of pasta. And once you get a feel for how long different kinds of vegetables need to cook, it’s easy to switch things up. You could also add chicken, beef, tofu, or some other kind of protein to this dish, or use a different kind of sauce.
So, have you tried Swiss chard? What do you do with your leafy greens?