This morning my writer’s critique group met for breakfast at our usual Wednesday place, The Egg and I. The first thing the waitress mentioned to us was their new offering, a Kale Cooler with Cucumber. Kale is popular these days because it contains very high levels of vitamin C, vitamin K and beta carotene.
We don’t have a kale recipe for you, but we are featuring Swiss chard which is also a super food, high in Vitamin C (good for your immune system), vitamin K (good for your heart and cardiovascular system) and carotenoids (good for anyone with a family
of certain eye diseases, such as macular degeneration).
We are cooking our Swiss chard with portobello mushrooms and pine nuts. The result is a delicious, nutritious side dish for any broiled meat.
Swiss Chard with Baby Portobello Mushrooms and Pine Nuts
This is a dish of Italian flavors. If you like Italian food, you will love it. But it is definitely Italian, not Swiss. No one seems to know where it picked up the “Swiss” part in its name.
Swiss chard is a leafy green quite similar to spinach but possibly sweeter. It is not bitter like kale and its cousins. You may see more than one variety of Swiss chard in the grocery store. All of them have dark green leaves, but the stems and veins are of different colors. Some are red, some are white and some are yellow. The red stems remind me of rhubarb, in appearance only. It does not taste anything like rhubarb. I have only eaten the red and white stems, but both tasted the same. The chard with yellow stems, I have not seen but have only read about it in reference books.
You Will Need:
2 bunches of Swiss Chard 1 teaspoon. Red Pepper Flakes
4 or 5 cloves of Garlic 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
8 or 10 Baby Portobello Mushrooms Salt
3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil 2 Tablespoons. of Pine Nuts
- Slice the mushrooms. You can use most any kind of mushrooms in this recipe. I chose the little brown portobellos (sometimes labeled as”cremini”) because they are Italian. If you can’t find the small ones use one or more of the large ones and dice them.
- Squeeze the lemon juice.
- Strip the leaves of the chard from the stems. Save both separately.
- Tear or chop the leaves into smaller pieces.
- Chop the stems into small squares the size of the stem’s width. Keep the stems and leaves separate from each other. The stems, being tougher than the leaves, will have to be cooked longer than the leaves.
- Wash the stems and leaves separately and drain.
- Roast the pine nuts on a shallow pan in a 350 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes.
- Choose the largest skillet or sauté pan that you have. The greens will fill the pan but will condense when heated.
- Heat the olive oil in the skillet on medium heat until fragrant.
- Add the stem pieces (no leaves), and sauté for one minute stirring once or twice.
- Add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Saute for another minute.
- Add the mushrooms to the mix. Saute for another minute. If all of the olive oil is absorbed by the mushrooms, add a little more. It’s good for you.
- Add the leaves. If they are more than the pan will hold, fill the pan and set the excess aside. With a spatula press the leaved down until they begin to wilt. Stir them a bit to get the top layer to the bottom until they have all wilted. Now add all of the leaves that would not fit into the pan earlier.
- Once all the leaves are wilted, add the lemon juice and salt.
- Sauté everything together for another minute, and then they are done. There should be some liquid in the pan. If it has all evaporated, stir in a couple of tablespoons of water.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning. Does it need more salt? Red pepper flakes? Lemon Juice? If it needs more garlic, it is not possible to add more fresh garlic at this point, but you can add garlic powder.
- When you plate up, sprinkle the pine nuts on top. There is an alternate garnish. Don’t sauté a handful of the red stem pieces. Instead, blanch and shock them. This will make them slightly brighter and you can use them for the garnish.
- Since this side dish is a complex blend of flavors, I would pair it with a simple meat. Something broiled or pan broiled and seasoned simply.
Food for Thought:
What happens when you add something?
If you want your family to eat Swiss chard for its health benefits, it’s a good idea to add something to make eating it (and preparingit) a joy instead of a chore.
Dale thought of adding mushrooms, pine nuts and garlic to Swiss chard, but what else might we add, say to the process of preparing the food? What about a garlic crusher? My husband went to Trader Joe’s the other day and bought me this small tool that makes preparing garlic, yes, a joy, not a chore.
If you’re not familiar with a garlic crusher, the one I have is called a rocker. It looks like a miniature stainless steel boat with many tiny holes in the middle. You simply place it on top of your peeled garlic clove and rock it back and forth. The garlic’s juice begins to ooze out and up, and, “Voila!” you have more flavor from every clove.
I believe in simplicity. But sometimes adding something to your simple fare or usual routine is fun. It could very well brighten your day.
Years ago, I attended an outstanding seminar on Creative Hospitality.
AT one point, our leader Renee Rohrer talked about not being afraid to spend a little money to add a kitchen implement that would make things easier. “Go ahead and buy that pizza cutter. It will be well worth the cost.”
Now I think I would add to the pizza cutter, a good zester, a pretty bowl for salads and a couple of easy care tablecloths in your favorite colors.
Another area in which adding a little something can make a big difference is the conundrum of wardrobe. I’ve found that adding one accessory to an outfit can transform it. For example, I have a pink sweater set, but until recently had no pink earrings to go with it. One day I decided to check out the costume earrings where I was shopping. Can you believe there was only one set of pink earrings in the store’s wide collection? I counted them a gift from God and wore them for three straight days. Adding a small something to my wardrobe pricked a delight in me. And God loves to delight.
How about adding a date night once a month to enhance your relationship with your spouse? Or picking up the phone to call a struggling relative instead of sending an e-mail? Or writing a thank you note to your pastor or bible study teacher? How often we are helped by someone’s lecture, book, or comment, and fail to let them know!
If we want to refresh our times with God, we might add a new translation of the Bible. A friend of mine once said that every time she began using a different translation for her quiet times, she experienced spiritual renewal.
On the topic of spiritual growth, II Peter1:5-7 we find these words: “. . . make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.” Peter goes on to say that if we are increasing in these qualities, we will be effective for Christ.
Which of these characteristics would you like to begin adding to your faith? Perseverance in self-control stands out to me. But I know I will need God’s help.
What happens when we add something? We might end up with a delicious vegetable dish instead of a boring one. Or we might move closer to God and experience great Joy.