spicy swiss chard

looks can be deceiving

Oh people, I tell you don’t mess with a good thing when you know you have one. It’s like this – you have this amazing, perfect food that is best at its simplest preparation, and you love making it and in fact you make it all the time, but always feel a bit of a cheat. I mean, take for instance Swiss chard – perhaps one of my and KS’s favorite vegetables. We eat it a few times a month and our method has most often been steaming it. With washing and trimming off the stems, the whole process takes a few minutes, no more. We sprinkle a bit of salt over our steamed chard and eat it plain as a side to our meals. It’s a “meaty” green and tastes best, to us anyway, this way.

But I always feel as if I’m cheating and being lazy. Anyone can steam chard – it’s not exactly cooking, nor is it particularly “sexy” blog material. No one will read about steamed chard and rush to the kitchen to make it – it’s as easy as it gets, a “duh” of the recipes – too embarrassingly simple to write about. But it seems to be that the “duh” is the hidden “aha” in this case.

so much promise... such pretty colors...

The trouble was that this dish was like a good thing gone bad. Or as KS put it, I took a good, clean, wholesome dish, and turned it into a cheap, street hussy. And that’s kind of how I felt about it too – Swiss chard went from noble to common.

This recipe here was all kinds of wrong – the sauce was overpowering, it took over chard’s natural taste and flavor and as a result, neither the sauce, nor the chard were all that noteworthy. A disaster it was not, but really, it was a disappointment all around. Food Network, (Bobby Flay, even though this wasn’t your recipe, I’m looking at you!) I was hoping for a better recipe. I suppose a lesson learned here is that sometimes the simplest is really the best. Tomorrow, I will tell you about what happens when you mess with a classic, tried-and-true recipe by getting that last minute “creativity” spark – nothing good to say the least, but for that, you’ll have to tune in tomorrow. I hope the cooking blunders will stop at that for awhile.

dear swiss chard, i'm sorry

Adapted from Food Network
Serves 2

10 large Swiss chard stalks and leaves
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 whole medium hot chile, or 1/4 teaspoon dried red chilies
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Separate Swiss chard stems from leaves. Chop the stems and set the leaves aside. Saute stems in olive oil until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Coarsely chop the leaves. Add the garlic, peppers, chard leaves, and soy and cook until tender. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice.


  • Michael Natkin

    Alright! Well we are eagerly awaiting tommorow’s installment. I think you are right, that food network recipe just seems wrong. First of all putting both soy sauce and lemon juice in the same recipe is suspicious and second, fresh and dried chilis aren’t so interchangeable, they have really different flavors so why would they be so cavalier in listing them that way? Anyhow hears to you for sticking up for the simple, steamed version that let’s the flavor of the vegetable shine!

  • claudia

    i so understand what you’re saying and i couldn’t agree more that at times we need to leave well enough alone. but. sometimes you just gotta try. so thanks for sharing! sometimes the ‘what not to do’s’ are as important to hear about as the great recipes.

  • radish

    Michael, I couldn’t agree with you more and should’ve been more suspicious from the get go, but I decided to give it a whirl. Ugh.
    Claudia – exactly, sometimes you just GOT to try prove to yourself once and again that sometimes the simplest is the best.

  • Dana

    I totally agree. Sometimes simplicity is what makes a recipe so good! I always question myself in those instances, but when I experiment the results are rarely as good as the simple original. Oh well, at least you tried something new!

  • Irma

    Thanks for the post and the warning, from a daily greens eater! Those pics kind of look like kale though – what kind of Swiss Chard is that?

  • radish

    Irma – it may very well be.. the local Whole Foods is known for putting the wrong labels on foods. And I’m usually in a rush, so I grab and don’t question. Good eye!

  • Jen

    I was going to say the same thing as Irma. Looks like Kale. I have swiss chard growing in my garden currently (in Arizona) with nice big fan-shaped leaves. Not curly leaves and roundish stalks like that. But, swiss chard is definitely best steamed or sauteed. K.I.S.S. is my favorite rule. :)

  • jennywenny

    In my experience, these kind of bitter leaves need a little bit of sweetness to offset the bitterness. I like to add a bit of sherry or maple syrup. I agree that it looks like kale to me, which is bitterer than chard.

  • Stacey

    My two favorite things to do with Swiss chard are to use it in soup (great with beans!) and to saute it with raisins, pine nuts, onion, garlic, and sometimes olives. These are both classics and don’t overwhelm the chard. Good luck!

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