In my efforts to try and, hopefully, like some new vegetables, so we don’t get into a boring rut of four staple dishes, I try to pick up a new-to-me veggie every few weeks or so.  It’s dicey to try something new, because I don’t want to waste money or spend the time on cooking something yecchy.  So when I spot something that looks nice at the market, I’ll do some Googling and see what I can find about the flavor, how to choose, and different preparations.

I came upon some very pretty Swiss chard, which I’ve heard of but never tried.  After discovering, via kale, that I do like cooked leafy greens (prior exposure to creamed spinach made me think I hated them), I explored further.  The consensus seemed to be that it’s kind of close to spinach in flavor… hmmm, could be bad, but could work with the right preparation.  People tend to take it in a sweeter direction with cheese and raisins (ew) or sautee it with olive oil, garlic and balsamic vinegar.  This seemed more promising, so on the last trip to the market, I picked up a mixed bunch: big fluffy leaves with vibrant red and yellow stalks.

Upon testing the flavor, which was indeed very strong and earthy, I decided that the best way to introduce this new food to my fussy palate would be to include it in a big mixed dish with lots of ingredients – a bit like sneaking vegetables to a child.  I had some beautiful broccolini, red bell peppers, and lots of garlic, so I went with a primavera-type dish with whole-wheat pasta shells.

To start, I washed the chard, and separated the leaves from the stalks.  The leaves, I tore into small pieces.  The stems, I trimmed and cut into quite small pieces, slicing 2-3 times lengthwise then chopping crosswise.  I similarly separated the stems and florets of the broccolini, as I wanted to cook the chard leaves and broccolini florets for less time than the stalks.  I diced about 1 small red bell pepper and put that with the broccoli florets.  A roma tomato was deseeded and diced and set aside.  (I would’ve used 2, but my spouse is sensitive to too much tomato.)  Finally, I chopped about 3/4 C of white onion and minced 5 cloves of garlic.

I set about 2 Tbsp olive oil in a sautee pan, and sweated the onions, then added the garlic.  After a few minutes, I added the tomato and a good pinch of salt.  At this time I set the water on to boil for the pasta.  After cooking the tomato for about 2 minutes, I added a good pinch of thyme, basil, oregano, black pepper, and a smidge of cayenne.  Then the chard stems and broccolini stems went in.  After 5 minutes or so, I added the broccolini florets and the peppers, and continued to cook, stirring, until the broccolini started to show that beautiful bright green.  I added some good balsamic vinaigrette, another pinch of salt, and slowly added the chard leaves, adding more as they wilted and shrank.  Added the pasta to its now-boiling water, to cook for 6 minutes.  Continued sauteeing the vegetable mix until the chard leaves were nice and tender and all the flavors were melded together.  Took veggies off the heat, drained pasta, mixed both together, ta da!

The Swiss chard came out really nicely, tender and not very bitter.  And we both went back for seconds!  I’ll continue to explore the use of chard, but it seems like it may be a keeper.