Gourmandistan

Lifting the curse of CSA chard

Swiss chard with Parmesan, grits and eggs

If you’ve ever had a farm share, you’ve undoubtedly shared Gourmandistan’s occasional feelings of basket fatigue. That’s the point where you can’t think of one more thing to do with a bunch of Russian kale, basil or (please forgive us, Pavel) a bounty of accursed beets. Up until recently, one of the fatigue-inducing entries was Swiss chard. Though the chickens always loved the leftovers.

Chard is a leafy green vegetable that comes with a variety of stem colors, but when you come right down to it it’s basically a big-veined spinach. Like spinach, several pounds of leaves cook down to a handful and, like spinach, sometimes you just start getting tired of dealing with it. We’ve had chard tarts, chard frittatas, chard pilafs, chard with cheese and chard alone, and none has been something we’ve been dying to make again. Until we found this recipe from Melissa Clark’s New York Times column, included in her book, In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite. A simple combination of grits, Parmesan and olive oil-fried eggs transform the chore of chard into something so good Michelle was actually disappointed none appeared in our CSA basket last week, forcing her to find it at our Saturday market. Thank you, Melissa Clark, for making “chard” no longer a curse in Gourmandistan. “Beets,” however, will remain an epithet for eternity.

RECIPE NOTES:  Clark’s polenta and chard piece appeared in her “A Good Appetite” Times column in February 2007.  We thought we were being really clever putting a Kentucky spin on the recipe by using Weisenberger grits. But then we read the article in full and saw Clark beat us to it: 

Use coarsely ground cornmeal here, either polenta or corn grits; they are essentially the same thing, though some people will tell you that polenta is milled finer than grits, and vice versa. You can also use hominy grits, which have a slightly different flavor because the corn has been treated with lye before being ground. Any which way, look for stone ground, which is coarser and more flavorful. Unless you’re truly pressed for time, avoid anything labeled “instant,” a euphemism for quick and pasty.

We cooked the grits according to the package instructions, adding a bit of butter, salt and pepper at the end.  The only changes we made to Clark’s Garlicky Swiss Chard recipe were to caramelize a thinly-sliced onion in some additional olive oil before adding the chard, using more garlic than called for and ending with a splash of balsamic vinegar.

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33 comments

  1. I love it! That’s when you know that you’re a diehard vegetable eater–when you find yourself BUYING swiss chard on top of the contents of your CSA box because you cannot get enough. And hi, chickies!

  2. I’ve never succumbed to the CSA lure. I think it’s just a clever way to get rid of excess bok choy. I do love chard. It’s consuming my garden right now, and I’m okay with that. I think it’s much more interesting than spinach. I do a “Sonoma Market Breakfast” that is similar to your recipe — polenta (grits), sautéed spinach (chard), a roasted tomato, fried pancetta, toast and gorgonzola. Heavenly.

    • Oh you contrary southern Californians with access to everything all the time! I really love the CSAs. A couple of summers we even did 2 different ones at the same time. It’s like a puzzle I like to solve every week. Your Market Breakfast sounds great.

    • Gracias! I feel I must confess I don’t grow all these beautiful flowers, but a farmer friend who sells at one of our Saturday market stops does and I just can’t resist them (even though they are usually relegated to the mantel because the cats like to eat them and topple over the vase).

  3. baconbiscuit212

    Photos look amazing! What yummy … er… cute looking chickens!

    Sounds like it was an amazing wsy to use up your chard. I like making stuffed chard rolls. And I do really love beets. On a scatological level, I’m sure Steve can appreciate them too ;-)

    Was that too gross to say in a comment? ;-)

  4. You know, I didn’t have to even read the post to know I would love it. The title says it all! I was told by our CSA today that the greens would soon be giving way to vegetables and I probably said a little too quickly, good! (I don’t mind the cooking greens, but no more lettuce please!). Chard has been a tricky one for me too, and I still have last week’s beets kicking around. So yeah. I have more chard today of course and I will absolutely be making this! (I tried refrigerator-pickling the beets to postpone having to eat them all quickly. I am coming around on them though).

    • We always laughed in my family about how my mom would get a recipe she liked and then cook it over and over until, one day, it was never to be seen again. I am beginning to think that this dish may turn into that for us! But it really is the best use for chard that we’ve found yet. And god knows we’ve tried them all…

  5. Oh how well I remember CSA fatigue. Before I left Seattle I split a large CSA box with a neighbor. Being more than a little OCD, I would not allow myself to use anything from the next week’s box until I’d finished the first week’s bounty. Several weeks into the season, my neighbor, who was not much of a cook at all would get this look of crazed desperation in her eyes, which usually meant that I would get more than my share of kale, beets, and chard. I’m still traumatized. This looks AWESOME. Have you tried tossing kale in oil and spices and roasting it until it’s crispy? When I reached kale saturation that was sometimes the only way I could still enjoy it.

    • How did I miss this comment? I have tried the roasted kale thing and thought it was good. Though even that doesn’t save the awful Russian kale, which I really hate (luckily, Steve will eat it). A few years we did TWO CSAs. Crazy, I know. But I liked the challenge.

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