Greening Your Way to Good Health – Sicilian Style
Growing up around an Italian kitchen, you are exposed to a lot of green things. Greens are probably stamped somewhere in your Italian DNA or it’s written somewhere that all kinds of greens will become a part of your daily diet. When I was little, I wasn’t fond of greens really. I was an expert at “depositing” them in my napkin undetected. However, there was one type that I did like – SWISS CHARD! Why? I suspect that it had something to do with the delicate nature of the leaves and the sweetness of it in general. We ate it by itself, in soups and stews, and with rice. As an adult, I now enjoy all kinds of greens, bitter and sweet, but SWISS CHARD is still my favorite.
What’s up with Swiss Chard? It is much like spinach in that you can eat it raw in a salad or cook it and serve it as a side dish. You can drop it into almost any soup and be happy you did. Unlike spinach, the chard has a sweeter flavor. Actually, SWISS CHARD is a cousin of the beet. When you cut into the stalks, they emit a sweet beet-like aroma. The chard is super rich in anti-oxidants, is said to be instrumental as an anti-inflammatory, and is nothing but good for you. Here is a really cool thing about SWISS CHARD: it helps with the control of blood sugar levels in the body which is an important factor for those with diabetes. How can you miss?
Here’s the beauty part: SWISS CHARD is found in several colors. Many times you’ll find the chard in its simple green form with whitish stalks. However, this sunny green veggie could win beauty contests in the vegetable category in its more colorful forms. Some stalks are simply glorious in their vivid red, white, and golden yellow hues. This chard is referred to as Rainbow Chard for exactly that reason – when bunched together, the stalks really look like a little rainbow. The red variety not only has bright red stalks, but also has red veins. The yellow follows suit with its golden veins and stalks. It is pretty enough to arrange for a table centerpiece – simply gaw-geous! In all colors, the taste result is sweet and delicious. It does not disappoint.
Easy cookin! SWISS CHARD may be a beauty – but she’s no diva! She definitely cooperates to provide an easy cooking experience.This is a vegetable that is tender in its natural state – so its leaves are delicious raw material in salads. Cooking it is a breeze. Today’s preparation is as simple as it gets by just giving it a quick saute in a pan. We’re going to give it a Sicilian twist using pignolis, raisins, Pecorino Romano Cheese,and a little red pepper. Cutting out the tougher spines is a good idea before cooking. One thing to remember is that the stalks are a little more firm than the tender leaves. I like to cook or steam them in a little water first before tossing them in the pan to “play catch-up” in tenderness to the leaves. That way it’s all finished at the same time.
Serving: This one’s a “no-brainer”. There must be hundreds of meats and fish – not to mention pastas – that beg to appear alongside this winning vegetable. Everyone will love it and want it on their plates. It just has star quality. Now to prepare the red carpet!
Serves: 4 as a side
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 5-7 minutes
1 Large Bunch Swiss Chard – cleaned and trimmed of any nasty spots (Prettier if you can find the colorful chard)
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Garlic Cloves chopped finely
1/4 c. Toasted Pignolis (pine nuts)
1/3 c. raisins – can be golden or dark (you can even use dried cranberries)
1/8 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
Shaved Pecorino Romano Cheese
Wash the chard and remove any dirt or sand. Cut off the stalks and chop them. Set them aside for a quick pre-cook.
Tear the leaves into pieces. Cut out & discard any thick spines.
Boil the chopped stems for 5 minutes until just fork tender. Drain them.
Put the olive oil and chopped garlic in a fry pan. Cook the garlic in the oil for a minute – do not burn.
With heat turned to med high – add the chard leaves and the drained chopped stalks. It will shrink down as it cooks.
After about 4 minutes – add the pignolis, raisins, and red pepper flakes – toss and continue to cook. Total cooking should take 5-7 minutes. However, regardless of timing – cook until tender. The overall tenderness of your leaves and intensity of your heat may determine the exact time. In any case, the preparation is quick and easy, and the result just delicious. Think of what a healthy dish this is!
Top with shavings of Pecorino Romano Cheese and dive in!
PARLA COME MANGI!
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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography