10.17.2008

Swiss chard

I've always loved Swiss chard—the rainbow of stalks, the thick, leafy greens, and the faint but charming bitterness it lends a cup of soup.

With roots in Sicilian soil, it is surprising the chill it can withstand. It thrives on neglect, spreading in delight down rows of poor, sandy earth where forgotten hands have strewn its seed.

As the weather cools down, the greens lose their edge. The bitter leaves of mid-summer give way to a softer, gentler sort of flavor, imbibing salads and stir-fries with an almost sweet hue.

My favorite lunch this time of year is to cozy up with a bowl of Swiss chard just barely steeped in a broth of pork or chicken stock and a dash of milk. The thin, comforting broth sucked from the marrow of a ham bone fills out with a splash of cream, the two lapping and splashing at the greens until finally they begin to let go. I add a bit of corn, sometimes, or perhaps a sliced onion or the miniature nesting cabbages from the stalk of a brussel sprout. No matter the weather or the tempo of the afternoon, it always makes for a soothing cup.

Yesterday afternoon, cozied up with a mountain of newspaper deadlines and a basket of cream biscuits with jam, I heated up a bowl and settled into the couch to enjoy. Dread gave way to calm, as the well-warmed greens fortified me for the long hours ahead.

STEAMED SWISS CHARD

Serves 1

Boil 3/4 cup pork, chicken, or fish stock. Throw in 1 cup (or more!) of chopped Swiss chard. Other vegetables of your choice (think brussel sprouts, sauteed onions, corn, broccoli, etc.) can also be added. Put a lid on the pot and let the chard steam until just wilted. Add a splash of milk or cream, season with salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy hot.

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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.