The beginning of the CSA season always brings a variety of greens.Last year I offered suggestions for the efficient use of the abundance of CSA greens.I thought I would reprint that here.
CSA General Tip–Make it a “Greens Day”
A great way to use up those greens up is to plan a “Greens Day” for pick-up. I’ve found that the tender greens or leafy tops available in the distribution tend to go bad more quickly than other produce. For “Greens Day” I either have a meal planned around greens with a specific recipe in mind, or I blanch them to stretch out their use for 3 or 4 more days. Blanched greens are great to have on hand to add to omelets, egg salad, pastas, soups and stews, or to toss with vinaigrette and serve over some kind of noodle or grain. They can also be frozen.
To blanch greens, boil salted water. Add greens and cook just until wilted and tender, 30 seconds for tender greens like chard, or 3-5 minutes for kale or collards. Place in ice water bath to stop cooking and to keep bright green color. Drain well and refrigerate or freeze.
In my opinion, chard is the perfect green.It is bright, tender, and quick cooking and has a mild flavor that goes with almost anything.Younger chard is tender and mild enough to eat raw.Plus, chard is truly a super food, providing rich sources of vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, and phytonutrients without a high caloric impact.
Chard is often called Swiss chard, but there is really nothing Swiss about it.It is actually native to the Mediterranean and is gaining popularity the world around.
Chard leaves are a deep, dark green and the crisp stalks can be any number of colors including red, white, yellow, and orange, depending upon the variety.Rainbow chard is a collection of leaves of different chard varieties that give the bunch a “rainbow” of colors.
Choose chard leaves that are unwilted and that have crisp, unblemished stalks.Leaves should not be limp, browned or yellowed.Wrap chard leaves immediately in plastic and refrigerate unwashed until ready to use.Chard is best if used in a couple of days, but it can last up to 5.Clean leaves well as they can hold a lot of sand and grit.I like to run each leaf individually under running water, rubbing both sides to remove stubborn dirt.
As mentioned above, young chard can be eaten raw, like in salads.It is a matter of preference whether or not to include the stalks and center ribs when eating raw chard.Many people find them tough.However, when cooked, stalks are more palatable, although they require more cooking time than the leaves.
One fun way to use healthful raw chard in your diet is in smoothies…..YES, smoothies.Adding a leaf or two of chard to your favorite fruit smoothie gives it a nice green color and a bright taste that is still mainly fruity.For a great discussion and recipes for making green smoothies, check out this article in Veggie Venture.If you haven’t consumed all your delicious strawberries from the farm yet, try using them in the chard smoothie recipe listed below.
This smoothie recipe was adapted from A Veggie Venture.It requires no added sweeteners.The orange gives it just enough of a sweet/tart balance.
Strawberry, Banana and Chard Smoothie Serves 1-2
– 1 large orange, peeled with pith left on, sectioned and seeded
– 1/2 banana, peeled
– 5 large strawberries, hulled
– 2 large leaves chard, ribs and stalk removed
– 1/4-1/2 cup water or mil
– 1/2 cup non-fat, reduced-fat or regular yogurt (optional)
– ice cubes (optional)
Place ingredients in a blender and blend until very smooth and light green.
NOTE: Add wheat germ, protein powder, or ground flaxseed for additional substance and nutrition.Other mild flavored greens, like spinach, work well in this recipe.
Cooking chard is a snap. Because chard is so tender, it is easy to sauté for a quick side dish. Again, if you are cooking the stalks, add them in before the leaves to give them more time under heat.For really tough stems you might want to add a bit of water and cook with a lid on until they get really tender.
For a couple of variations on sautéed chard, try a traditional Spanish mixture, which includes golden raisins, minced onion, red pepper and toasted pine nuts (cook red pepper and onion, then add chard and other ingredients).Another great sauté combination is chard with a hot bacon vinaigrette.Cook bacon and remove from pan, make vinaigrette in same pan, then add chard and wilt.Top with bacon.
The number of other possibilities for cooked chard dishes is endless.Think about trying some of the following options:
- Frittatas/omelets:Use cooked greens that have excess water either cooked off or squeezed out to help keep frittatas and omelets from getting too watery.
- Soup/Stews:Add stalk pieces towards the end of cooking.Once stalks slices are tender, add leaves.Cook just until leaves are wilted.
- Lasagna/pasta/pizza:See recipe below for a homemade chard ravioli recipe.Also, try adding chard to your favorite pizza toppings.
- Casseroles/gratins:Include chard in your favorite casserole or potato gratin dish.Chard would be great in baked macaroni and cheese or in double stuffed baked potatoes.See recipe below for a Chicken and Chard Enchilada Casserole recipe.
- Sauces/pesto:See recipe below for an interesting pesto made with fresh chard that can be tossed with pasta, added to soups, mixed into dips, or used as any pesto recipe would be used.Chard would also be good blended into sauces, like in a white cheese sauce.
- Side dishes:Try mixing in some cooked chard to mashed potatoes or polenta, or mix with grains to add nutrients, visual appeal, and flavor.
If you want to freeze chard, I’ve read that the best way to do it is to blanch it first, drain and cool, and then portion and freeze.(See section above on preparing greens).Blanched chard can also be wrapped around fillings like you would cabbage rolls (i.e. pigs in a blanket).
Have fun and enjoy that chard!!I know I will.
I like to use prepared enchilada sauce when I don’t have the time or materials to make one from fresh tomatillos (pyo tomatillos will be available later in the season).Green enchilada sauce can be found in the Mexican section of some grocery stores (like Stop and Shop) and at Whole Foods.
Chicken and Chard Enchilada Casserole Serves 6
– 1-pound chard, cleaned well with stem and center rib removed; chopped
– 2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast meat
– 2 15 ounce cans green enchilada sauce or salsa verde, (or about 30 ounces of salsa verde)
– about 12 corn tortillas
– 1/2 cup reduced fat or regular feta cheese
– 1 1/2 cups shredded reduced fat Cheddar cheese or Mexican cheese blend
– 3 medium radishes, diced
1. Preheat oven to 400.
2.Heat large skillet over medium heat until hot.Add chard with water clinging to leaves from cleaning.Cover skillet.Cook, stirring occasionally, until chard is wilted and tender.Remove lid and cook off residual liquid.Remove from heat and set aside (alternatively, use blanched chard that has had excess moisture removed).
3. Spray a 9 X 13 casserole dish with cooking spray.Pour about 1/3 cup green enchilada sauce on bottom of dish.(If you are using salsa verde you may want to use less sauce overall as it tends to be more watery than green enchilada sauce). Spread sauce evenly across bottom surface.Cover sauce with a single layer of tortillas, cutting to fit so that all area is covered but there is little overlap.Cover with 1 cup of shredded chicken.Spread half of cooked chard evenly over chicken.Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of feta cheese and then 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. Pour about ½ -2/3 cup sauce evenly over casserole.
4. Repeat layering of tortillas, chicken, chard, feta, shredded cheese, and sauce.Place a third layer of tortillas evenly over mixture, again being careful not to overlap tortillas too much but making sure all spaces are filled.Pour sauce over top of casserole so that tortillas have a thin layer of sauce over them.Sprinkle with last 1/2 cup shredded cheese.
5. Bake for about 20 minutes or until casserole is bubbly and cheese is melted on top.Let sit for at least 10 minutes before cutting.Serve each slice garnished with diced radish.
This pesto is great to have on hand for a quick pasta dish.Mix pesto with a little bit of pasta cooking water and toss with hot, drained pasta, adding in other favorite items as you desire.The pesto is also wonderful in homemade ravioli (see recipe below).
Chard and Walnut Pesto Makes 1 cup
– 8 ounces chard, stem and center stalk removed
– 1/4 cup toasted walnuts
– 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
– 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Prepare ice water bath.
Boil water in a medium stockpot.Add chard leaves and cook for 2 minutes.Remove from boiling water and immediately put into ice water bath to stop cooking and preserve bright green color.Drain chard well in colander and press down on leaves to extract excess water.
2. In a mini food processor, process chard leaves, walnuts, Parmesan, garlic and salt until mixture forms a smooth, thick paste.While machine is running, gradually add in olive oil and mix well.
3. Pesto can be stored for a day or two in the refrigerator or it can be frozen.In either case, you need to press plastic wrap down upon the entire surface of the pesto and then cover tightly.Some discoloration may appear during storage.
Wonton wrappers offer a quick easy substitute for fresh pasta dough in the following recipe.If you do not wish to make the mushroom cream sauce, serve the cooked ravioli in a shallow bowl of hot veggie or chicken broth…Delicious.
Chard Ravioli w/ Mushroom Cream Sauce & Prosciutto Chips Serves 6-8
– 1 12-ounce package wonton wrappers
– 1 large egg, lightly beaten
– 1 cup chard and walnut pesto (from recipe above)
– 1/2 cup fat free or regular ricotta
– 6 slices prosciutto, cut slightly thicker than usual
– 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
– 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
– 1 large shallot, finely minced
– 1 tablespoon minced garlic
– 8 ounces mixed sliced mushrooms
– 1/3 cup dry white wine
– 2/3 cup heavy cream
– 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
– 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh sage leaves
– 1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
1. Prepare two rimmed baking sheets by sprinkling lightly with flour and shaking/tapping until flour lightly dusts the entire surface.
2. In a small bowl mix chard pesto with ricotta.
3. Place 12 wonton sheets evenly across surface of baking sheet.Working with only three squares at a time, brush each square completely with beaten egg.Place a heaping teaspoon of chard mixture in the center of each square.Top each square with a second wonton wrapper, gently pressing around the filling and out towards the edges to remove air and to seal wrappers together.Using the tines of a fork, press around all four sides of each ravioli to further release air and help edges stick (fork may not produce significant looking lines).Proceed in the same manner with the next three wonton wrappers and so on, until all twelve ravioli have been topped, sealed, and crimped.Place ravioli, uncovered, directly in refrigerator for one hour.
4. Proceed as in step 3 with second baking sheet, forming 12 more ravioli.You may have some filling left over.Refrigerate second batch for one hour.
5. Preheat oven to 350.Place parchment paper on a baking sheet. Lay prosciutto pieces on parchment so they do not overlap.Place in oven and bake for about 10 minutes, or until slices have significantly crisped up and fat is lightly browned.Remove from oven and allow to cool (prosciutto will crisp up more as it cools).
6. Place large pot of salted water on high heat to boil.Meanwhile, melt butter with olive oil in large skillet on medium heat.Add shallots and garlic and cook for 3 minutes.Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms have given up their liquid and are beginning to brown (about 5-7 minutes more).Add wine and simmer until wine has reduced by half.Add cream and minced herbs and simmer, stirring frequently, until sauce is thickened (3-5 minutes).Add salt and pepper to taste.Remove from heat, cover to help keep in heat, and set aside.
7. Once sauce is done, add 6 ravioli at a time to boiling salted water.Cook, stirring gently a few times, until ravioli rises to the surface and appears almost translucent (2-4 minutes).Remove ravioli one by one with a slotted spoon, gently shaking off excess water, and place on plates.Continue with next 6 ravioli in the same manner until all ravioli is cooked.
You can also opt to freeze some ravioli rather than cook it all at once.Place uncovered baking sheet in freezer until ravioli is completely frozen.Then transfer ravioli to freezer container and freeze for up to 2 months.
8. Top plated ravioli with hot mushroom cream sauce.Crumble prosciutto crisps on top and serve immediately.