Simply Fresh by Julie Wern

Let’s face it…summer can get busy, which can make cooking all this fresh produce a challenge sometimes. Lately I have found a wonderful way to liven up simply dressed or prepared CSA produce…using flavored olive oils and vinegars.

Supermarkets and specialty stores often carry flavored olive oils and vinegars, such as Meyer lemon or garlic extra-virgin olive oil, or fig/raspberry/or pomegranate vinegar. I use them in several ways

  • Vinaigrettes—because of the added flavor, you don’t need a lot of other ingredients to make unique vinaigrettes that can dress salads and coleslaws, get tossed with zucchini/squash/or melon ribbons, get drizzled over roasted veggies, or get mixed into grain salads. They are also great used in potato salad.
  • Finishing drizzle—try simply drizzling these flavor bombs over veggies or fish…yum
  • Quick saute sauce—flavored olive oils and vinegars make flavorful saute bases for greens and veggies.

I don’t usually tout other businesses on this blog, but since I am discussing the merits of flavored oils and vinegars I thought I would tell you about a new store that recently opened in Canton shops. It is called O’Live A Little.

O’Live a Little carries many high quality flavored extra virgin olive oils, white and dark balsamic vinegars, and artisanal salts. I recently bought a Tropical Passion white balsamic vinegar that I used to make tasty vinaigrette that literally transports me to the tropics. I also am trying out a Basil and Lemongrass extra virgin olive oil that I hope to use in quick Asian sautés (e.g. bok choy, cabbages, kamatsuna, etc.…).

Additionally, O’Live A Little carries high quality flavored pastas, like chive or porcini fettuccine, which also make quick work of a CSA pasta night. They also carry heirloom beans and some wonderful imported cheeses.

The store staff will allow you to taste any of their products. They also have recipes online to give you ideas on how to use their oils and vinegars. Check it out!

Featured Item—Chard

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.

Chard hails from the beet family and shares its rich nutritional value. While very low in calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol, chard contains high levels of dietary fiber, vitamins A, C, E, K, B6, and minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese. It is also high in anti-oxidants and omega 3’s. It truly is a super food.

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.

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.

The number of other possibilities for chard dishes is endless. Think about trying some of the following options:

  •  Raw chard salads: Try thinly slicing chard into very fine ribbons and making”coleslaw”. See this chard coleslaw recipe from Martha Stewart (click here). Here is another interesting recipe for raw chard salad that uses the stems along with cranberries, almonds, and Balsamic vinaigrette (click here)
  • 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. See this recipe for a lower cholesterol frittata with Swiss chard (keep in mind that rainbow chard may color your frittata pink!) (click here)
  • Soup/Stews: Add stalk pieces towards the end of cooking. Once stalks slices are tender, add leaves. Cook just until leaves are wilted. See this recipe for a hearty bean and chard soup (click here)
  • Lasagna/pasta/pizza: See my recipe below for homemade chard ravioli. Chard is a great addition to vegetable lasagna (click here). Also, try adding chard to your favorite pizza toppings (click here)
  • 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 my recipe below for a Chicken and Chard Enchilada Casserole recipe (click here)
  • Sauces/pesto: See my recipe 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 (click here) 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.
  • Pickles—chard stems can be made into pickles! See my recipe from last year (click here)
  • Smoothies. See my recipe for a great strawberry and banana smoothie with Swiss chard (click here)
  • Sautéed: This is our favorite way to eat chard…simply sautéed with some Meyer lemon or garlic olive oil and thin slices of garlic. See below for a fancier version of sautéed Swiss chard.
  • Stuffed rolls—chard leaves can be used like cabbage leaves to make stuffed rolls.   You can also wrap and bake fish in chard leaves which adds flavor to the fish while keeping the flesh tender (click here)

Choose chard leaves that are un-wilted 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.

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.


It is traditional in Spain to saute greens with currants/raisins and pine nuts. I especially love this preparation with Rainbow Chard.

 Swiss Chard with Currants and Pine Nuts                                   Serves 3-4


– 1 pound Swiss Rainbow Chard, leaves chopped, top 1/4 of stem finely sliced

– 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

– 1/4 cup minced Spanish onion

– 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste

– 1 tablespoon minced garlic

– 1 tablespoon Currants

– 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts

– Sea salt and pepper to taste


In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add anchovy paste, onion, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add chard stems and about 3 tablespoons water). Cover and cook, stirring occasionally and adding more water as needed, until stems are tender. Add leaves and continue to cook, covered and stirring occasionally, until leaves are tender. Uncover pan, add currants and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until extra water has cooked off and currants are plump. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in pine nuts and serve immediately.


This sorbet is great as a fancy palate cleanser or a refreshing dessert or snack. It is one way I can get my husband and son to eat cucumber….

 Cucumber Basil Sorbet


– 2/3 cup water

– 2/3 cup sugar

– 3 cups chopped peeled cucumber, about 2 large

– 1/2 cup basil leaves, packed

– 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice


1. In a small saucepan stir sugar and water over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Stop stirring and allow to just come to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

2. Place cucumbers, basil, and sugar syrup in a blender and blend until smooth. Strain mixture over a sieve into a medium bowl. Discard solids in sieve. Stir lime juice into cucumber mixture. Cover bowl and chill for at least 8 hours.

3. Using an ice cream mixer, freeze sorbet according to manufacturer’s instructions. Alternatively you can place in freezer and scrape up the ice with a fork every hour or so to make granita. Or you can place the cucumber mixture into ice pop forms to make popsicles.

A fun way to serve this sorbet is in little cucumber cups. Cut cucumbers into 1-inch slices. Using a small melon baller, scoop out insides of each cup. Using a small scoop, scoop out sorbet and place in cucumber cups. Serve immediately.

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