One of the most beautiful crops of the springtime garden is chard, also known as Swiss chard, which comes in a variety of colors.
Whether you find stems of pure white, regal crimson or the candy-like rainbow variety pictured here, this highly-nutritious vegetable deserves to be on more American dinner plates.
This particular batch is from Kansas City, Kan.-based Blue Door Farm (full disclosure: owned by a former Kansas City Star employee).
The great thing about chard is how easy it is to work with. Unlike its distant relative cardoons, there’s no need to peel chard’s stems, which are every bit as edible as its deep green leaves. It cooks quickly, and can even be eaten raw.
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Here’s an easy recipe — a rough guide, really — for a healthful, five-ingredient dinner that you can get to the table in 20 minutes. Just about any leafy spring green can take the chard’s place, and the more meaty stems the better. You can adapt it to year-round greens such as collards, but you may need longer to cook the vegetables.
Homemade meals don’t get easier than this.
FIVE-INGREDIENT PASTA WITH CHARD, CHICKEN AND GARLIC
Two servings dried pasta of your choice (Rotini or another short shape is a good match for the textures of the dish. Whole grain works well with its bold flavors.)
Eight ounces cooked chicken (Dark meat makes for a tastier dish, but white or a combination is fine too.)
One half bunch chard (about 8 - 12 ounces untrimmed)
Garlic to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil as your first step, as the recipe comes together quickly.
Put a cast iron skillet on high so it will be screaming hot when you’re ready to start cooking.
Rinse the chard well. With water still clinging to it, separate the leaves from the stems. Unless your chard is tough, there is no need to remove the skinnier stems from the leaves.
Chop the stems into pieces approximately one inch long. Shred the leaves by rolling them up and cutting them into 1/4- to 1/2-inch strips.
Finely chop as much garlic as you like. Six or eight cloves really isn’t too much.
Chop the cooked chicken into 3/4-inch pieces. This is a perfect use for a store-bought rotisserie bird.
Drop the pasta into the water.
Start the chard stems in your skillet and add about two to three tablespoons of water. There’s no need to move them around a lot. Salt to taste.
When the stems begin to soften, add the leaves and the garlic, tossing them around to keep them from sticking.
When the leaves are wilted, add the chicken.
By this time, your pasta should be close to done. Add a little of its cooking water to the chard and chicken.
When the pasta is just short of done, reserve about a half cup of the cooking water, then drain and add the pasta to the skillet. Add a little cooking water if the dish needs a bit more moisture. Cook until the pasta is ready to eat.
Serve, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil (the more flavorful the better, and don’t be afraid to substitute a tasty nut oil such as walnut or hazelnut for a change). Add salt and pepper to taste.