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Ingredient Spotlight: Swiss Chard

When I was a little girl, my grandma had a neighbor from Italy named Cuma (I hope I'm spelling her name correctly!). Cuma introduced me to Swiss chard which she grew in her garden. She would cut the stalks from the chard, dip them in egg and flour, and then deep-fry them. They were delicious and crave-able! But I never tasted chard again until I was an adult. We didn't grow it and it wasn't available at the supermarket.

Until recently (and by recently, I mean the last decade or so). Now, you can find chard both conventionally and organically grown. Different varieties of chard have stems that are white, orange, yellow, red or pink. When a few leaves of each color are sold together (like the photo), they are called "Rainbow Chard." I think they're beautiful!

So, just what is chard?

Chard is related to the beet family but you eat the stems and leaves instead of the root. When the leaves are small, the taste is similar to spinach and they can be eaten raw. When the leaves mature, they become slightly bitter but that bitterness works well with the sweetness of roasted or caramelized root vegetables, garlic, and onions. My grandma recommends throwing chopped chard into chicken soup while I like it in bean soup. It is also delicious with cottage cheese and feta. Like most cooked greens, chard welcomes a little bit of acidity; pair it with lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, or red wine vinegar. If you like spinach, kale, collards, or a big beautiful mixed green salad, you'll probably enjoy chard!

Stay tuned for a recipe featuring chard. No, it's not the recipe Cuma used to make (I'm chasing a taste memory so I still need to work on that one). But, it emphasizes all of those flavor relationships that make chard absolutely delicious!

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