Thursday, October 25, 2012

Swiss Chard: The Vegetable Valedictorian

It's blatantly obvious by now that I love the farmer's market. I love that the air is getting colder outside, but I'm beginning to dread the day when the farmer's market isn't bursting with color like normal. New York gets especially bleak in the winter - bare tree limbs, whipping winds, blustering snow storms - and shopping at the grocery store instead of the farmer's market just makes me want to cry! Why, Mother Nature? Why?

When we left the campsite last weekend in Beacon, we had just enough time to stop by the Sunday farmer's market on the Hudson River. We quickly scoped the wares and settled on a beautiful bunch of Swiss chard and two bunches of breakfast radishes (these babies are hard to find, so we got double!). 

You've probably seen Swiss chard many times. It's readily available in stores year-round. It has huge, dark green leaves and colorful stems that range from red or orange to yellow or white. It's truly a beautiful vegetable. Though it's name is deceiving, Swiss chard originated in Sicily. It has been a staple of the Mediterranean diet for thousands of years. It's a Chenopod (or herbaceous flowering plant), along with spinach, beets and quinoa. In fact, you cook it in a similar way to spinach and it has the earthy flavor of a beet, but I think it most closely compares to collard greens or kale in it's texture and flavor (but that could just be me and my crazy Southern influence).

Now to the most important part... why you should eat it! Swiss chard is...

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PACKED WITH VITAMIN K - In fact, 1 cup of cooked chard has approximately 700% of your daily value. Vitamin K keeps your bones strong, and supports proper functioning of the brain and nervous system.

CHOCK FULL OF ANTIOXIDANTS - Swiss chard is one of the most antioxidant-rich foods on the PLANET! It's vivid colors should tell you that! Chard contains 13 different polyphenol antioxidants which help you fight disease!

FULL OF FIBER - The fiber in chard (especially in the colorful stems) helps reduce your cholesterol, keeps your digestive system happy and allows your body to maintain normal blood sugar levels. One cup of cooked chard contains approximately 14% of your DV.

BURSTING WITH VITAMINS A & C - One cup of cooked chard contains 214% of your DV of vitamin A (for healthy vision, skin, teeth and mucous membranes) and almost 50% of your DV of vitamin C (for a strong immune system, normal connective tissue and healthy iron levels).

LADEN WITH LUTEIN - Lutein is essential for eye health. Research suggest that you get between 6,000 and 10,000 mcg of lutein per day. Looks like it's your lucky day then! That same 1 cup of cooked chard contains approximately 9, 276 mcg. Done and done!

BRIMFUL OF BIOTIN - You need this vitamin for hair growth and strength. One cup of cooked chard contains 1/3 of your DV. Healthy locks, here we come!

Ok, now that you know how good it is for you, what the hell should you do with it? That part is easy! Boiling is the most recommended method for cooking chard because it allows the oxalates in the chard to escape. Oxalates can hinder the body's ability to absorb calcium and are good to avoid if you suffer from kidney stones.

In addition to boiling, I also like to saute it, which is pretty easy when you're in a hurry. Here's a photo play-by-play of the chard we cooked this week...

Chop off the stems of the chard... If some of your leaves have larger veins running up the middle, you can cut those
off as well. The stems are edible, but because they take longer to cook and I was in a hurry, I chose not to.
Wash the leaves in a bowl of cold water - this should be done a few times to ensure that they are clean.
Pat the leaves dry and slice into 1 inch strips.
Finely dice 3-4 cloves of garlic. The more the merrier in my book (unless you have a date later, then this
would be a horrible idea)!
In a large saute pan, saute the garlic in a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. I LATER learned that you
shouldn't use an aluminum pan because of the reaction the oxalates will cause. It will destroy your pan.
Don't say I didn't warn you.
Once the garlic has cooked for 2-3 minutes, add the Swiss chard and saute until wilted.
Getting close....
Almost there...
And that's how you do dinner on the fly! Reheat homemade free-range pulled pork and potatoes, saute breakfast
radishes and Swiss chard! Ta da! (P.S. Breakfast radishes are my jam and will be covered next week!)

Swiss chard is great because it goes with just about anything! You can throw it into your eggs, include it in a stirfry or pasta dish, make it into a tasty stand-alone side dish or even juice it! Now hopefully you have more time than me when you are cooking your beautiful batch of chard. If so, you should try these recipes that I was drooling over and then report back...



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