July 12, 2017 Swiss Chard Quesadillas

Tuesday evening is Joe’s night to work late and although we don’t sit down for dinner when he comes home, I like to have a little snack ready. We sip a little wine, catch up on the days activities, maybe watch some television in the kitchen. This quesadilla was inspired by what I had in the fridge and the garden that summer evening. I have used spinach in a quesadilla in the past, why not some Swiss chard this time? A little sweet onion, sautéed until caramelized would be a good contrast to the earthy flavor of chard. All I needed now was a wrapper and some queso. I didn’t have tortillas on hand but I did have some sandwich wraps that could fill in. I always have several varieties of cheese in the fridge, the sharp flavor of cheddar worked well here.

We are still in the process of thinning the chard plants out. They are supposed to be 9-12 inches apart so it didn’t take long to pick what I needed. The chard is still relatively young so it wouldn’t need the long cooking that late summer chard does. I discuss basic chard preparation in this post. I also used some of the finely chopped stems for texture and their brilliant color.

I think a sweet onion works best with this flavor combination. I used a Vidalia, but whatever variety your market is featuring this week is fine. Sweet onions are low in pyruvic acid, the component that makes your eyes tear. I recently read that one of the best ways to store Vidalias is wrapped separately in a paper towel and stored in the refrigerator. I will be trying this method out.

If you are making a quesadilla you can’t forget the queso. If you prefer not to use cheddar, a Jack cheese would be a good choice too. I served the quesadillas plain, sour cream or a tomatillo salsa would be a good accompaniment. Next time I might add a few slivers of pickled jalapeno to the mix. Cooked black beans would be a good addition or some sautéed mushrooms. This recipe is just based on what I had on hand that evening. Golden crisp on the outside with healthy greens, a little sweetness from the onion with the creaminess of cheddar, this is a winning combination for a quick and delicious light meal or snack.

 

Swiss Chard Quesadillas

Makes two 8″ quesadillas

Ingredients

  • 16-18 medium to small chard leaves
  • 1 medium sweet onion
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Butter
  • Tortillas or wraps
  • ½-1 cup shredded cheese, I used cheddar, mozzarella or jack works too

Directions

  1. Wash chard leaves in several changes of water. Separate the chard leaves from the stems. Chop the leaves roughly. You should have 5 cups loosely packed leaves and ½-1 cup finely diced chard stems.
  2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a 10 inch non stick skillet over medium high heat. Add stems and a sprinkle of salt and cook until softened, 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add the chard leaves and the water that still clings to the leaves and cook until wilted. Add a tablespoon more of water if necessary to wilt the leaves. Move stems and leaves to a plate and keep warm.
  4. Slice a medium onion very thinly, a mandolin or food processor is good for this. You should have 3 cups loosely packed thin slices.
  5. Wipe out the pan, add another tablespoon of oil and heat over medium high heat, cook onion until softened and brown. Reduce heat to medium if necessary. This should make about 1 cup of caramelized onion.
  6. Let the skillet cool off a bit and wipe out with a paper towel. Over medium high heat melt a teaspoon or so of butter and a little olive oil. When the butter is melted, add the first wrap or tortilla, spread out one half of the chard over this as evenly as possible.
  7. Evenly spread the cooked onions over the chard and then sprinkle the cheese over. Place the second wrap over the cheese and press down with your hand or a spatula to melt the cheese and make it adhere.
  8. Cook for 2-3 minutes on the first side, it’s okay to peek to make sure it isn’t browning too much. With the help of the spatula, flip and cook on the other side, about 2 minutes, adding a little more butter and oil if necessary.
  9. Move the quesadilla to a platter and keep warm, repeat cooking process with the second quesadilla. Cut quesadillas into wedges 4 to 8 pieces as desired.  Serve warm.
Chop the stems.
Sweet onion sautéed until golden brown.
Sautéed chard and stems are first to go on.
Then the sautéed onion.
Then a sprinkling of cheese.
A second tortilla or wrapper in my case, goes on top. Press down to help the cheese adhere. This was taken after this first quick flip.
Let it get golden brown.

July 27, 2014 Braised Swiss Chard with Raisins, Olives and Capers

DSC_8313aMove over broccoli, step aside tomatoes, the research has been completed and the new ranking of the powerhouse fruits and vegetables is in. Researchers at William Patterson University in conjunction with the CDC did a study of 41 fruits and vegetables ranking them by the 17 critical nutrients they contain. The foods were scored by their content of fiber, potassium, protein, calcium, folate and important vitamins. Following watercress and Chinese cabbage is our bronze medal winner, Swiss chard. Chard is a good source of vitamins K, A and C as well as potassium, iron and fiber.

We have been long time fans of chard, it is our choice for a cooked green in the summer after the heat causes our spinach plants to bolt. I think many people shy away from chard because it has two distinct parts, the leaves and the stems that need to be cooked separately. Many recipes avoid the stems but that is unfortunate since the stems can add texture and color to the dish. Two of the varieties we grow, Rhubarb, has bright red stems and Bright Lights has stems in almost neon shades of pink, yellow and orange. Although they will fade a bit, I prefer to simmer the stem sections in broth or water to maintain optimum color. Remember to cook chard in a non reactive pan, like spinach it will discolor if cooked in aluminum or unlined iron.

This preparation is one of our favorites that we have enjoyed for years. The earthy assertive flavor of chard combines nicely with Mediteranean flavors of garlic, capers, olives and raisins. I like to plump raisins in warm water for just a few minutes before adding to the recipe. I cut the stems of the chard into slightly smaller pieces than most recipes call for, the stems will cook quicker and will retain their color.

Farmers markets will be your best source for chard this time of year. Wash well in several changes of water. For a more detailed explanation about the preparation and cooking of chard, please look at this post.

As for the rankings, the word powerhouse equals nutrient density. Higher ranking foods provided more nutrients per calorie. Watercress scored a perfect 100, chard not far behind with 89.27. Broccoli and tomatoes? 34.89 and 20.37 respectively, reason enough to add chard to your diet.

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Braised Swiss Chard with Raisins, Olives and Capers

Serves four

Ingredients

  • 2lbs chard, washed, leaves and stems separated
  • 11/2c chicken or vegetable stock (water is okay too)
  • 1T olive oil
  • 1T capers, rinsed
  • 2t chopped garlic
  • 1/4c raisins (dark or golden)
  • 1/4c chopped Kalamata olives
  • 1/8t red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2T toasted pine nuts
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A very attractive “mis en place”.

Directions

  1. Cut the chard stems away from the leaves. Cut chard leaves into rough slices and set aside. Cut stems into 1/2 inch pieces. Combine stems in a large non reactive saute pan with stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer over low heat for about 8-10 minutes until softened. Check an individual stem piece to see if it is at your desired doneness. With a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl and keep warm.
  2. Add the olive oil, capers, garlic, raisins, olives, red pepper flakes to the saute pan. Bring to a simmer and add the reserved chard leaves, in batches if necessary. Cover the pan and cook for 2 minutes, or until wilted. Uncover the pan and continue to simmer over low heat until the leaves are tender, 8-10 minutes. Add the reserved stems and toss with the ingredients in the pan. Increase the heat to evaporate any remaining liquid. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.
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The neon colored stems of Bright Lights chard.

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