Last year at this time I was talking to you about sautéed beet greens. Today I’m bringing you sautéed Swiss chard.
What can I say, I’m a one-trick pony when it comes to June vegetables.
Oily and wilty, warm and comforting, sautéed greens are a staple of American traditions, historically part of African American slave culture, Southern culture and immigrant culture for everyone from Italians to Hispanics.
While the name chard was originally a corruption of another French word, historically it’s been called everything from leaf beet and strawberry spinach to Roman kale, because it’s been considered so similar to these other greens.
To a Nashville girl in 2014, carrying home bags of local greens from my CSA dropoff this past Monday night, that makes sense: because the main thing I was thinking while I washed earth off plants, cooking some and storing the rest, wasn’t how I wanted to highlight lamb’s quarters over collards or how intricate the differences were between the two.
Instead it was the real and pressing need that all my greens have in common, namely this: I would need to find a way to cook and eat them all this week.
This year our vegetable CSA, CSA meaning community supported agriculture, or, essentially, a share of a particular farm’s produce, began in June. Every year it runs about through December, but the start date changes based on how the weather affects what grows, and this year it was a little later than last, so here in the initial weeks, things are still monochromatic.
We leave with bags that bear twenty shades of green. And while this past week we’ve had beet green chips (excellent!), potato and beet green hash, and, even in the sauna that is Nashville June, some pretty dreamy soup, we’ve also fallen back on the ever-beloved classic, the dish that reminds Tim of his childhood and me of old blog posts: sautéed greens.
From a health standpoint, cooking down greens is actually a benefit as opposed to eating them raw, crazy though it sounds, because it destroys the oxalic acid that can block calcium and iron absorption.
The fact is, some raw vegetables (such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli and kale) can actually negatively affect the thyroid when eaten raw—but when you cook them, especially in oil as you do with a sauté, that changes.
The oil locks in the flavor and nutrients.
So here’s the thing with sautéed greens, whether you’re talking about chard or beet greens or spinach or kale: When they are done right, they are so, so right. Oily and wilty, warm and comforting, sautéed greens are satisfying and nostalgic, and even if you didn’t grow up eating them, like I didn’t grow up eating them, they taste like home.
The problem is that when they’re done wrong, they are so, so wrong: limp and tasteless, swimming in a greenish liquid, the sort of mixture that makes people say things like they don’t like vegetables, no thanks. I realized, while writing this post, that I never order sautéed greens at restaurants anymore, which I don’t blame you for thinking is a pretentious thing to say.
But here is the reason: Once you’ve had one gloppy mess of greens and tried to force it down, you know you never want to do that again.
So here is how we sauté greens or, in this case, how we sautéed Swiss chard with onions and toasted walnuts and raisins:
You start by melting oil (ghee or coconut oil or butter are what we like best) in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add sliced onions, salt and pepper, reducing the heat and letting the onions soften and caramelize for about 15 minutes or so. Add nuts and raisins, toasting for 5 minutes. Add chard and a little more salt and some water.
The greens themselves cook pretty quickly, in 10 minutes or less, but the flavorful, aromatic addins add so much value to the dish, they’re worth the extra initial time. Once the greens are soft and wilted, you taste and adjust for salt and you’re done!Print
This recipe ups the flavor factor by combining the soupy chard with toasted nuts, sweet and chewy raisins and almost caramelized onions. It’s as good on its own as set on the table as a star side dish.
- 2 tablespoons ghee (or coconut oil or butter)
- 1/2 white or yellow onion, sliced (which will be about 1 to 1 ½ cups)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds (or other chopped nuts, such as walnuts)
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 8 cups chopped Swiss chard, ideally with stems removed before chopping into ribbons (or other green, like kale, spinach, etc.)
- 1/4 cup water
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt ghee. Add onions, 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and reduce heat to medium-low. Stir everything together, and cook until onions are soft and golden, about 15 minutes.
- Add almonds and raisins, stirring them into the onions and letting nuts toast and raisins plump a bit, about 5 minutes.
- Add chopped chard, remaining ½ teaspoon salt and water. It will look like way too much chopped greens for the pan when you plop them in there, but, don’t worry, greens wilt a ton. Gently, stir the greens into the onion mixture, trying not to spill them out of the pan, and within 10 minutes they should have fully wilted, shrunk in size and be ready to taste. At this point, simply taste and adjust for salt as you like. Serve warm.
8 cups of chopped greens is about one bunch, in case you don’t want to lug out your giant measuring cup to check (I wouldn’t). You don’t have to remove the stems, but personally I like the texture of the dish better without harder pieces mixed throughout.
Feel free to use a different nut instead of sliced almonds; the second time we made this I used half almonds and half walnuts because that’s what we had available at the time, and it worked great, too. It’s hard not to love toasted nuts alongside meaty caramelized onion, you know?
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.