I’ve often wondered why the term “Swiss Chard” was used for a plant that originated in the Mediterranean basin and not in Switzerland.
Wikipedia gives this explanation “The word “Swiss” was used to distinguish chard from French spinach varieties by 19th century seed catalog publishers” – yet this still doesn’t explain why “Swiss” was chosen and not, say “Greek”… Who knows, maybe the catalog publishers were Swiss…
However, be it Swiss or not, Swiss chard is worth getting familiar with, and not only because of its’ highly nutritional values. Though similar in its’ uses to spinach, the chard leaves are firmer and have a more pronounced flavor, which make them much more suitable for bakes than spinach.
Most people discard the stems of the Swiss chard, and that is a real shame, as they are great on their own right. They can be sautéed gently with some butter or olive oil, salt and black pepper and added to scrambled eggs. They can be chopped and added to vegetable soups, gratins and bakes, or, as shown in the second recipe here, they can be the main ingredient of a delicious cooked salad, inspired by the Moroccan cuisine.
Individual Cheesy Swiss Chard Bakes
Makes: 18 x 2 ½” (6.35 cm) baking cups
Prep time: 30 minutes
Baking time: 40 minutes
2 large Swiss chard bunches, washed, stems removed (keep stems for salad)
1 ½ cups Ricotta cheese
½ cup crumbled Feta cheese
1 cup fresh Mozzarella cheese, grated
2 Tbs Parmesan cheese, finely grated
½ cup bread crumbs
4 Mexican scallions* or 6 regular scallions, chopped
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly grated black pepper
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated (additional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C). Line a sheet pan or a muffin pan with 18 baking cups. Wash the Swiss chard thoroughly.
Remove the stems. Roughly cut the wet leaves and place in a medium pot. Sprinkle a bit of salt and cover. Steam on medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until the chard softens and the liquids evaporate. Let cool to room temperature.
2. With a sharp knife, chop the chard coarsely and place in a bowl. You will end up with about 2 cups of steamed chopped chard.
3. Add all the rest of ingredients and mix. Taste and adjust seasoning.
4. Divide the mixture between the baking cups. Sprinkle 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese on top. Bake for 40 minutes, until the top is golden. Serve warm.
Serve as an appetizer, a light lunch or at a buffet party. The bakes are at their best when fresh out of the oven, however, they can be frozen, in an airtight container, for up to 3 weeks.
* Mexican scallions are bigger than the regular scallions and have a more pronounced onion flavor. I’ve learned about them from THIS lovely blog.
Spicy Swiss Chard Stems Cooked Salad
This salad is best served cold. It is great with grilled meats, on yogurt cheese, or in sandwiches. It will keep, in airtight container in the fridge, for up to 2 weeks.
Makes: 3 cups
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
4 cups Swiss chard Stems, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp cayenne, or to taste
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp salt
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs olive oil
1 cup water
1. Place all the ingredients in a wide pot, mix and bring to a boil on high heat.
2. Turn heat to medium-low and cook, mixing occasionally, for about 20 minutes, until most of the liquids evaporated and the stems are cooked, but still keep their shape. Chill and serve cold.