Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Rainbow Chard

Rainbow Chard has got to be one of the most intriguing vegetables around. Buy just one bunch of it and you'll get giant chard leaves with ribs that could be white, red, yellow, green, or pink. Even the standard white Swiss Chard is beautiful. Here are some leaves from the bunch of Rainbow Chard I prepared last night:

Chard leaves are big and fleshy, with a similar but more robust flavor than spinach. A member of the beet family, chard is also known as sea kale and spinach beet.

Chard provides mad amounts of vitamin K - over 306% of the RDA - in just one cup. It's an excellent source of vitamin A because it has beta-carotene. It also delivers, among other nutrients, lots of vitamin C, magnesium, and iron. All that with only 35 calories per cup.

When you buy chard, look for fresh, bright green leaves. Avoid any bunches with withered leaves or floppy stems. Chard keeps better than spinach, but you should really only buy it a few days before you plan on eating it. When you get it home from the store, or harvest it from your garden, wrap it loosely in plastic and keep it in the fridge.

To prepare chard wash it well, ensuring you tend to the curves of the ribs and ruffles of the leaves. Cut the ribs away from the leaves as the ribs take longer to cook. Slice the ribs as shown below:

Isn't that gorgeous? It's like veggie confetti.

Chard can be steamed, sautéed, or braised. However you cook it, begin with the ribs and add the leaves a minute or two later. It's done when it becomes wilted and tender. You can even blanch the leaves and use them to wrap little packets of rice, quinoa, lentils, couscous, beans, or some other tasty morsels.

Chard is comparable in taste with spinach and rhubarb, but it has a decidedly sweet flavor. I know that sounds strange, you'll just have to try it. Trust me. It's yummy. If you've never eaten it, please, get adventurous and get your chard on!

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