Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A char(me)d life.

Okay, it’s a bad pun, but chard is actually pretty terrific. According to The Local Foods Wheel, chard is in season all year long in the SF Bay Area. One cup of chard provides 374% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin K, 44% of A, and 18% of C along with a few percent each of many other important vitamins and minerals and some protein and fiber. Amazingly, all this goodness is packed into only 7 calories!

I will admit I didn’t even know what chard was the first time I saw it at a farmers market. It looked kind of like a cross between romaine lettuce and bok choy. Some have red stalks, others green, or even white. I’m not sure the differences between varieties, but they are all yummy! Chard is easy to prepare. You can toss some into soups and stews or make a simple sauté of chard, garlic, and olive oil. We have mixed sautéed chard with quinoa (a terrific grain), tomatoes, and feta cheese for a nutritious side dish or lunch. My absolute favorite chard recipe is for chard chips. They are easy to make in the oven and have a smoky, almost meaty, flavor with just enough crunch. I can easily eat a whole bowl of chard chips, and they go great with (ethical) burgers or fajitas.

We took such a liking to chard that we decided to grow some on our front patio. We have only a tiny space, but these plants took up very little room and have been providing a steady supply of chard for the past month or so. Recently, I harvested some of our chard to make chard chips, and I decided to share the recipe (complete with pics!) with all of you. Enjoy!

How to make chard chips:

0. Pick up some chard (or kale) from your local farmers market. Here's what the separated and cleaned leaves look like:

1. Preheat oven to 425°.
2. Separate leafy bits from stems and discard stems (extra points if you compost them).

3. Toss leaves in olive oil, sea salt, and ground black pepper to taste. I also like to add a pinch of cayenne pepper or paprika for an extra kick. I used a teaspoon of olive oil for the all of the chard in these photos.

Tip: My favorite method for tossing is to put everything in a big Tupperware container, close it, and shake it up while dancing around the kitchen. I think it tastes better this way, but I guess you can choose your own favorite method.

4. Spread out leaves on a non-stick cookie sheet, and bake for about 5 minutes or until the chard is just beginning to brown. Chard releases a lot of moisture as it cooks so you may want to turn on the exhaust fan, if you have one, or leave a window open.

Tip: I try to place all my chard with the shiny side up. It’s then a lot easier to keep track of which leaves I have turned over (see next step).

5. Remove from oven, turn chard leaves over, and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until they look like this:

6. Eat 'em up!

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