How to cook Swiss chard

I’m standing in line at the grocery store and the cashier starts ringing up my basket. He has to look up every single code on the produce, save bananas.

He’s young.

When he picks up the Swiss chard, he says, “what’s this?”

I tell him it’s spinach on steroids. A light bulb goes off in his head.

And then he asks me what I do with it. Cook it, I say. Oh, he says, followed by how?

Now, he’s maybe 16, so I know he’s not going to go home and cook a batch of Swiss chard, but I tell him anyway, just in case. I mean, I’d like to think that the young ones are interested in cooking.

The first thing I do is trim the stalks from the stems. You can cook the stems, if you like, but they need more cooking than the leaves, and I don’t like the texture, so I discard them (to the compost pile if you have one!)

Cutting the stem is like cutting a “V” from the leaf. Once the stems are removed, I fold the leaves in half, lengthwise and roll them up. Then I just chop them a few times.

Next, place them in a bowl and cover with cold water to rinse off any grit.

If the chard seems particularly dirty, give them another bath.  Swish around the chard with your hand and then let them rest, so any dirt will sink to the bottom of the bowl. Gently grab a few handfuls at a time and place them in a salad spinner basket.

What? You don’t have one? Why not? It was going to be No. 11 on my top ten list of best kitchen gadgets, but then it wouldn’t have been a top ten list.

I like the OXO salad spinner, with the hand pump on top. Let’s you get out a bit of aggression. They have two sizes, but the larger one is the most useful. I’ve given it as a gift to some of my favorite people.

I don’t like the brands that have a pull string to spin the basket. Maybe I’m too rough with it, but I usually end up ripping the darn string out. The pump style is much more durable for people like me.

Back to the chard, the reason it needs to be dry is because we’re going to saute it in a skillet with a little olive oil, maybe even a little garlic, but I’m getting ahead of myself here.

If it’s not dry, then the water droplets will hit the oil and make it splatter. Messy.

Now, this pan looks ridiculously full. It is. And that’s only about 2/3’s of the batch. Pour about a tablespoon (or teaspoon if you’re using a non stick pan and watching your girlish figure) into a pan and heat over medium heat. Add as much Swiss chard as you can fit, and it’s OK if it mounds up higher than a kite.

Let it cook a couple minutes, then with tongs, gently start to turn the chard, pulling the leaves on the bottom up to the top. Soon, right before your very eyes, it will shrink. (And darken to an very unattractive shade of green, which is why I usually hide it underneath the rest of the meal.) As the chard wilts, add any extra that didn’t fit in the pan.

Once it is all wilted, you can add some minced garlic and cook that in with the chard for flavor. Minced shallots, too, if you’re feeling frisky.

It only takes about 7 to 8 minutes to fully cook. You know it’s done when you taste it and it’s tender but not mushy. Season with salt and pepper and call it a day.

I debated long and hard about whether or not to include this last picture. Cooked, chard isn’t really all that attractive (hence, the hiding underneath, say beautiful sweet potatoes, or a saffron scented rice pilaf, for example).

Swiss chard is in season now and it’s so good for you – full of those antioxidants the experts say we need (vitamins A, C and E) – plus a ton of vitamin K (good for blood clotting and bruise-healing) and a bunch of B vitamins to boot.

Despite the health benefits, I think it really tastes good.

Like spinach, on steroids, only better.

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9 Comments

Filed under Book & Product Reviews, Recipes

9 responses to “How to cook Swiss chard

  1. Linda

    Thanks so much for the info. I planted swiss chard in my herb garden because of its beauty. I didn’t know it was edible, too! I can’t wait to try your recipe. I love sauteed spinach with a drizzle of lime on top once it is cooked.

  2. I hope you didn’t torcher that poor kid by telling him all that.

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  5. Joreatha

    I knew I had eaten swiss chard as a child when my siblings and I spent summers in Poughkeepsie, NY. My grandmother cooked it with greens, a mixture of collard, turnip, mustard, and dandelion. Because I thought the swiss chard was just another green I simply strayed away from it. I must have 30 plus cook books, not one of them I learned explained how to cook it. I’m going to try it this time your way, next time with other greens. As with the dandelion greens it has to be added the last 5 or 6 mins before the cooking stops that much I do remember. lol

    • Well as I promised I’m back to tell you what happen with the Swiss Chard. I prepared it as instructed except I added onion powder, course ground pepper, and sea salt to taste. It was w/o a doubt screaming..I’ll be eating it more often.

      Thanks again.

      • Joreatha! I’m so late in getting back to you but thanks for coming back. I love a gal who stands by her promises!

        I love the addition of onion powder. Smart thinking! Glad it turned out well for you.

  6. Simone

    I think you should’ve added the picture I think that look delicious. I do love spinich and on some occasions my mom put swiss chard in things I just never learned how to fix it (too busy talking and playing with dolls). Now that I am an adult I would like to make it. I have some from a friends garden and I will use your instructions.

    thanks

    • Simone… hi! Thanks for stopping by. Glad you think the picture looks good, but have to say I still think it looks dull-army-green boring, ha!

      Swiss chard and spinach can be used interchangeably. So your mom was trying to pack in some extra nutrition. Smart lady!

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