Friday, June 25, 2010

Rainbow Chard Saute

My household is undergoing a financial experiment.  Hypothesis: How long can we go without buying groceries?  (We got back from our trip to Nebraska on June 8th, and aside from a minor slip up to buy butter and maple syrup when Kent surprised me with a pancake dinner, we've not bought any food since.)  This is partly frugal necessity, and partly foodie challenge.  Although I'll spare you the details, let's suffice it to say we've had a lot of expenses this first part of the summer. Plus I've had a 6 week gap in paychecks due to the early end of spring term teaching and the late start of summer term teaching.  We are broke.

However, on the bright side, I look at this experiment as a fun cooking challenge.  We will hardly be going hungry.  I collect pantry items like most 3rd graders collect Silly Bandz, and I have a freezer stocked with produce from last year's garden.  Add to that a garden that's just coming into harvest season, an already paid for weekly CSA subscription, and four feathered egg-makers in the backyard, and I have a lot of ingredients to work with without needing to grab a shopping cart.

I see this as a chance to be creative, to improvise for ingredients I don't have on hand, and to find new ways to cook what I do have.  Which is why I've been cracking open The Flavor Bible frequently.  The Flavor Bible is a reference book for anyone who wants to abandon cooking with recipes or wants to make up their own recipes.  Working with what you have, instead of rushing out to buy a long list of ingredients from a fancy new recipe can save anyone money.

The Flavor Bible reminds me of a thesaurus.  You look up an ingredient and under that ingredient's listing, there is a list of other ingredients that play well with it.  So when I looked up Chard here were some of the listings: garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, raisins,  balsamic vinegar, red wine, eggs, pasta, polenta, red pepper flakes, Parmesan, and so on.  The most challenging thing about using The Flavor Bible is that you must show some restraint--trying to create a dish that has too many flavor pairings could be disastrous.

For me, the dish that follows is a classic and easy way to work a bunch of Swiss Chard.  Keep in mind that it is flexible.  I used pine nuts and currants just because I happened to have some in the pantry.  You could easily omit them, or use raisins instead of currants.  Also, it would be fine to riff on this dish, adding a fried egg would be splendid or a heavy grating of Parmesan.

Rainbow Chard Saute

1 large bunch rainbow chard
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. olive oil

1/4 cup currants (or raisins)
splash of balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Separate chard stems from leaves.  Finely chop the stems, and coarsely chop the leaves.  Heat olive oil in saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add chard stems and cook for 5 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently.  Add garlic and saute for one minute more.  Add chard and cook until completely wilted.  Remove from heat.  Add a small splash of balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle with pine nuts before serving.

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