Comfort Food

Comfort Food

Rainbow Chard

I’ve written many times that if my dad didn’t like a certain vegetable, it didn’t grow in his gardens! Swiss chard certainly was on that list! It was not on the tables of my childhood! My German grandfather probably grew it. He grew spinach for Grandma, who loved to keep ‘stewing’ in the deep Dutch oven in her stove. 

Swiss Chard, especially Rainbow Chard, is really popular right now. It hasn’t always been popular in American cuisine, however. Chard has been named many things. Silverbeet, Leafbeet, Strawberry Spinach, Roman Kale are among those names. As a result, the history of Chard is difficult to trace, but it is believed to have originated in a wild version in the Mediterranean, specifically on the island of Sicily. Chard was first described in 1753 by Carl von Linné, a Swedish botanist, zoologist and physician. Carl von Linné spent years classifying and naming plants and it was he who added “Swiss” to the name of chard, in an effort to differentiate it from French Spinach. Prior to that time, chard was listed as Leaf Beet in the 1484-page History of Plants, published in 1597 by English botanist, John Gerard.

Food historians identify Silverbeet as having been prominent in household gardens in England and in America by the 1830s. In 1829, Baltimore physician and entomologist Gideon Smith, wrote of receiving Silverbeet seeds from England. Prior to the Civil War, horticulturist Robert Buist promoted the vegetable in Philadelphia. As a result of his promotions, it became popular in various eastern cities. After the Civil War, it became widely cultivated although still a “specialty” plant.

During the late 1800s, chefs prepared Swiss Chard by separating the rib from the leaves. They prepared the stem/rib like they prepared asparagus. The leaves were used just like spinach but were generally available in the summer months after spinach and kale had died out. Chard refoliates, so gardeners could have as long as a six month growing season. In my little bit of research, I found a few recipes for Chard in Civil War era cookbooks. My favorite was the combination of Corn Pone and Chard. The chard was prepared with “fat back”, which to some is a delicacy and to others is scrap meat! The chard leaves and stems were cooked in a broth created by browning the fat back.

In my favorite vintage era, Swiss Chard was cooked the same way it was cooked in the late 1800s! The long stems were separated from the leaves and the author noted that you could have two vegetables for two meals if you did that. The stems were braised then simmered and served with a cheese sauce. The leaves, if tender, were served raw as a salad. Otherwise, the leaves were prepared like cooked spinach.

I want to encourage you to grill Swiss Chard. The flavor is a little bit sweet, a little bit smokey and a little bit savory. It is so easy to do, and you can throw it on the grill each time you cook. I think it goes with everything! I’m also sharing a couple other recipes from the last time I prepared it this way.

Grilled Rainbow Chard 

Clean the chard by removing about a half inch of the bottom of the stem. Wash the leaves, then pat dry them with paper towels. Stack the leaves on paper towels until you are ready to grill them. Use a spray bottle of olive oil and spritz each leaf with oil. Add salt, pepper and a little garlic powder to each leaf. Place them on the grill over low to medium heat, oiled side against the grill. Let the oil cause a little smoke, then turn the leaves and continue to grill. Serve with vinegar and parmesan cheese. You can also serve with balsamic glaze.

Grilled Lemon Chicken 

6-8 pieces of chicken
¼ cup of olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic paste
1 cup lemon juice from 5 lemons
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

Mix the olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and herbs and let this stand for a couple hours so the flavors meld.

Begin grilling the chicken pieces over medium high heat but be ready to move it to a cooler part of the grill in the event of flare-ups. You don’t want burned chicken, but a little smoky flare is a good thing! Grill the chicken for about 15 minutes for legs and wings and 20 minutes for breasts and thighs, turning at least 4 times during the cooking process. Keep the grill lid on during the cooking time. Remove the chicken pieces to a shallow pan and pour the olive oil lemon juice combination over the meat. Turn the chicken pieces so that the entire surface is exposed to the sauce. Return the chicken pieces to the grill but place it over low heat and let it cook for another 5 – 10 minutes, basting a few times with the remaining oil. Chicken breasts should be cooked to 165 degrees and thighs to 170 degrees. If you are using boneless chicken pieces, it will take a little less time and if you have extra-large bone-in pieces, it might take more time.

Warm French Potato Salad 

My mom came from a long line of German cooks, but I don’t remember her ever having made warm German potato salad! She sure liked it when I made it, though. One of my blogging friends recently emailed this recipe to me and I’m pretty sure that the only reason “French” is in the title is because of the inclusion of Dijon mustard in the recipe. However, this combination of herbs is frequently referred to as French fine herbs. It is good cold, but it is better warm and those little fingerling potatoes make better still!

2 pounds small fingerling potatoes
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic paste
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
¼ cup olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 Tablespoon minced fresh chervil leaves
1 Tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
1 Tablespoon minced fresh chives
1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon leaves

Boil the potatoes in 2 quarts of water for 8 - 10 minutes, until the tip of a knife can be easily inserted. Immediately pour the potatoes in a colander, draining them well, but reserve a cup of the boiling liquid. Cut each potato lengthwise in half and place them flesh side up in a shallow pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix the reserved water with the olive oil, vinegar, mustard and garlic paste together and drizzle it over the potatoes. Let them stand for about 10 minutes, so the dressing soaks in a little. Then top them with shallot and herbs and toss them gently. Serve them warm or at room temperature. Set them in a warm oven to reheat or put them in a BBQ grill safe pan and place them on the hot grill to reheat.

This post is a part of my 2020 Vintage Vegetables project. I’ll also be sharing it on a couple blog parties, so make sure you check my side bar for that list. Click through for more partiers!

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