When you're feeling blue, or maybe a little green, whether behind the ears or with envy, it's time to broaden your palette and brighten your palate with some rainbow chard. The mute beauty of this Beta vulgaris, relative of the beet, will take you away from the world of ugly feelings and into the meditative pleasures of cooking as finger painting.
The other night, I adapted two chard recipes from our dear friend Alice to make the most of my patiently wilting bunch from Tomatero Organic Growers (whom I seem to be getting almost everything from lately).
The first recipe was sautéed chard with lemon. I folded the leaves in half lengthwise around the stems and detached them, separating leaves and stems into two bright piles. Then I chopped the leaves into a "rough chiffonade." This, I sautéed in olive oil with a pinch of salt and generous squeezes of lemon until they wilted down. I also threw in some sun gold cherry tomatoes from Tomatero and a cupful of pomegranate seeds, though next time I would toss the seeds in at the very end so as not to lose too much flavor in the heat.
The second recipe was a chard stem gratin. I chopped the stems into one-inch segments and forgot to parboil them (aka drop them briefly in boiling water) to soften them up but they still turned out tender enough. Next, I lay the fruity cuties down on top of a bit of olive oil in what I think of as my pie dish, now magically transformed into a gratin dish, as it were, and mixed in some bread crumbs, more sun gold tomatoes sliced in half, and some choice dollops of plain yogurt. The yogurt found its way in because I had run out of milk and my roommate had none that I could filch. The recipe calls for cream or bechamel sauce, but it was a weeknight and I couldn't be bothered with gourmet pride. The yogurt addition seemed all right, maybe a little weird, but not necessarily in a bad way. Below left is before broiling, and below right is after about 10 minutes under the broiler.
When both chard dishes were ready and the rice cooker button had popped up with a cheery click, I lay the dark lemony-bitter chard side by side with the tart yogurt-bready stems and rounded them out with brown rice cooked with raisins and parsley. The rainbow tasted bitter, sour, salty, and sweet.