Photographs by Meadow Linn

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Keep it Simple!

Sautéed Rainbow Chard
Rainbow chard is such a pretty plant
While tapping on his thighs with cupped palms, my high school math teacher would ask, "Do you hear that? What's that sound?" Forgetting that he did this every time we got stuck on a problem, we would usually respond with something resembling, "Uhh...I don't know." He would say, "That's the sound of galloping horses. Think 'horses' not 'zebras.'" This was his way of telling us that we needed to simplify, to come up with the obvious or less-involved response. I both appreciated the reminder to simplify and at the same time--I was a teenager after all--thought the hoof beats were kind of silly; however, not many years later when I was teaching high school French, I would occasionally catch myself repeating Dr. Miller's horse/zebra analogy.

For some reason, as humans, we frequently give preference to what is complicated or elaborate when often simple is better. This is can be true in cooking as well. Have you ever been to an expensive restaurant sought after for its inventiveness and though the food on your plate was very pretty, it lacked taste? Or have you ever had a meal made from many ingredients that when combined together were not the sum of their parts and made you wish you'd stayed home and grilled a steak or made a stirfry with the fresh vegetables sitting in your fridge?

Here I am enjoying harvesting in the garde
Good food does not have to be fancy, elaborate, or even expensive. The key to eating well is using quality ingredients. I've always felt that the better the ingredient, the fewer needed. With summer in full swing, my garden has been pumping out massive amounts of vegetables of which my current favorite is rainbow chard. I've been eating sautéed rainbow chard for dinner nearly every night and with each mouthful, I'm more and more in love with this fabulous green. Rainbow chard has to be one of the most naturally beautiful vegetables in the world. For those who are not familiar with chard, it's a leafy green with a colored stalk and a large green leaf protruding from that stalk. It's eaten much like spinach. The fabulous thing about rainbow chard is that, as the name implies, it comes in a spectrum of vibrant colors: red, neon pink, orange, yellow, green, and white.

Following Dr. Miller's advice, I have chosen to use a simple preparation for the chard to take advantage of its naturally delicious flavor, which is earthy, sweet, and even a bit salty. Plus, in the "dog days of summer" who wants to spend hours in a hot kitchen?! Opt for the simple, elegant, and healthful option, and add chard to your summer repertoire. Even if you have sworn all leafy greens as your arch enemy, I encourage you to seek out chard (of any color or variety) at your local supermarket, natural food store, or farmer's market and give it a try. It's rich in vitamins C, E, and K, carotenes, potassium, iron, and fiber, all of which will lead to us living healthy and happy lives. It tastes great too! Chard is in season now and at the peak of freshness. Look for perky leaves and bright colors to ensure you're getting the freshest, tastiest, and most vitamin and mineral rich chard available.

Cook the chard hot and fast with a bit of olive oil and garlic
Keep It Simple!
Sauteed Rainbow Chard

This is the base recipe, but it can be jazzed up with a dash of red pepper flakes, a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, a handful of crumbled bacon, or a even a fried egg on top. See below for more variations and suggestions of ways to eat this delicious green.

•1 bunch of chard any color,
  leaves and stalks rinsed and chopped
•2-5 cloves of garlic, sliced
•olive oil

In a large sauté pan, add one or two tablespoons of olive oil (enough to just barely coat the bottom of the pan) and heat on medium or medium-high until hot (be careful not to burn the oil!). Add the chard (it's okay if it's still damp as the moisture will actually help it steam as it cooks). Toss the garlic slices in and stir frequently. The goal is to cook the chard hot and fast, without burning the oil, the chard, or the garlic (burnt garlic is terrible!). Adjust the temperature as needed. As soon as the greens are tender, remove from the heat and enjoy.

Serve as a side dish to meat, chicken, or fish.

As a vegetarian option, sauté the chard in butter and top with a fried or poached egg. This is a delicious combination that you'll wish you'd discovered years ago.

Or instead of olive oil, use a dash of toasted sesame oil blended with peanut oil. When the chard is tender, mix in some soy sauce and serve with sesame seeds over a bowl of steaming rice.

 Toss the sauteed chard and garlic with pasta and add a generous sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan cheese for a delicious and healthy meal!

There are so many tasty ways to enjoy this remarkably versatile vegetable! Bon Appétit!


  1. The 1st recipe is how we like our collards. The rest I would never have thought of - so creative. I'm interested to try the egg one. How does the taste of chard compare with collards?

  2. aaaaaah..... LOVE simplicity and LOVE that pic of you!