Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Superfood of the Week: Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard is quite possibly one of healthiest foods in the world. It's packed full of vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants all of which ward off diseases and health problems. Swiss Chard is also widely available in local stores and is relatively inexpensive and easy to cook with.

Swiss Chard is related to Spinach and Beets and originates from Sicily; it's a staple in the Mediterranean diet. Swiss Chard is considered a Superfood because of the variety and amount of vitamins, nutrients and antioxidant protection it provides. Chard offers high Vitamin C, E, K Magnesium & Calcium doses in each serving. The large amount of Vitamin C that Swiss Chard provides, boosts immune support. Vitamin E provides anti-inflammatory effects and helps protect tissue from oxidation damage. Vitamin E may also reduce the chances of developing heart problems. Vitamin K helps maintain bones and may protect against osteoporosis. The Beta-Carotene, Lutein and zeaxanthin found in chard help maintain eye health and may reduce the risks of cataracts. Swiss Chard is also loaded with fiber which can help reduce Cholesterol.

Swiss Chard is easy to find at any supermarket or Farmer's Market. It typically comes in three varieties - Rainbow Chard has red, pink, yellow or white stalks, Fordhook Giant has crinkly leaves and thick, tender white stalks and Ruby Red (or Rhubarb) which has thin, red stalks and a slightly stronger flavor. Always look for crisp, vibrant green leaves with no brown spots.

Swiss Chard is easy to prepare and tastes great as a side dish or main course. It can be steamed or sauteed with some olive oil and garlic. It's also great to use in place of lettuce or mixed in with other recipes. I've included two Swiss Chard recipes below.




Swiss Chard with Roasted Garlic


Ingredients:

Roasted Garlic:
10 large cloves garlic, halved
2 tablespoons extravirgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds Swiss chard, washed and dried
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped white onion
2 serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, cored and finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup water

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Make a double layer of aluminum foil about 6 x 6 inches square. Place the garlic in the center and bring up the sides a little to form a cup. Drizzle over the olive oil and add the oregano, salt, and pepper. Bring the sides all the way up and twist together to make a firm seal. Place in the oven and roast for 20 to 25 minutes. The garlic should be tender and golden but not dark brown. Open the top so the garlic will stop cooking and set aside. Remove the leaves from the stalks of chard, finely chop the stalks and roughly shred the leaves. Set aside.

In a large heavy skillet heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and chiles and stir for about 1 minute. Add the tomatos and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes, then add the chard ribs and leaves, salt, and water. Cover the pan and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, add the roasted garlic cloves, and increase the heat to high. Stirring occasionally, cook until the chard is tender but not watery, 8 to 10 minutes more. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.


Swiss Chard and Ricotta Stuffed Roasted Peppers

Ingredients:

4 large red bell peppers
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil, for rubbing the peppers
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish
4 cups diced eggplant
2 cups sliced onion
1 pound fresh Swiss chard, cleaned and roughly chopped
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs

For the Pesto:
1/2 pound fresh basil, leaves picked
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut out the stems from peppers and discard. Remove the seeds and clean out the white ribs. Season them inside with salt and pepper. Rub the outsides of the peppers with vegetable oil and place them, stem side down, onto a baking sheet. Bake them for 30 minutes, or until the skins are wrinkled and slightly charred. Remove the peppers from the oven and put them into a large bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let them steam until they are cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Peel the skin from the peppers, making sure to keep them whole, and set aside.

While the peppers are baking and steaming, make the pesto: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Have a bowl of ice water ready. When the water is boiling, add the basil leaves. After 5 seconds (yes, 5 seconds) remove the basil and immediately put it into the ice water. (This will keep the pesto green.) When it is cold, drain the basil and squeeze out any excess water. Put the basil into a food processor or blender and add the pine nuts, cheese, and garlic. Turn on the processor and slowly add the olive oil until the mixture is smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.
In a large skillet over high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Cook the eggplant until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the onions and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 10 minutes more. Transfer them to a cutting board, let them cool a bit, and chop them finely with a knife. Add 1 tablespoon butter to the same pan over medium-high heat. When it is melted, add the Swiss chard, cover the pan, and let the chard wilt for about 1 minute. Transfer the chard to a bowl. Add the vegetables, ricotta, 1 tablespoon of the pesto, and season with salt and pepper. Mix well, taste, and adjust the seasoning. Stuff this mixture into the peppers, being careful to keep them whole. Place them on their sides into a lightly buttered baking dish. Sprinkle each pepper evenly with bread crumbs and bake until the tops are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Serve immediately garnished with extra pesto.

Recipes Courtesy: FoodNetwork.com

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