by Caroline

This recipe, from Mark Bittman’s indispensable How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, is my new favorite way to eat chard; the only flaw in the recipe as he writes it, I think, is that he calls it simply “Chard with Oranges and Shallots.” Why, when you have the chance to use one of the most appealing food words in the English language, would you skip it? But Bittman is a busy guy with a thousand recipes to cover, so I can understand why he skips the adjective. Not me, though. The shallots and orange are caramelized here, and that adds greatly to the appeal of the dish (if you really don’t think you’ll like the chewy bits of peel, then by all means, peel the fruit before you add it, but I think it adds a nice contrast to the tender chard leaves).

This would make a great side dish, of course, but I’ve been eating it all week on a bed of Trader Joe’s harvest grains, a pilaf you can recreate yourself with Israeli couscous and lentils or split peas. Sprinkle with toasted almonds and maybe add a drizzle of yogurt, and you’ve got yourself a terrific lunch.

1 lb chard
2 T olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 T sugar
1 small, unpeeled orange or tangerine, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 T sherry vinegar
salt & ground pepper

Strip the chard leaves from the stems. Cut the leaves into wide ribbons — the quickest way to do this is to stack a number of leaves, roll them up into a cylinder and then slice the cylinder. Then, keeping the stems separate, slice them into bite-sized pieces.

Pour the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the shallots and sugar and cook for a minute, then add the orange or tangerine bits and lower the heat to low. Cook, stirring frequently, until everything is caramelized, about 10 minutes. Stir in the vinegar. It looked so beautiful at this stage, and smelled so fabulous, that I paused to take a picture:

Raise the heat to medium and stir in the chard stems. Cook, stirring once or twice, until they soften a bit, just a couple minutes. Add the chard ribbons, cover the pan and turn off the heat. Let the chard steam for a few minutes, then stir and recover the pan for another 2-3 minutes. I didn’t really believe this would be enough time or heat to cook the chard, but it absolutely is — the chard turns out beautifully tender.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve right away, or within an hour or two at room temperature.