Stir-Fried Swiss Chard with Pine Nuts and Balsamic Butter Recipe
Stir-Fried Swiss Chard

Swiss chard may not be as appreciated as spinach, which is a shame. My first introduction to cooking with Swiss chard was substituting it for spinach in a soup; since then I have cooked with it like spinach. I find it has a milder and sweeter flavor than other greens. I'll tuck it into a baked pasta casserole, saute it, stir-fry it or braise it with equally delicious results. You need to remember that, like spinach and other greens, chard exudes a lot of liquid, so it's always good to serve it in a bowl.

You can find Swiss chard in a rainbow of colors -- white, red, yellow and even pink. The stems are a different color than the green leaves. Many recipes call just for the leaves and discard the stems. Not only do the stems add an additional layer of texture, but also the stems offer up a colorful punch to the leafy greens. It's best to cook them separately, after thinly slicing them, and adding them back to the greens just before serving.

Here's a recipe sure to spice up any menu from author Susie Middleton's book "Fast, Fresh & Green." She prefers to quickly stir-fry chard with a nutty balsamic butter. Serve this as a side dish to simple grilled or roasted meats, chicken or fish, or serve it as a main course vegetarian dish on top of soft polenta, a grain pilaf or pasta.

Stir-Fried Swiss Chard with Pine Nuts & Balsamic Butter

From "Fast, Fresh & Green," by Susie Middleton

Serves 2 to 3

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon dark brown sugar

12 ounces Swiss chard (you can buy it packaged and cleaned or just rinse well to remove any grit before cooking)

1 tablespoon peanut oil

3 tablespoon pine nuts

Kosher salt

2 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1. In a small bowl, combine the balsamic vinegar, soy sauce and dark brown sugar.

2. Pull or cut the stems away from the chard leaves. Cut or rip the leaves into 2- to 3-inch pieces and wash and dry them well. Rinse the steams and slice them crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces.

3. Heat the peanut oil in a large (12-inch) nonstick stir-fry pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot (it will loosen and spread out), add the pine nuts and cook, stirring almost constantly, until they're all lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Watch carefully, because they brown quickly. Remove the pan off the heat and use a slotted spoon or spatula to transfer the pine nuts to a heatproof plate or pan, leaving behind as much fat as possible.

4. Return the pan to the heat, add the chard stems and a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until shrunken and beginning to brown lightly, about 5 minutes. (They will begin to crackle in the pan as moisture evaporates.) Add the garlic and stir-fry just until fragrant, a few seconds. Add all of the chard leaves and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and, using tongs, toss the chard leaves in the pan just until wilted (30 to 45 seconds). Scrape the balsamic mixture into the pan, stir, and remove the pan from the heat. Add the butter and toss and stir until it's melted. Fold in half of the pine nuts. Transfer the chard (including all the stems and liquid) to a small serving bowl and garnish with the remaining pine nuts.

Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks (click here), including "Seriously Simple Holidays: Recipes and Ideas to Celebrate the Season," and also a James Beard award-winning radio show host.

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