March in the Kitchen – Swiss Chard with Pickled Stems

March in the Kitchen – Swiss Chard with Pickled Stems

Not wasting any part of a vegetable would not have been a new idea for many of our parents or grandparents. It was simply considered good household management. My mother kept an empty milk carton in the freezer, in would go all the vegetable trimmings and any leftover bones. When it was full, she made stock or soup. She even used leftover salad, the next day it was popped into the blender with a can of cream-of-something soup, pureed, heated with a can of milk, and served to my dad for lunch. He thought it was delicious.

Today the hottest current trend in restaurant circles is using all parts of a vegetable (or animal). Sound familiar? Everything comes around again if you wait long enough. I am in full agreement with this new idea. Especially when it’s been grown in my garden from a seed. I’ve nurtured it from babyhood and I want to savor every part.

At the moment my garden is gifting me with armfulls of chard in many colors.

Rainbow Chard

Rainbow Chard

Can’t you just see the vitamins?

One of the most creative books on preserving in my cookbook library is “THE PRESERVATION KITCHEN The Craft of Making and Cooking with Pickles, Preserves, and Aigre-doux” by Paul Virant. On the fly-leaf of the book Alice Waters writes “In order to cook economically and deliciously all year round, it is essential to learn the art of preservation. This beautiful book inspires us to take the time to capture the flavors and textures of each harvest.” Amen.

Chard stems

Chard stems

Chard stems are rather forgettable when raw but are dynamic when pickled. They provide a sharp contrast to the chard leaves. This is a quick pickle, you can use it almost immediately after it is made although I find it lasts for at least a week in the fridge and you can certainly make it ahead.

Swiss Chard with Pickled Stems

  • 1/2 cup champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1-1/2 pounds of Swiss chard
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  1. In a saucepan large enough to hold the stems and pickling liquid, bring the vinegar, water, shallot, honey and salt to a simmer until the honey and salt have dissolved.
  2. Strip the leaves from the chard stems and cut off any tough ends. Dice the stems into 1/4 inch pieces.
  3. Add the stems to the pot. (If the brine doesn’t cover the stems it’s ok, they will soften in the brine.)
  4. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the stems cool in the liquid. If not using immediately, transfer to a bowl or jar and chill.
Pickled chard stems

Chard Stems in Pickling Liquid

When you are ready to cook the chard

  1. Roughly chop the chard leaves
  2. In a large pot over high heat, warm the olive oil. Stir in the leaves and a pinch of salt and saute until they begin to wilt.
  3. Using a slotted spoon, add the pickled stems to the pot, then spoon in half the pickling liquid. Cook until the chard leaves are soft and most of the liquid has evaporated.
  4. Taste, add more pickling liquid if you like a sharper taste. Salt if needed.
    chard leaves

    Chopped chard leaves

    pickled chard stems

    Pickled chard stems

    I don’t have a picture of the finished dish because it was eaten too quickly. Gone, inhaled. Try this one, I think you will like it. Any leftover pickled stems can be used as a garnish for scrambled eggs or added to a salad.