CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — 3-Minute Swiss Chard

Just about everyone has heard or read about the health benefits of green, leafy vegetables such as kale. It’s true, there is plenty of evidence that eating kale, which has high levels of folate and more calcium — gram for gram, than milk — is beneficial to your health.

But kale isn’t the only healthy green around. Another that should be at the top of your shopping list when perusing the produce section of your local supermarket is Swiss chard.

Swiss chard is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A and vitamin C, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, vitamin E and iron. It also is a very good source of dietary fiber, choline, vitamin B2, calcium, vitamin B6, phosphorus and protein. Additionally, Swiss chard is a good source of pantothenic acid, zinc, vitamin B1, vitamin B3, folate and selenium

But perhaps Swiss chard’s biggest nutritional benefit is that it is loaded with phytochemicals and antioxidants, including anthocyanin — an anti-inflammatory compound that has been shown to offer protection from type 2 diabetes.

I’ve been growing Swiss chard — which belongs to the same family as beets and spinach and shares a similar taste profile — in my garden for several years. With a flavor that is bitter, pungent and slightly salty, it’s probably more suitable in salads in the mind of many. But cooked chard is another option.

That’s what I did with my first picking from the garden, complementing it with some Swiss cheese, garlic and olives. The dish, ready in less than five minutes, was phenomenal.

The chard was cooked in boiling water for just three minutes and then mixed in a bowl with the cheese, olives and garlic along with salt, pepper, olive oil, soy sauce and lemon juice. Cooking the chard in boiling water helps reduce the vegetable’s concentration of oxalic acid.

Swiss chard is available year-round. Its peak season runs from June through August, when it is at its best and in the greatest abundance at supermarkets.

When buying, choose chard that is held in a chilled display, since this will help to ensure that it has a crunchier texture and sweeter taste. Look for leaves that are vivid green in color and that do not display any browning or yellowing. The leaves should not be wilted nor should they have tiny holes. The stalks should look crisp and be unblemished.

Do not wash Swiss chard before storing. Exposure to water encourages spoilage. Place chard in a plastic storage bag and wrap the bag tightly around the chard, squeezing out as much of the air from the bag as possible. Place in refrigerator where it will keep fresh for up to five days. If you have large batches of chard, you can blanch and freeze it.

Combined with kale, Swiss chard gives me a great one-two punch in my goal of eating healthy.

3-Minute Swiss Chard
1 pound Swiss chard
1 medium clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
6 kalamata olives
½ cup Swiss or feta cheese
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Chop garlic and let sit for 5 minutes to bring out its health-promoting benefits
Use a 3-quart pot filled with water. Make sure water is at a rapid boil before adding Swiss chard.
Cut off tough, bottom leaves of chard stems. Add the chopped leaves to the boiling water. Do not cover. Cook for 3 minutes; begin timing as soon as you drop the chard into the boiling water.
Place cooked chard in colander and press out excess water. Transfer to a serving dish and toss with the remaining ingredients while it is still hot.
Using a knife and fork, cut the chard into small pieces for better flavor.

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