Aromatic Baked Chard

or how to tame the greens in a delicious every day side dish

Is it Spring yet?  Is it?  Is it?!  Well the calendar may say it is but the frost, ice, and slush around here disagree.    I'm going to side with the calendar on this one, mostly because I can not curb my craving for fresh vegetables and that is most assuredly a sign that Spring is coming - I'm counting the days until our local Farmers' Market opens (36 to be exact).  Since local produce is a rarity in the cold weather I find myself scouring the grocery stores for what at least appears to be the freshest produce that they have, this currently leads me to leafy greens and asparagus.  My love for asparagus is strong, but it's uses are not terribly unique so I thought I'd share with you a recent experiment in Swiss Chard (along with my longing for Spring).

In my entry in January titled "Taking a Step Back" I included a short and simple chard saute that I really enjoy and make on a pretty regular basis in the Summer months.  Unfortunately my husband's passion for chard (if you can call his acceptance of it that) does not match my own so I wanted to find a recipe that would make the sharp, distinctive taste of Swiss Chard a bit milder for the hesitant greens eaters out there.  The benefits of dark leafy greens includes everything from physical to mental health, and certainly helps boost the feelings of freshness that the Summer months bring to our neck of the woods.  I actually made this as a snack one night, and even though my husband was hesitant to dive into a bowl of Swiss Chard at ten o'clock at night he did give it a definite thumbs up so here we are now.  This would be delicious alongside heavier dishes like red meat since its flavor will hold up well, but it could just as easily saddle up alongside some grilled chicken if the grill ever defrosts... Since chard cooks down a lot it makes about 2-4 servings, depending on size, so you may want to double it for a family meal.  Check it out:

½ bunch of Swiss or Rainbow chard
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp pepper
Dash of nutmeg
¼ cup heavy cream
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp Italian bread crumbs

Hardware: small square baking dish

Preheat oven to 400 F

1. Slice swiss chard lengthwise once down the middle (stem) once and then into 1” strips.  Toss with olive oil, garlic, and spices in a small baking dish.  Bake for 25 min

2. Remove and toss to incorporate again.  Add heavy cream and parmesan cheese and toss to coat.  Top evenly with bread crumbs.  Return to oven for 5 min to heat throughout and slightly brown the top.

So simple, delicious, and fresh. Just what the doctor ordered for Spring fever! The cream doesn't make it very heavy, it sort of acts as a binding force with the cheese and bread crumbs. I suppose it is kind of reminiscent of creamed spinach in concept, but believe me - it is far from the soupy greens you may expect. The flavor is definitely there, which is evident by the aromas filling the house even before your first bite, and the soft textures of the creamy cheese with the crispiness of the bread crumb topped leaves really brings it home. So step into Spring with me and give this delightful green a place on your kitchen table. Enjoy!

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