We're beginning to be called "The Green House" now since the new paint job, but sometimes I think "Greens House" would be more apt. We have been swimming in collard greens since late fall and they seem to be at their peak! As much as I love them in the winter, I am getting a little tired of the work they bring - the stem removal, the chopping and storing and seasoning and cooking and cooking and cooking. Now that the weather has warmed up and the kitchen no longer a virtual refrigerator, the whole process has to take place as soon as the bucketfuls arrive (from generous farmers, from neighbors and friends). The kitchen has begun to feel like an emergency operating room with armfuls of collards being carried in regularly, laid out on the table, and prepared to go under the knife. Forgive my whining about the abundance of it all; they are still delicious and ridiculously healthy, make my kitchen smell like my grandma's and elicit all kinds of praise at the cafe; it's just collard-fatigue.
This weekend, hidden among the gift collards from the farmers market were three bunches of chard. Normally I would just chop these up and throw them in with the collards (cooking for the masses), but they seemed like just the right amount to prepare for the coffee-house (15 people), as opposed to the cafe (80), and something about their light green leaves and soft white stems just said "spring" to me. So I made up a batch. And, oh, they were good. They only needed a touch of seasoning compared to the collards (which I do all kinds of things to in an effort to hide from my southern friends the absence of neckbone or ham hocks). And they only took ten minutes to cook, stems and all! They were so tender, they practically melted in my mouth.
I am sure that by the time autumn rolls around again, I will be jumping up and down at the sight of collards and looking forward to warming up holiday tables and cold-weather cafes with their healthy goodness. But chard... it's a spring-time green. It's about time for chard.
2 tablespoons olive oil
a clove or two of garlic
1 bunch of freshly washed chard
a dash of salt
a sprinkle of dried hot pepper flakes (opt.)
Cut off only the very bottom of the chard stem, wash the rest thoroughly, roll and slice (as with collards). Sauté minced garlic in olive oil for just a minute -till barely starting to brown. Add freshly washed greens, still dripping with water. Turn heat down to medium low, cover, and steam. After about 5 minutes, check to make sure they still have a little water and add a few tablespoons if necessary, sprinkle with salt and red pepper flakes, stir around in the pan, then cover and steam for a few minutes more. One bunch of chard should serve about 4 people.