It’s summer. Finally. It feels a little like we’ve been waiting forever, not just for some sunshine but for the foods that come along with the warm weather.
Lee: As a kid, I absolutely hated Swiss chard. Truly and thoroughly. There was an unfortunate incident that involved watching Beetlejuice and eating chard and…Let’s leave it at that. But, once a little time went by (oh, at least 12 years or so), I tried it again. And it’s delicious. Especially, rainbow chard. It could be my imagination, but it seems to be more tender and more mildly flavored than the straight-up green variety. Whether or not that’s true, it’s certainly gorgeous.
Scapes are another one of those amazing summer gifts that are only around for a short period. They’re the weird, curly curly cartoon-like tails that grow out of garlic bulbs. And they’re incredibly delicious: less sharp than garlic cloves (though I love the taste of raw garlic and often put 4 or 5 in a bowl of pasta if I’m just cooking for myself) but with a wonderful, mild garlickiness. Grab all that you can (they’re also cheap!) when they’re in season. They even keep for a while in the fridge, wrapped in some lightly-dampened paper towels in an open plastic bag.
Lou: Chard has been around for centuries. It’s actually related to beets. It can be sautéed, steamed, simmered in water or stock, used in soups or salads. I like adding something a little sweet to balance out the slight bitterness. Some currants (like we used this time), raisins, or even some chopped apple are all wonderful. Mix chopped scapes into room temperature butter to create compound butter or use them to make a pesto. You’ll be able to keep adding their delicious flavor of scapes to dishes for long after they’re out of season. Try throwing some into a stir fry or onto a some grilled meats or vegetables. Uses for scapes are endless and every one of them is tasty.
This dish is especially perfect paired with chicken, pork (which is what we decided on), or fish.
Make sure to wash the chard thoroughly. The crinkles in the leaves are great at holding grit. You’ll also want to remove the toughest part of the stalks. Once you do this, slice along either side of the stalk to separate the leaves so you can chop and cook the ribs and leaves separately. The stalks will take longer to cook. Parboiling the chard both helps remove some of the bitterness and also means most of the prep can be done ahead of time. You’ll be able to quickly sautée the chard, currants, and scapes together right before you’re ready to eat.
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4 scapes, chopped
1 large bunch of rainbow chard, ribs and leaves separated and chopped
1/2 cup currants
salt to taste
*Put currants in a small heat-proof bowl and pour in enough hot water so they’re just covered. Let sit for 15 minutes or so. (More is fine, too.)
*Bring a large pot of salted water (like you would salt pasta water) to a boil and drop chopped stalks in. Cook for about 3 minutes and then add chopped leaves. Cook for about 2 more minutes more or until everything is tender but not mushy.
*Remove chard and drain well.
*Drain currants and set aside.
*Set a sautée pan over medium heat and add enough olive oil to coat well. When oil is hot, add scapes and sautée, stirring regularly and keeping an eye on them until they soften but are not browned.
*Add chard to the pan and mix with scapes. Cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes or so. Any water that came out of the chard from parboiling should have cooked off.
*Add currants and cook for another minute or two, stirring so that the currants are distributed and heated.
*Taste and add a little salt if needed.