Seasonal Chef: Rainbow Chard

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Well, it’s happened .. the markets are officially overflowing with all things green – and I love it! There seems to be a moment in June where this magic takes place. Every farm table has huge piles leafy greens. Multitudes of lettuce leaves, scallions, onions, spinach, kale, and bright beautiful chard. In particular: rainbow chard and the colors are just stunning.



I picked up this bunch from the Amawalk Farm table at the John Jay Market last weekend. I was there doing my demo and realized I had not taken the chance to walk around  and get a few things, so right at the end of the market I was able to grab that last 2 bunches of these beauties! I also picked up some garlic scapes from my favorite table Gaia’s Breath Farm.

You can find chard easily in the produce section at the market, but now is the time to pick some up at the farmers market. Everyone has it and you know it was just harvested before they head to the market, making it super fresh. Chard is a great source of Vitamins A, K and C. The flavor is similar to spinach and beet greens, but I think a little sweeter and distinct. If the leaves are big like the ones above I would recommend a light sauté. If smaller you can add to your salad raw. The stalks, especially the bigger ones are tough, so sautéing is a must.

More after the jump … 
That said, you typically sauté the chard, maybe adding a little garlic, onion and perhaps bacon? It seems to be the thing to do with it. Or, as I mention above, if the leaves are young and tender it’s lovely in a salad. But I’ve had cold soup on my mind over the past week. It’s been just so hot here lately and a cold soup is just about the most perfect thing to have for a light lunch. Something that will fill up up, but not weigh you down. So I got to thinking … why not try to create a cold chard soup?

Precision is not necessary here … a rough chop is all you need. It’s all headed to the blender when finished. I tossed in my scapes and the stems of the chard just to take the edge off and soften them a bit in some extra virgin oil.

Then I add in the roughly chopped leaves to wilt them down a bit too. After which I set the pan aside to cool a little.

I also spotted some corn this week.  A few farmers have it early, so I grabbed a couple this weekend too. I was thinking that once the soup was done it was probably just going to be bright green, and a bit of color and crunch would probably be really nice. After taking the corn off the cob I was trying to decide whether I needed to give it a quick blanch, but as luck would have it my “taste-tester” hubby showed up and we decided raw was the way to go. Since the corn was tender and sweet we both liked it right off the cob; but you can decide as you make this recipe. If you think they need a little blanch just do it quickly: 30 seconds in boiling salted water then drain in a fine sieve running cold water over the kernels to stop the cooking.

I was looking for simple ingredients here, so I only used water as the base. I wanted the chard flavor to come through. The result was amazing: the color is just so vibrant and the flavor is similar to spinach but earthier and fresh. Corn adds a nice crunch to the texture of the soup.

I hope you like this slightly different take on chard. It’s the perfect answer for a hot summer day.

Buon Appetito!

 

Maria’s Rainbow Chard Soup
Makes about 1 ½ quarts

2 bunches of rainbow chard, about 2 ½ lbs
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
5 garlic scapes, about ¾ cup roughly chopped
2 ears of fresh corn, kernels removed from the cob
Kosher salt and freshly grated pepper

Chop off the stems just at the base of the leaf. From the top point of the stems chop them in ¼ inch pieces to make 1½ cups. Set them aside in a small bowl while you chop up the scapes. Add the chopped scapes to the bowl and then prep the leaves. Stacking 3 or 4 together roll them like cigar and slice them in to 1” strips. Set them aside. I ended up with 16 cups of leaves. Don’t panic if you have what seems to be a lot, remember, they are going to wilt down as they cook.

Over medium heat sauté the stems and scapes in the oil. Season with ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Cook for about 3-4 minutes until slightly soft.  Add the leaves to the pan along with 1 cup of warm water and a couple of pinches of salt.  Cook for another 4-5 minutes, tossing with your tongs. You want the chard to wilt slightly, but not burn. Set the pan aside to cool.

Once cool scrape all into a blender. (Depending on the size of your blender you may need to do this in batches.) Make sure you get all the olive oil and rendered liquid too. Add 2 cups of water and start blending. I ended up adding a total of 5 cups of water, but take it slow and keep checking the consistency, until you get it to your liking. Season with a little more salt and pepper, blend again and check the flavor. 

Remove from blender to a container and add 2/3 of the corn.  Place in ‘fridge to cool completely, about 2 hours. Check the flavor after it’s cold and season if needed. To serve garnish with the remaining corn and a drizzle of olive oil.



Maria Reina is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher in Port Chester, NY. In her free time she loves hanging out at local Farmers Markets in Westchester County doing cooking demos with seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog you can follow her  on Facebook and Twitter.

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About Author

Seasonal Chef blogger Maria Reina comes to the world of food as a third career, spending a great portion of her adult life in the field of Human Resources. With her private company Bella Cucina Maria she is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher in Westchester. She's an avid food television watcher and cookbook collector, always looking for a new take on a traditional dish. In her free time she loves hanging out at local farmer's markets, chatting it up with the farmers and doing cooking demos with their seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog, which is loaded with easy recipes, you can follow her on Facebook (Bella Cucina Maria), Twitter (Bellacucinam), Instagram (Bellacucinam) and Pinterest (Bellacucinam).

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