Swiss chard

A few years ago I did not know what it was. What is chard and why is it Swiss? I could probably look this up but then I would look like the expert I am decidedly not.

I can tell you this. Swiss chard is in the greens family along with spinach, kale, mustard, collard and the like. I did not really come to fully appreciate it until last fall, when the noted Lebanese author Anissa Helou made a salad of young Swiss chard stems with a tahini dressing for a luncheon group gathered for the Southern Foodways Alliance’s Delta Divertissement. Dang, you know Southerners do not eat raw greens as a rule. We boil the tar out of them and add in some fatback. But these raw chard stems were undeniably good and suspiciously healthy.

So at the Franklin Farmer’s Market last Saturday, I spied some really beautiful young Swiss chard and, armed with my now fledgling Lebanese foodways knowledge, I snatched it up and brought it home. I did make some tahini dipping sauce, after scouring the Publix for the one can of tahini in the entire place (it is a sesame paste and you will be tempted to eat it out of the can). To make the dip you just add lemon juice, garlic, salt and a little water to thin it out. I used whole chard leaves as a dipping conveyance and felt very happy about the result.

I cut the rest of the chard into ribbons (you cannot buy just a few leaves of this stuff – it comes in giant bunches that will barely fit in your politically correct reusable shopping bag) and sauteed it briefly with  lemon juice, olive oil and garlic. The boys – and this is the best clue that you’re on to something – both said, “What is that? I love it.”

So Swiss chard. It’s in the farmer’s markets now. Dip it, saute it or use the leaves as a fan since the temperatures are heating up. It’s all good.

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