This recipe was originally published over 10 years ago, but I still make it all the time and have given the photos a makeover!
We are a football-watching family. On any given Sunday during the season, we are hunkered down for a good part of the day at home with the likely chance of random family and friends dropping by. I like to prepare hearty, comfort food that can be left on the stove for everyone to help themselves whenever hunger strikes.Continue reading
You know what never happens? I never make at home for dinner something that I am currently teaching in one of my classes. Why? Because I normally eat it several times a week and I am not super motivated to eat it any more than that, no matter how good it is! This is even more true towards the end of the month after I have taught the same recipes a dozen or more times.
Well, never say never because I have been teaching this Mexican-style sautéed greens recipe all month and I made it for dinner Monday night. Why? Because there is never any left after my class! Everyone has just gone crazy for this recipe and finished every last morsel before I had my chance. I look forward to these slightly spicy, tart greens and then….none for me.
I am really obsessed with Mexican food. I love the bright, fresh, punchy flavors. And the ingredients are easy to come by in Southern California. I do find it hard, though, to come up with a wide variety of vegetable side dishes to complement whatever Mexican main dish I am making. I have a lot of salads in my repertoire. If you haven’t tried my Mexican Chopped Salad or my Avocado, Jicama and Mango Salad or the Cilantro Lime Slaw, those are just fabulous and deliver a lot of nutrition at the same time.
But when I stumbled up this recipe for Quelites, I knew I found a new favorite Mexican side dish. Quelites actually refer to a type of weed, also known as lamb’s quarters, but in the above mentioned recipe, mustard greens are used. Mustard greens are a tad bitter for my husband and Mr. Picky, so I tried this recipe with lots of combinations of milder greens, like spinach, baby kale and chard, as well as dinosaur kale. Love, love, love, love, LOVE!
What I like best about this recipe is how the acidity from the lemon juice and the sweetness from the tomatoes tone down any bitterness from the greens (if you’re using mature kale, for example.) I don’t think this recipe is very hot, even with an entire jalapeño, although I do remove the seeds, which is where the heat is more concentrated. But it’s hot enough for my heat-averse guys. I just add a few shakes of hot sauce to my greens and I’m happy.
I have eaten these Mexican-style greens with rice and beans (so simple and so good!), as well as chicken enchiladas and tacos. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you saw that I made them for dinner this week with a veggie paella (Spanish, not Mexican, but so what) and then the next day with scrambled eggs and a corn tortilla. Whatever you’re making for Cinco de Mayo, this will be the perfect, healthful side!
A good friend from college gave a speech at our wedding about my husband’s penchant for all things that start with the letter “P.” It was something I hadn’t thought of until then, but all my husband’s favorites do begin with P — Pamela (that’s me!), Penn (where we went to college,) Pittsburgh and their sports teams like the Pirates and Penguins, pizza (his favorite food), pasta (his second favorite food) and anything with Parmesan cheese. Almost 19 years later, despite living in LA and eating my food every day which I assure you is not a lot of pizza and pasta, the man is still the same. And that’s a-ok with me since I’m still in the picture, too.
In the same way I can get our son, aka Mr. Picky, to eat almost anything in a corn tortilla, I can pretty much ensure success with my husband if I put Parmesan cheese on it. He even takes the liberty of adding Parmesan cheese where it may not really belong, but it’s his default if he thinks the dish needs improvement. And if we’re out of Parmesan, no problem! He’ll reach for the Pecorino, naturally. I saw this recipe on the Whole Foods website for a Swiss chard and potato cake that looked divine, but was loaded with gruyere which doesn’t always agree with me in large quantities. So I lightened it up a bit with Parmesan and we all loved it (except for Mr. Picky who would not try it because he is, ironically, Parmesan-averse.) Not so easy my job, is it?
Dark green leafy vegetables are so abundant right now and always the perfect, super-nutritious addition to any meal. I think this recipe, which is warm and hearty, is ideal for the transition into spring. (Don’t worry, it will feel like spring soon!) I haven’t tried this with any other leafy green, but I do think chard is perfect for the job. I love bitter greens, and if you do too, I have no doubt kale would be great here. I think spinach is a little too watery, but I could be wrong.
This gratin would be perfect for Easter brunch or dinner, especially if you’re serving lamb or poultry. Couldn’t you also imagine this with a side of soft scrambled eggs and a fresh baby greens salad? Love it! Of course you don’t need a special occasion to serve this, just a bit of time to allow this to cook. So perhaps it’s not ideal for weeknights if you arrive home at 6:30 and you’d like to eat by 7:00. Although I love this room temp and it reheats well (if that helps.) Feel free (unless you’re married to my husband) to substitute Daiya vegan cheese for the Parmesan and to use all olive oil if you’d like to make this vegan or dairy-free. Any way you make this, it’s a whole lot of goodness.
½ - ¾ cup (depending on how much you like) grated pecorino romano or parmiggiano-reggiano
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat butter and oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onions, diced chard stems and cook until onions are translucent and stems are softened, about 5 minutes. Spread onion mixture evenly in the bottom of the skillet and remove skillet from heat.
Place chard leaves in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat.
Arrange a third of the potatoes in a single layer on top of the onions in the bottom of the skillet, sprinkle with salt and pepper, top with a third of the Swiss chard and scatter ¼ cup of the cheese over the top. Repeat the process to layer the ingredients two more times, ending with the cheese.
Cover skillet tightly with a lightly oiled piece of parchment paper then aluminum foil and bake until potatoes are easily pierced with the tip of a knife, about 1 hour. Gently remove the foil then return skillet to the oven and bake until cheese is browned on the top, about 10 minutes.
Set aside to rest briefly, then slice into wedges and serve.
One way that I have learned how to be a more confident cook is by identifying certain “formula” recipes and then just changing the ingredients around to come up with something that seems like a different recipe. One day last year after I was bored with making Mushroom and Barley Soup for the umpteenth time, I changed a few ingredients based on what I had in the fridge and voila! A new soup was born. After a weekend of over-indulging (I keep leaving the house just before 4:00 when I know the craving for pumpkin pie will hit), this is exactly the kind of thing I want to eat. It is light, but filling and very satisfying. A bonus is that it is awesome with turkey stock, which I have loads of right now. The kids are also happy to have this soup in their thermoses at school for a nourishing lunch, especially if I toss in a little shredded leftover turkey.
You can use any vegetables or grains you want or even substitute white beans or chickpeas, but one of my rules for a good diet is variety. The day I made up this soup, I poked around the pantry and found a lonely bag of wild rice that I hadn’t said hello to in a while. Funny thing about wild rice is that it’s actually not a rice at all, but really a grass. And most of the wild rice that we find in our local markets is not really “wild,” but cultivated. I love it all the same. (Not) wild (not) rice is an absolutely delicious and nutritious whole food that you probably never eat. It is nutty and almost smoky-sweet with a great chewy texture. Wild rice is extremely high in folic acid (an essential B-complex vitamin lacking in many people’s diets), potassium and fiber. Plus, that dramatic black color provides some powerful phytonutrients that aren’t easy to come by in nature.
Although this recipe came about as a pleasant surprise (just like my third child!), it has since become a regular in my repertoire. Some things in life are just meant to be.
The conversation went like this: Daughter #1, “I don’t like eggs.”
Me, “Did you change your name to Sam-I-Am? You do like eggs.”
Daughter #1, “You’re not funny. No, I don’t.” Me, “You like frittatas, so you like eggs.”
Daughter #1, “That’s different.”
Really? Frittatas are basically baked omelets, usually with some vegetables and/or cheese mixed with the eggs. Unlike many recipes where you can substitute an ingredient and still have the same basic dish, you can’t substitute anything for the eggs in a frittata because it wouldn’t be a frittata. However, I really wasn’t going to argue with a 14 year-old about why frittatas are different from just eggs, because all I care about is that fact that she really does like them.
Eggs have been so misunderstood. For a while there, people stopped eating eggs because it was thought the cholesterol in the yolks would cause high blood cholesterol. Well guess what? There’s now a strong consensus among the medical community that food containing dietary cholesterol does not have a significant impact on the blood cholesterol level of most healthy individuals. The evidence points to saturated fat as the leading culprit, not dietary cholesterol, and eggs happen to be two-thirds unsaturated fat. Furthermore, the yolks are rich in several important nutrients including choline (a B vitamin and key component of healthy brain cells, nerves and cell membranes), lutein (a phytonutrient which supports eye health) and iodine (important for healthy thyroid function). Eggs are also a good source of inexpensive protein. If you have been advised by your physician to cut back on egg yolks, get a new physician you can substitute two egg whites for every whole egg and do this for a few of the eggs. Try to buy organic, free-range eggs whenever possible.
Frittatas are my friend. They are versatile as a breakfast, lunch or dinner, especially during Lent. I have even made mini-frittatas in greased muffin tins or as an hors d’oeuvre cut into bite-size pieces. They can be served hot, room temperature, or cold. I like them with a side salad or with a ladleful of warm tomato sauce. The girls have taken them to school tucked inside a pita. This frittata is one of my favorites. It is packed with lovely Swiss chard, which is everywhere right now. It is very typical of how I like to eat something rich like eggs, by balancing it with loads of vegetables. I love the flavor from the raw Gruyere, but feel free to skip it if you’re dairy-free. However, it’s only about an ounce of cheese per serving. If I ever have any leftover turkey bacon from breakfast, I will dice that up and add it in.
Mr. Picky claims he likes neither eggs nor frittatas and I believe him, although I was THIS close to getting him to try the frittata in a warm corn tortilla, one of his favorite foods. I’ll offer ketchup next time. As for me, I can eat them in a house. I can eat them with a mouse. I can eat them here or there. I can eat them anywhere.
2 Tablespoons cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil or clarified butter
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
4 garlic cloves, chopped
8 large free-range eggs
⅓ pound grated gruyere, optional
Handful of grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup milk or water
Freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Wash the Swiss chard but do not dry all the way and chop the stems off the leaves. Coarsely chop the stems and keep separate from the leaves. Coarsely chop the leaves.
Heat olive oil or clarified butter in a 10-inch oven-proof pan. Cook the onions and chard stems over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the chard leaves and season lightly with a pinch of sea salt and pepper and sauté until wilted.
Whisk eggs together and add cheeses and milk. Stir in the chard mixture and blend well.
Add extra oil or butter to the pan if it seems dry. Put the egg-chard mixture back in the pan and place in the oven for about 50 minutes until puffed and golden. (If you're making minis, spoon the mixture into greased muffin tins and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until puffed and golden.)
Variations: substitute lightly steamed broccoli or sautéed spinach for the chard;
Use sautéed onions and peppers with parboiled diced potatoes for a Spanish classic;
Can add 3 ounces of diced cooked turkey bacon and/or 1 c. ricotta cheese;
Can be served with a ladleful of warm tomato sauce.
Swiss Chard is one of the most nutritious greens you can find year-round. It is related to beets – in fact, beet greens taste very similar to Swiss chard. Do eat your dark green leafy vegetables regularly as they are among the most nutrient-dense foods you can choose. Traditional Chinese Medicine considers green to be the master color, and I think it is the color that should dominate our diet. Like other green leafies, Swiss chard is full of Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Folate, Vitamin C and Carotenoids, with few calories – a nutritional bargain!
My maternal grandmother was Sicilian and she used to make this dish with raisins. One night, this was on the dinner menu and I went to the pantry to reach for raisins and we were out. Gasp. But we had dried apricots. So I soaked a handful of apricots to plump them up a bit and presto, I liked the dish better! If your kids are not fond of greens yet, try this recipe with their favorite dried fruit.
Heck, let them put a few chocolate chips on the chard if it will get them to eat their greens. One step at a time … soon chard might be a staple in your kitchen, too.
Optional: best quality balsamic vinegar for drizzling
Place the dried apricots in a bowl with hot water to cover. Soak 10 minutes and drain. Chop coarsely or slice into slivers.
Separate the Swiss chard stems from the leaves. Dice the stems and keep separate. Coarsely chop the leaves.
Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook for 1 minute. Add the chard stems and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly tender, about 3 minutes. Add the chopped chard leaves and apricots. Lightly season with sea salt and pepper and sauté until the leaves are tender, about 5 minutes.
Sprinkle with pine nuts and serve immediately or at room temperature. You can also drizzle a few drops of balsamic vinegar, if desired.