“Don’t feed me any chard tart.”

The husband was planting Swiss chard seeds, reminding me of the colossal cooking failure I had a few summers ago when I bought a bunch of the leafy greens and made a tart for dinner. It sounded so good on the page: Vegetal, garlicy, très provençale.

In reality it was inedible: Grassy, soggy, soupy and thin.

“Don’t be making any chard tart,” he said as he covered the seeds with compost.

Memories of my tart almost kept us from ordering chard seeds last year. But the plant’s beauty and nutritional value won us over. Big, leafy greens with ruby red, neon yellow and creamy white stems are a feast for the eyes. Abundant amounts of vitamins (A, C and K) and minerals (zinc, magnesium, calcium) are a feast for the body.

“I’m not going to eat any chard tart,” the husband claimed as he stood up and wiped his hands.

He hasn’t had to. That’s because I finally figured out that when it comes to chard, less is more.

Pity the chard that went into my yucky Provençale tart. Chard is not hearty. It’s more akin to spinach than to kale or mustard greens. It takes only the slightest bit of cooking time to wilt into a succulent, silky pile. That tart recipe had me boiling the life — and nutrition — right out of the greens.

Since planting Swiss chard last year and this, we’ve eaten it several ways:

1. With pasta: Wash the chard, spin it dry, then wilt it in a hot pan. When it cooks down, cool it and squeeze out all of the moisture. Mix with ricotta cheese, minced garlic, onion, basil and oregano, then layer between lasagna noodles or strips of broiled eggplant. Top with tomato sauce and bake at 350 degrees until the cheese melts.

calzones
Swiss chard calzones fresh from the oven.

2. On a pizza or calzone: Mix cooked and squeezed Swiss chard with shredded mozzarella, fresh herbs and garlic. Spread over an entire pizza crust and bake, or spread over half the pizza dough, fold the other half on top, and bake at 500 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Tender leaves of Swiss chard, harvested this morning from our garden.
Tender leaves of Swiss chard, harvested this morning from our garden.

3. In a salad: Particularly good when the chard is young and tender. Mix with other young greens like spinach and butter lettuces and toss in a light vinaigrette.

4. Creamed: Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saute pan. Add 1 tablespoon flour and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly add 1 cup half-and-half or milk to the resulting roux and whisk until the mixture boils and thickens. Stir in salt, pepper, a dash of nutmeg and 2 to 3 cups of cooked, drained chard. Add grated Parmesan cheese it you wish.

5. By its lovely self: Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. Add washed and dried chard and toss until it’s just wilted. Stir in a squirt or two of lemon juice.

Now that I know how to cook it properly, we’ve all signed up for the Swiss chard fan club. Swiss chard seeds — red, yellow and white — have become must-have items on our annual seed list.

And the husband has never had to put chard tart in his mouth again.

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