My local farmers’ market opened for the season last week. As usual, I was powerless against the charms of the ruffled chard, the elegant spears of asparagus, the colorful knobby carrots, the tender salad greens. New at the Twin Springs stall was a bin of “kaleidoscope scapes,” the stalks of the plant that in the fall yields the ever more popular kale sprouts. A dozen eggs, a half-gallon of milk, and a small container of cheese curds also found their way into my bag, along with a couple of quarts of the first strawberries and a few other staples.
How would you put these beauties to use? Here is some of what I did:
* Asparagus: some roasted and topped with grated parmigiano, some steamed and spritzed with olive oil and lemon.
* Curly kale: sautéed with oil and garlic and added to a pot of pasta e fagioli.
* Carrots: some in soup, some in a batch of Ragù alla Bolognese (along with an onion and 3 lbs of ground meat from the market that did not make it into the shot).
* Eggs and cheese curds: frittata with sautéed kaleidoscope scapes (additional scapes were used in a pickling experiment, outcome TBD).
* Spring lettuce: tossed salad.
* Strawberries: some appropriated by my daughter to make a strawberry compote for ice cream; the rest, along with milk, got turned into this.
With the two bunches of chard and a few potatoes, I made bietola con le palate, one of my all-time favorite side dishes, one I’ve been eating for as long as I can remember. You might not think so, but potatoes ~ the creamy yellow kind ~ and silky sautéed chard make excellent mates. Serve this with roast chicken, sausages, or a frittata. Enjoy leftovers for lunch, with bread on the side and maybe a fried egg on top.
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Cooking classes: I’ll be teaching two cooking classes this weekend at Stonewall Kitchen, in York, Maine. Join me on Friday, May 15, or Saturday, May 16, for two Italian menu classes. We’ll be making fresh pasta, seasonal vegetables, and, for dessert, biscotti. Check my Events page for details.
Abruzzo Culinary Tour: Only two spots left on our September culinary tour in Abruzzo. Join us for an unforgettable week in this incredible, unspoiled part of Italy.
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This is a classic Italian side dish from Abruzzo, one that I grew up eating and still love. I happened to use rainbow chard that I bought at the farmers' market. The bright red, orange, and yellow stems turn a little muddy in color and stain the potatoes, but that doesn't affect the flavor of this dish. To keep the colors clearer, use standard Swiss chard. I love this as a side to roast chicken or roast salmon. On "meatless" nights I serve it with a selection of good cheeses and crusty bread.
- 1 pound yellow potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, scrubbed
- Fine sea salt
- 1 pound Swiss or rainbow chard (2 bunches), thoroughly rinsed and ends trimmed
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 large garlic cloves, lightly crushed
- Generous pinch of hot pepper flakes (optional)
Put the potatoes in a pot with enough water to cover by 2 inches. Salt the water generously and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender (I spear one with a cake tester; if it slides in easily, the potatoes are done). Drain and let cool. Peel the potatoes and cut into 2-inch chunks.
Cut the stems from the chard leaves, and then cut the stems into 2-inch pieces. Stack the leaves, a few at a time, and cut them crosswise into 1-inch-wide strips.
Heat the oil, garlic, and hot pepper (if using) in a large saucepan set over medium-low heat. When the garlic starts to sizzle, press down on it with the back of a wooden spoon or silicon spatula to release its fragrance (but don't let the garlic brown). Add the chard stems and cook, stirring now and again, for 5 to 7 minutes, or until they begin to soften. Add the leaves by the handful and cover the pot to let them wilt (you may have to do this in batches). When all the chard has been added and wilted, stir in the cooked potatoes and sprinkle with a little salt.
Cover, reduce the heat to low, and let the vegetables stew in the juices released from the greens, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, until the chard has turned dark and is completely tender. Taste and adjust the seasoning with additional salt if needed. Serve hot or warm.