Vegetables (Verdure)

While growing up, Mom introduced us to a number of vegetables, with varying degrees of success depending upon the person. (Yes, I’m looking at you.) For the most part, she used one method when cooking vegetables and it’s pretty much the same as is used throughout Italy. I mention this, particularly the latter part, because we Americans tend to like our vegetables to be cooked but with some crispness retained. Well, not to disappoint anyone, but I’ve eaten my way across Italy a few of times and I’ve yet to be served a vegetable that was cooked al dente. It’s just not done, I’m afraid, but that doesn’t mean that the dishes aren’t tasty or are any less desirable. Besides, some, like kale or rapini, may be a little bitter while others, like Swiss chard, may have ribs or stems that are a little tough. This method of cooking will cut some of that.

Rainbow Chard

Although the recipe below mentions Swiss chard specifically, it’s the technique and not the vegetable that’s important. Briefly, you bring a pot of salted water to boil, blanch the vegetable for a few minutes, and sauté it in garlic-flavored extra virgin olive oil. Now, if you’ve watched any televised chefs, you’ve seen them do this, or something very similar, but they will place the vegetable in cold water after blanching. This will insure that the vegetable retains its brilliant color and, if I’m entertaining, I’ll do it, too. But I don’t entertain every night and placing them into an ice bath just adds another step and more time to my dinner prep, not to mention another dish to clean. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t chill ’em if it’s just Max and me for dinner. Being color blind, he’s not likely to object.

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Swiss Chard

serves 2

total time: approx.  30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 – 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1  bunch of Swiss chard.
  • 1 small yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Add olive oil and garlic to a medium-sized frying pan and heat at medium until the garlic begins to brown, a few minutes. Discard the garlic, add the onion, and sauté until it becomes fully translucent and before caramelization starts.
  2. While the garlic is flavoring the olive oil, fill a medium sauce pan with water and bring to a boil.
  3. Meanwhile, clean and prep the chard. Leave as much of the stems as you find palatable. Separate the stems from the leaves and chop the stems into pieces no larger than one inch long. Rough chop the leaves into pieces slightly larger than you would for a salad.
  4. When the water boils, add the salt and then the chard stem pieces. The length of time the stems stay in the pot depends on how crisp you like them. The less time they boil, the more al dente they’ll be. A little before the stems are cooked to your liking, add the chard leaves to the pot.
  5. After 2 minutes, strain everything out of the boiling water and add to the frying pan with the onion. Be careful: the oil may splatter when it comes in contact with the wet chard.
  6. Raise the heat to medium-high, season with salt and pepper, and sauté the chard and onions until cooked to your liking. Serve.

Variations

Rather than list variations, here are some of the vegetables that can be cooked utilizing this method: rapini, asparagus, kale, broccolini, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, cabbage, and even brussels sprouts. Some, like rapini or kale, may need more time sautéing, while others, like brussels sprouts will, also, need a lengthier time in the boiling water. You should skip the blanching altogether when you’re cooking delicate greens, like baby spinach, frisée, or arugula. Whether to include onions or, as pictured, a little tomato, is up to you and learning to flavor olive oil with garlic before sautéing is a neat trick. So, go ahead and give ’em a try. Let Common Sense and your own palate be your guides.

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11 thoughts on “Vegetables (Verdure)

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    • You’re very welcome, Claire. As time has gone by, I blanch them for less and less time. Blanching will remove some of the bitterness and I find I enjoy it more as I … um … mature. No matter how I cook it though, Mom would be happy to learn that you and others are preparing her recipes. 🙂

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  4. It sounds so basic, but I really haven’t prepared my vegetables in quite this way, and I think I will. I tend to skip the “quick dip” in the boiling water. It just makes sense! Really a good reference! Debra

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    • Thanks, Debra.I stopped cooking my greens this way and opted for steaming instead — and over time grew tired of them. I eventually made my way back to Mom’s Way. Some vegetables come in huge bunches, too much for me to use in one dinner. I’ll blanch them all and freeze them in serving-sized portions. I have far less waste this way.

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  5. Hi John,

    I have not had swiss chard since my grandmother was alive. What fond memories. This sounds perfect with a little bit of olive oil and a little bit of onion, and a little of garlic too! Thank you : )

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    • You’re so welcome, Judy. This was my Mom’s favorite vegetable. She even commandeered a section of Grandpa’s garden so she could grow some. I guess I’ve inherited my love of it from her.

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  6. Lovely! And this got me to thinking about how eating vegetables as children was never an issue and I could never understand other kids (then and now) who don’t eat them. They were always so good, so simple and so tasty – and it was not an option to leave anything behind on your plate!

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    • Thanks, Tanya. Eating vegetables certainly weren’t an issue with us, either. We had a choice. Eat what was prepared for dinner or go hungry. It was that simple and bless my Parents for that. Today, I’ll eat a variety of things but some friends still won’t eat their vegetables.

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