Swiss chard is a generous vegetable. I planted it early this spring (4-weeks before our no-frost date) and enjoyed its spinach-like leaves a month later. When spinach disappeared from the farm stands, wilting in summer’s fever, I was still harvesting my chard, and barring extreme neglect, vicious groundhogs and other garden catastrophes, I will enjoy this vegetable until winter’s killing frost.
Chard produces an abundant harvest in a small space. Yesterday, my 3×2 foot plot of chard yielded a heaping serving bowl — not just any serving bowl, but one of the bowls my mother-in-law uses to serve all 8 of her kids and their spouses and their children. (I’m planting extra to freeze, but last year 8 plants in a 2×2 foot space satisfied my hubby and me.)
Chard, especially the Rainbow variety, graces my practical veggie garden with elegance and beauty. Its brilliant red-orange stems offset the surrounding deep green leaves. I have often considered planting this instead of flowers in my front garden beds, but I suspect that our groundhogs will appreciate the unprotected vegetables more than I.
Another reason — and perhaps the best reason — to grow chard is its flavor. Chard is milder than spinach but can be used in all of the same dishes, including green smoothies and this awesome spinach gratin.
One of our favorite chard recipes is my mother’s spanakopita. This spinach pie has a cheesy center and crispy layers, which ensures that you’ll never whine about eating your greens again, and unlike most spanakopita recipes, my mother’s does not require you to gingerly brush each sheet of phyllo with olive oil.
- 2 lbs spinach or chard or other greens
- 2/3 cup diced green onion (if unavailable, I will use an onion)
- 1/4 cup total mixture of fresh dill, basil, oregano
- 2 eggs
- 1 ½ c olive oil
- 1 lb phyllo pastry, defrosted
- Crumbled feta cheese
- Salt, pepper
- Clean greens. If using chard, remove the woody stem and save for pasta dishes, roasting, sauteing in butter or pickling. Do not dry leaves.
- Cook greens in the water on leaves over medium heat until the leaves wilt and cling to the sides of the pot (1-2 minutes).
- Douse greens in ice water, wring out, and chop coarsely.
- Saute onions in a pot using 1/4 cup of olive oil until translucent.
- Remove from the heat and add herbs, eggs, greens, feta cheese, salt and pepper.
- Generously oil a 9×13 inch pan with 1/2-3/4 cup of olive oil and spread 7 sheets of phyllo dough. (Err on the side of too much olive oil. Too little, and the phyllo will clump together in a thickened dough slate, not in loose, crisp layers.)
- Add a little olive oil on top and then spread the spinach mix on top. Cover with 7 more sheets of phyllo.
- Pour about a 1/2 cup of olive oil on top and bake at 350 for 1 hour or at 450 for 40 minutes.