Growing up on the farm, eating according to the seasons was just elementary to us. May meant cherries, because that's when they are growing in Northern CA. July meant the yummiest Independence nectarines, because that's when they were full of sugar from the summer sunshine. Mom grew peppers and tomatoes in the summer and Grandma grew lettuce in the winter in big raised beds. Eating seasonally just makes sense because that's when food will taste its best.
So when I went to the grocery store and saw these beauties:
... gorgeous Rainbow Swiss Chard, I just had to buy them and make something yummy. So I bought 2 bunches and some of these:
These happen to be spicy cilantro chicken sausages but there are many flavors available and they are all good. And they come fully cooked, so cooking is speedy. If you haven't tried them yet, try the Aidell's brand. Back to the swiss chard.
I am going to let you in on a dirty little secret...
I use my Iphone in the kitchen a lot. One of my favorite apps is "How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman. It is the book, "How to Cook Everything", in digital format. Mark Bittman writes for the New York Times and this cookbook is a valuable resource and has been a bestseller for years. To have access to the book at any time, like when I 'm wandering around in the grocery store, is such a time saver. I use it all the time.
Now if Ina would come out with a recipe app, my life would be complete. Please Ina? Please?
Anyway, when I got home and pulled out my swiss chard, I couldn't remember how to properly trim them up. So I simply looked up "swiss chard" in the app and voila, easy directions and cooking tips.
I washed my swiss chard (it holds on to sand so rinse well) and started prepping it for the pan. Here's the most important thing to remember about swiss chard:
The stems are significantly thicker and more dense than the leaves. If you are sauteing (which I highly recommend), you need to cut out the thickest part of the stem and chop them up separately than the leaves.
It's not a big deal, it all goes pretty quickly. After you chop the stems and tear up the leaves you will have 2 beautiful piles that look like this:
I also chopped up some garlic, you don't need a picture of that. It's not very exciting. I drizzled some olive oil in a pan and turned the heat to medium.
I added the garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes and let them soften up for just a minute. Then I added all my bright stems:
Look at all the gorgeous color! That color means healthy eating!
While the stems softened up, 3-4 minutes, I went to work on the chicken sausage. I cut mine on the bias into medallions.
Why on the bias? 1) I think it's prettier. 2) It creates more surface area. Why do I need more surface area? Because I caramelized my sausages before combining them with the swiss chard. This step is not crucial. If you are in a hurry and don't want to caramelize the sausage, it will not hurt my feelings. Because they are already fully cooked, you can cut them up any old way and throw them in the pan with the swiss chard. It will still be yummy. But I wanted to extract as much flavor as I could:
See that? That lovely browned goodness equals FLAVOR! It makes me happy. So while the swiss chard stems were cooking away, I browned these little sausage nuggets in a smaller pan. Afterward, I cooked the swiss chard leaves.
Right on top of the slightly softened swiss chard stems, I added the swiss chard leaves. Now, don't get scared. I had a huge mound of leaves in the pan.
Looks like they won't all fit, right? No worries, these leaves are going to shrink down significantly. The water will evaporate out, steaming the leaves and creating flavor. It will be OK, trust me.
See what I mean?! It only took 2-3 minutes for the huge pile of leaves to cook down to about 3 cups of greens. Perfect amount. I checked them for done-ness after bout 3 minutes and they were softened but not quite enough for my taste so I added a glug of white wine and put the lid on for about 2 minutes. You can skip that step if you like, or add chicken stock or water. Or just let them keep cooking with the lid off, they will eventually soften up. I just wanted to speed things up a bit and the wine does add another layer of flavor.
After the greens were softened to my liking, I added the browned sausage and let it all marry together for a minute or so: "Bonjour swiss chard!" "Bonjour chicken sausage!"
And that, my friends, is my easy Swiss Chard and Chicken Sausage.
I should tell you that I added a sprinkle of salt & pepper here and there but don't get carried away with the salt until you have added the sausage to the greens because the sausage tends to have a lot of salt in it already. Best to wait til the end and check for seasoning then.
If you are scared of swiss chard or can't find it in season you can substitute spinach, dandelion greens or any other "greens" you prefer. Cooking times will vary, just keep an eye on it.