Archive for the 'Vegetables & Vegetarian Dishes' Category

Lemony Swiss Chard with Pine Nuts and Raisins

With its bright green leaves and stems of yellow, orange, and red, rainbow Swiss chard is by far the prettiest green around.  And in my opinion, the tastiest!

But I have to admit, for years I was not a greens fan.  I’d turn my nose at all different types: turnip, mustard, kale …. You name the variety; I was not going to eat it.

Then last year in my weekly Fall CSA, I kept getting a big bunch of Swiss Chard. The first bunch died in the back of my fridge.  The second week, I gave my Swiss Chard to a friend.  The third week I decided, “I have to give this a try.” Wasn’t one of the reasons I participated in a CSA to try new ingredients?

I called my friend Melissa (who had happily taken that second bunch of  Swiss Chard off my hands) and asked her how she prepared hers.

“Be sure not to overcook the Swiss Chard. Its flavor is best when it is just lightly sautéed ,”she advised.

So, I cooked it just like a do spinach …  sautéed with garlic in a little olive oil until just wilted.  

Before I took the first bite I wondered, “Is this even cooked enough?”  All the greens I had encountered on menus in the South had been cooked for hours … not minutes.

But Melissa was right!  Lightly sautéing is the trick!

As I continued to get Chard (and other greens) in my weekly CSA, I played around with a few other recipes. This lemony version is my favorite.  The lemon brightens the flavor of the greens and the pine nuts and golden raisins add a delicious texture.

Swiss Chard is in season in the Fall. Go out and give it a try.  Who knows?  This nutrient-packed green may become a favorite of your too!


Lemony Swiss Chard with Pine Nuts and Raisins

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons finely-diced shallots
6 cups coarsely chopped rainbow Swiss chard leaves
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil until a few droplets of water sizzle when carefully sprinkled in the pan. Add the shallots and cook until they are soft, about 2 minutes.

Add the chard and cook, stirring, until the leaves just begin to wilt, about 1 minute. Stir in the lemon juice, water, lemon zest, and raisins. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chard is tender and the liquid has almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the pine nuts. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Cooking Tip: I prefer rainbow Swiss chard due to its brightly colored veins, but varieties with only white or red veins are equally delicious.

Variation: For more texture and color use the stems in this dish as well. Cut the stems into 1/2-inch pieces, add to the pan before adding the leaves and cook until the stems are tender, about 2 to 3 minutes. Then add the leaves and continue with the recipe.

Note: A CSA (short for Community-Supported Agriculture) is also known as “subscription farming.” At the beginning of the growing season, you purchase a subscription from a local farmer just like you buy a subscription to magazine. But instead of receiving a magazine each week, shareholders receive a weekly supply of veggies, herbs, fruits and sometimes even eggs and meat. It’s a win-win for the customer and the farmer. The customer gets fresh, locally-grown foods.  The prepaid CSA fees are a source of financial security for the farmer.

Grilled Okra

“Grilled okra?!”  you may ask with a hint of disdain. I agree.  It’s the same response I had when I was first introduced to this dish.

“But okra is slimy when cooked anyway but battered and fried … won’t this be gross?” was the first thought that went through my mind. But as she basically forced me to take a bite, my friend Lucia Heros assured me that this would become a favorite. And you know what?  She was right!

Grilled okra is simply delicious!

I like to grill it until it is slightly charred on the outside … giving it a crispy exterior with a soft interior.  (Note I said soft interior … no sliminess in sight!)

It is yummy as a quick and easy appetizer right off the grill … or served as a side.  On the rare occasion that there have been leftovers, I have thrown chilled grilled okra on a salad for a delicious twist.

Everyone … including my kids … have loved it!

My friend Lucia likes to season hers with Paul Prudhomme’s Magic Salmon Seasoning Blend®. I love the spicy kick that Tony Chachere’s® Creole Seasoning  gives.  Feel free to use your favorite seasoning blend.  For an extra kick, try a Blackening Seasoning Blend … or if watching your sodium, try one of those Mrs. Dash’s herb blends. Even just plain old salt and pepper gives delish results.


Grilled Okra

1 lb. fresh okra
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup Tony Chachere’s® Creole Seasoning  (or your favorite seasoning blend)

Heat a clean grill to medium-high.

Place the okra on skewers.  Drizzle with olive oil until lightly coated. Season to taste with the seasoning blend.

Grill the okra until nicely browned, about 2 to 4 minutes per side, turning with tongs as needed. Transfer the grilled okra to a platter or plates and serve immediately.

Cooking Tip: No skewers in the house? No worries.  The skewers are used to help make the cooking process simple. Instead, just place the okra pods perpendicular to the grill grates to prevent them from falling through.

Asparagus with Browned Butter

Fresh asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables. Not only are asparagus delicious, their appearance signals that the seasons are finally changing. They herald the beginning of Spring. Warmer weather is on the way. 

Whereas imported asparagus is available year-round, the stalks of a tender, freshly-picked asparagus offer a flavor far more sublime than the out-of-season variety. 

When buying asparagus, look for firm, bright green stalks with tightly closed tips.  The ends of asparagus spears tend to be tough and woody. To trim, simply bend each stalk and it will naturally break off in just the right spot.

I think aparagus are best when they are simply prepared. I cook them in salted water just until they are vibrant green yet still crisp tender. I then drizzle them with butter that has been slightly browned to give it a nutty flavor.


Asparagus with Browned Butter

Brown butter is one of my signature cooking “tricks.” I use it to season vegetables, as a sauce for roasted fish, and have even drizzled it into cake batter. The classic French term for this cooking technique is beurre noisette, which literally translates to “hazelnut butter.” By slightly browning the butter, you give it a delicious nutty flavor.  Be careful though, this sauce is ready the moment it starts to brown. If you overcook it, it will taste burnt.

Kosher salt
1 bunch (about 1 pound) asparagus, tough woody ends snapped off and discarded
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper

Over high heat, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook until vibrant green and crisp tender, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Drain the asparagus. Set aside.

Wipe the pot dry. Add the butter and over medium-high heat, cook, swirling the pot occasionally, until the butter stops foaming and begins to brown. Remove from the heat. Add the asparagus and toss until well coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Do-Ahead: The process of par-cooking a vegetable in boiling salted water is called blanching. Blanching prevents the vegetable from being over-cooked when reheated, or in this case, tossed with the brown butter. You can use this same technique to cook vegetables in advance. When you drain the blanched vegetable, immediately immerse it in an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Drain again and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Roasted Lime Sweet Potato Wedges

Serves 4 

3 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds total), peeled and sliced into rounds about ¼-inch thick
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons lime zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Place the sweet potatoes and oil in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and then toss until well coated.

Place the potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until tender.

Season with the lime zest and juice.  Serve warm.

Back to the Basics:
Lime doesn’t go with your main course? Then just omit it and you have simply delicious baked sweet potato fries.

Food Fact:  
Sweet potatoes are not only sweeter in flavor than their white counterpart, but they are also nutritionally far superior.  Packed with vitamins and fiber, sweet potatoes are ranked the number one vegetable by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.  For those concerned about sugar, this complex carbohydrate also ranks extremely low on the glycemic index…despite what its “sweet” name suggests.

Tomato Tart

Serves 6 to 8

1 9-inch tart pan lined with pie crust (store-bought is a great shortcut)
3 large tomatoes, cut into 1/2 -inch thick slices
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 cup coarsely grated Gruyere cheese
2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Line the pastry with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the crust is set, 8 minutes. Remove the paper and weights and bake until golden brown, about 10 more minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and drain in a colander for 10 to 15 minutes.

Turn up the oven to 400°F.

Spread the mustard over the bottom of the pie crust and sprinkle the cheese over it. Arrange the tomatoes over the cheese in 1 overlapping layer. Bake until the pastry is golden brown and the tomatoes are very soft, 25 to 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir together the basil, garlic and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the pie with this mixture while hot and spread out gently with the back of a spoon. Serve the pie hot or at room temperature.

Jennifer Chandler

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