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I love Swiss chard.  It seems that I never really had it until about two years ago, but now we eat it all the time.  My guess is that I wasn’t looking for it before, but now that we’re shopping the farmers’ market weekly, it’s hard to miss the huge piles of bright green leaves with candy-colored stalks.  R is not a lover of greens, so it took some experimentation to find preparations he enjoys, too.  I would say I have perfected a few basic recipes.

Chard is so easy to work with: it cooks quickly, especially compared to some of the other tougher, heartier greens.  It has a relatively mild flavor that goes well with a variety of flavors.  Most often, we do a quick saute with some olive oil, crushed garlic and red pepper flakes, maybe a dash of balsamic vinegar at the end.  I love red chard in Italian-flavored soups, with chopped tomatoes, garlic, maybe some good sausage, though it’s not necessary.  Perhaps the most decadent way I cook chard (and R’s favorite way) pairs it with bacon in a wonderful, rich sauce for pasta or gnocchi.  It’s a real treat on a dark, cold autumn evening.

Gnocchi with Swiss Chard and Bacon (serves 4)

  • 12 oz. potato gnocchi*
  • olive oil
  • 3-4 slices of good quality bacon (turkey or pork)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, stems chopped and leaves shredded
  • 2 T. water
  • 1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, freshly grated if you can
  • 1/4 c. cream
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
  • freshly ground pepper

Wash chard thoroughly and shake off excess moisture (a salad spinner works beautifully if you have one).  Remove the stem from the bottom of each leaf and chop like you would celery; it doesn’t have to be too fine.  Set aside.  Shred leaves coarsely and set aside.

In a small pot, boil water for gnocchi.  Follow cooking instructions and set aside, reserving some of the cooking liquid.  If you boil the water at the same time you start the bacon, your cooking time should be about the same.

Chop bacon slices into small strips.  In a large skillet, heat a scant tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Add bacon and cook until it browns, but don’t let it dry out; the cooking time will vary depending on which bacon you use, but shouldn’t exceed 5 minutes.  Remove cooked bacon from the skillet with a slotted spoon and put onto a small plate lined with a paper towel.  Reserve the bacon drippings; you want 1-2 T. in the skillet, so remove any extra or make up the difference with olive oil if you don’t have that much.  To the bacon drippings, add the chopped chard stems; stir to distribute and then cover and let saute for 3-4 minutes.  Add the garlic and stir.  Add the chard leaves and stir; the leaves will begin to wilt.  Cover and let cook for 3-4 minutes.  Add water and use a wooden spoon to scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet.  Turn the heat to medium low, re-cover and allow to steam for another 2-3 minutes.  Add the Parmesan cheese, cream, red pepper (if using), pepper and bacon and stir; cook 1-2 minutes until everything is heated through.  Taste for salt, though with bacon and Parmesan this recipe usually doesn’t need more.  Keep sauce on a very low heat until gnocchi is cooked; do not let it come to a boil.

Add the drained gnocchi to the skillet and fold into the sauce gently.  If the sauce is too thick, add the reserved gnocchi cooking water a few tablespoons at a time to loosen.  Serve with additional Parmesan if desired.

*I used Trader Joe’s potato gnocchi (gasp) but you can use homemade if you like; it’s quite easy, and pretty fun, to make.  This recipe is also delicious with sweet potato gnocchi.

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