Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Produce of the Week: Bietola

I bet that one got your attention! On the farm in Italy, I could easily walk out back and grab a few large leaves of bietola for a stir-fry, soup, or salad. While ours were merely green-leafed, whitish stalks, the varieties come in a spectrum of colors. The “Bright Lights” I brought home last week sure lived up to their rainbow reputation.According to a 40-year-old Italian-English dictionary, bietola translated as beetroot.

While the same species as your basic beet – Beta vulgaris – bietola is the variety bred for leaves rather than roots – chard. Recognized during Greek civilization in the Mediterranean Basin, chard didn’t migrate to North America until the 19th century. As many vegetables, it was traditionally applied to medicinal uses, particularly in the beetroot form. Containing plenty of vitamins A and C, it is no surprise that this leafy green provides a nice health boost!

A week ago, one of the many time-sensitive duties on the farm was transplanting young rainbow chard plants. If you have never gotten your hands dirty, tenderly moving a plant to newly tilled soil, then you are missing out. It is altogether gratifying seeing the row progress from bare soil to rows of tiny leaves to the bouquets into which chard transforms.

Well, after traveling home with a hefty bunch of these multi-colored stems, I had my work cut out for me coming up with creative uses for my bounty. As you will see below, there are endless possibilities for your chard:

Bright Lights Chard Quiche


½ cup cornmeal

¼ cup white whole wheat flour

1 tbs olive oil

2-3 tbs water


8 oz tofu

2 tbs nutritional yeast

1 tsp garlic powder

4 large chard leaves

salt to taste

1 tbs garlic scapes

1. Combine crust ingredients until the sand-textured mixture sticks together. Press into two 4” tart pans.

2. Heat some olive oil or spray a skillet. Sautee chopped garlic scapes. Add chard and cook until soft.

3. In a food processor, blend tofu until relatively smooth. Add garlic powder, nutritional yeast, salt, and sautee until chard in roughly chopped.

4. Pour filling into crusts. Bake at 350F until starting to brown and setting on top. Usually 30-45 minutes. Allow to cool!

For a beautiful non-vegan but gluten-free tart recipe, check this one out.

Chard gnocchi made an appearance on my plate tonight – essentially mix mashed potatoes, chard, salt, nutritional yeast, and flour (besan + AP would be good) until a not-so-sticky dough forms. Make little logs, mark with a fork, and then place in boiling water until they float. Drain and then pan fry in olive oil and salt or a nice marinara!

You could always go the sweet route...

Upside-Down Lemon Chard Muffins

½ cup olive oil

2/3 cup almond milk

1/3 cup applesauce

1 lemon, juiced and zested

¾ cup brown or turbinado sugar

1 tsp lemon extract

1 cup whole wheat flour

2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

pinch of salt

3 cups chard stems, chopped

½ - ¾ cups sugar

1. Combine chard and sugar in a skillet over medium heat. Cook until stems are tender and sugar bubbly.

2. Mix wet ingredients in a bowl with a whisk. Incorporate dry ingredients until they just come together.

3. Oil muffin tins. Place chard in the bottom of each cup. You could also add some to the batter (or even add some finely chopped chard leaves). Pour batter over chard. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes, until a knife comes out cleanly. Allow to cool before un-molding.

There are, of course, more ways to use up chard. 101 Cookbooks has a lovely garlicky recipe. Parmesan is so unnecessary in this tasty chard risotto on the NY Times. A hearty lentil and chard stew is most fitting to the current weather. And these is always the ornamental path…

Yes, the Swiss enjoy the aesthetic properties of chard gracing their cities' gardens!


Peabody said...

I've never seen lemon chard, I will have to look for that.

Rachel said...

Oh, it does sound like "lemon chard" ... The muffins are lemon and they have chard on top! I used your basic rainbow chard (variety Bright Lights). Lemon chard would be fantastic, though!