Did you ever push your peas to the side of the plate when you were a kid, maybe hoping they would drop ever so inconspicuously over the side and under the rim? Well, I never disliked peas when I was growing up. It was always onions and green bell peppers that were sulfurous and bitter to my immature palate. No amount of soy sauce could camouflage the flavors enough to help me choke them down.
That was decades ago. I can now savor a bite out of a raw onion as if it was a cherished heirloom apple. Green bell peppers have become a crunchy and welcome addition to my salads.
Yet there were still culinary landscapes within the produce bins which were routinely dismissed no matter how closely I stood next to them while visiting the neighboring cabbage and cauliflower. These were the the big-gun greens: the kale, the collards, and the most imposing of them all, the Swiss chard. Spinach, I could handle, since I always found it mild, meek, and manageable after it shrunk during cooking to a fraction of its former size. But there was something about the others, with their thick, venous frames and muscular leaves which had me shrinking like cooked spinach.
My first sip of caldo verde converted me quickly to kale. Chopped, steamed collards, I learned, were exceptional when buttered and salted, or supporting a lava flow of melted cheese. These were discovered made in recent years, but I was still circling the Swiss chard with an intimidated eye until only some months ago, when I was approached by Thomas Nelson Publishers to review Simply Suppers: Easy Comfort Food Your Whole Family Will Love, a cookbook of quick and tasty recipes written by Jennifer Chandler.
The cookbook, square and half the size of many unwieldy volumes, is both a comfort and pleasure to cook from. Most of the recipes are short on their number of ingredients and preparation times, yet long on creativity. Each entry is accompanied by easy-to-follow directions, and efficient, small suggestions to streamline your efforts in a big way.
Although practical in that it forgoes glamorous or anecdotal essays of introduction, Simply Suppers shares Natalie Root's attractively casual photographs which accurately represent what your meals will look like when they're ready to serve. This is exactly the sort of cookbook to crack open when you are nearly dead on your feet after a long day or when the gourmet muse is not calling, yet you crave flavor, ease, and diversity. I have made several recipes under both circumstances, and I cleared the table feeling satiated and nourished.
With over 100 recipes featuring soups, sides, sandwiches, entrees, and desserts, Simply Suppers includes meals for vegetarians, meat eaters, and vegans, many of which are highly adaptable to cater to your particular dietary preferences. I was so impressed by my samplings of Wild Mushroom, Rosemary, and Hazelnut Dressing; Three-Grain Casserole; and Baked Cheese Grits that I was not predicting I would become an acolyte of Swiss chard, courtesy of Lemony Swiss Chard with Pine Nuts and Raisins. I am so enamored with it, that I have prepared it several times since the first preparation.
As a result, my market routine has changed. I can now spot Swiss chard's fluorescent stalks at fifty paces. If the bunches are very fresh, they will go home with me. And sometimes I even forget the cabbage and the cauliflower. --
Lemony Swiss Chard with Pine Nuts and Raisins - From Simply Suppers: Easy Comfort Food Your Whole Family Will Love. Reprinted by permission and courtesy of Thomas Nelson Publishers at my request - © 2010 Jennifer Chandler
With its bright green leaves and stems of yellow, orange, and red, rainbow Swiss chard is by far the prettiest green around. Be sure not to overcook because its flavor is best when it is just lightly sautéed.
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 skillet. 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.
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. --
I am happy to be able to offer two copies of "Simply Suppers," which I requested from the publisher for the purpose of giveaways. Two random drawings will be conducted: one for domestic readers, and one for international readers. These drawings are open to everyone, whether they blog or not, with the exception of my personal friends and family, who are not eligible to win. To be included in the drawings, please leave a comment and whether you live in the U.S. or abroad. Bloggers, please ensure that a link to your site is included so that I can contact you. For other readers and those who anonymously comment, I will need your full first and last name to identify you as the winner. Comments will be open until Wednesday, October 19 at 11:59 p.m. New York time. I will conduct the drawings and announce the winners on Thursday, October 20. Good luck to all, and I hope you enjoy the recipe!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book and the two giveaway copies free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."