Monday, January 26, 2009

So, what's with the chard?

Swiss Chard and Mushroom Quiche

Swiss Chard and Mushroom QuichePrior to last summer, I had cooked Swiss chard once, maybe twice. It's a pretty vegetable -- especially the Ruby variety, with its red stem and veins against dark green leaves -- but not one that I ever sought out. And yet, there it was, week after week, in our CSA basket.

Now, The Programmer will eat just about anything I cook, but Kit and Caboodle are more, shall we say, particular. And Swiss chard was met with particular resistance. It became a running joke all summer. Kit went off to three weeks of overnight camp, but she couldn't escape the Swiss chard; we found ways to mention it in every letter to camp.

The girls never came around to chard, but The Programmer and I found that it's a decent substitute for spinach or other greens. It's especially yummy sauteed in olive oil with a bit of fresh garlic. Plus, it's easy to steam and freeze chard -- a fact that saved us from overload mid-summer.

I had a pie crust in the freezer, along with some chard, so I made this quiche recently on a cold night:

Swiss Chard and Mushroom Quiche


1 9-inch pie crust (deep dish)
1 bunch Swiss chard, steamed and chopped (defrosted, if frozen)
5 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup chopped onion
olive oil, for sauteeing
1 cup milk (I use fat-free)
2 whole eggs
2 egg whites
1 tsp basil
dash nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese


Heat oven to 450 degrees. Bake the pie crust on a baking sheet for 7 minutes, then set aside to cool slightly. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Saute mushrooms and onion in a small amount of olive oil until soft and liquid from mushrooms has evaporated. Mix in Swiss chard and set aside.

In a small bowl, beat together the milk, eggs, egg whites, and spices.

Layer in the pie crust the Swiss chard mixture, followed by the cheese, and then the milk/egg mixture. Bake 30 to 45 minutes or until the top has browned and the custard has set. Cool slightly before slicing.

By way of introduction

It was 5 degrees this morning. We still have a heap of snow on the ground. But I'm holding onto a vision of spring, and it comes down to this: Swiss chard. Maybe asparagus. Followed by strawberries and zucchini and corn on the cob and that first tomato.

Yes, I have mailed out the paperwork for this year’s Community Supported Agriculture program.

During the summer and fall of 2008, I discovered the joys and trials of having a weekly CSA basket. The family was knee-deep in produce for 13 weeks; and now, a good three months after the end of the local farm season, we are working through the remains of the bounty: winter squash, pickles, pesto, and the ubiquitous chard. With a little planning, we should be able to finish everything off before the new produce starts coming in mid-June.

There is nothing like seasonal produce from a local farm, unless you grow your own. So I accept the challenge of finding something to do with all of those vegetables. It doesn’t matter that the farm-share season will be longer this year (18 weeks!). It doesn’t matter that the girls strongly prefer their vegetables in the forms of Carrot Cake, Chocolate Zucchini Cake, and “Not Quite Pumpkin Because We Have a Lot of Squash” Bread. I am armed with ideas and recipes and a second freezer.

Bring on the fresh chard!