This weekend, D. (that man I love) finally got to visit the Farmer’s Market I had been raving about since last summer. Located at St. Philip’s Plaza, visiting it is like taking an Amelié-inspired trip to Europe. The street is leading up to the market is cobbled, and the booths are surrounded by the sun-washed walls of buildings and arches of surrounding businesses and all around is bathed in splotches of light diffused by trees. Usually, a local artist accompanies the shopping, harp, a cello. It’s a dream-scape. [As a side note, I will try to remember to bring my camera next time I go and share with you some of this experience in image as well as flavor :)]
I was meeting a friend for coffee, so it was a surprise to me what goodies D. had acquired at the market. As he returned, face a-glow with pride, he produced yellow summer squash with skin so delicately yellow; beautifully crinkly-leaved kale; two tennis ball sized purple and red striped heirloom tomatoes; a tiny paper bag of dates; and some rainbow chard!
I have always been fascinated with chard. But I never understood what one can make with it. I stared at it longingly in the produce sections of grocery stores, oftentimes picking up a stalk and ruminating about it but inevitably replacing it among its brothers and then moving on. It wasn’t until C. and I started this blog, and I began actively perusing food blogs and cook-books, did I put it together, that chard is just the leaf part of the beet! And I know beets – I am Polish of origin. My kind has survived predominately off of root vegetables for generations!
Ah beets! We (the Poles) have cooked them and grated and sautéed them in a rue, or mixed them with horseradish. We have borschted them. [I dislike borscht, and have survived through it EVERY Christmas I remember due to my mommy’s love affair with the stuff.] We have even turned it into a delicious cold soup called “Chlodnik” (literally “cold-soup”) which uses both the chard and the root.
But the question remains: “What to do with the chard?!” In this situation, my Polish heritage fails to satisfy my query.
Luckily, I am a multi-cultural foodie, and gladly seek out recipes from all edges of the globe.
The first time I got chard, I flash-sautéed it and served it over couscous. Strange, I know, but it was delightful. It must have gotten ingrained in D.’s mind – otherwise he wouldn’t have purchased it for me this Sunday. Chard is earthy but mild and slightly sweet, like a beet, but less obnoxiously (sorry, beets – you are very bold roots!)
Today, I came upon a wonderful French inspired blog called Chocolate & Zucchini. The author had posted a Swiss Chard Gratin with Vegan Bechâmel. I was intrigued, honestly, about someone who is not vegan, taking the time to try and post a vegan alternative to a very French recipe – and you know the stereo-type of the French, of being extreme foodies! [Another side-note: I have been noticing that the vegan trend is global, so there are some amazing vegan French blogs out there!] So, I decided that this would be something worth trying out on my own. I had left-over sage and walnut bechâmel (cream) sauce from Sunday’s sun-dried tomato pesto ravioli (sorry – I didn’t take pictures – I will have to make it again…), and bechâmel goes wonderfully on casseroles/bakes/lasagnas AND gratins! With the rainbow chard D. got me, the gratin sounded magnifique! Here are the recipes for the Rainbow Chard Gratin and the Sage Walnut Bechâmel Sauce (adapted from the Sage and Walnut Cream Sauce recipe featured in The Martha Stewart Living Christmas Cookbook).
I served it all up with Carrot-Parsnip Potato Pancakes.
3 C soy milk
1/4 C Earth Balance Spread + 2 Tbs more
1/4 C white flour
1/2 C chopped walnuts
1 small package (~2-1/2 sprigs) fresh sage, chopped finely
dash of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
Melt 1/4 C Earth Balance in saucepan or non-stick pot. Whisk in 1/4 C flour. While stirring, add 1 C soymilk slowly. Continue stirring until thickens. Add 2 Tbs Earth Balance and the remaining soymilk, stir until spread melts and mixture is uniform. Remove from heat. Add,sage, walnuts and spices and let infuse for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Rainbow Chard Gratin
1 small bunch of rainbow chard, leaves and stalk separated and chopped roughly
1/3 onion, diced
2 Tbs olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1C sage-walnut bechâmel
2 Tbs oat meal
2 Tbs oat bran
1 Tbs nutritional yeast
2 Tbs grated vegan cheese
Preheat oven to 400F. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add chopped chard stalks and sauté until softer. Add chard leaves and cook until wilted. Cook until all moisture has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Add bechâmel. Pour into small pan. Sprinkle surface with oatmeal and oat bran and nutritional yeast. Top with grated vegan cheese. Place in oven and bake 20 minutes.