Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Green Envy


I was a bit of an odd bird as a child where food was concerned. I wasn't partial to hating anything, loved trying whatever the grown-ups were eating, and generally laughed in the face of a children's menu. Although I was always reprimanded for trying to join in on the grown-up conversation, (and repeatedly told to get back to my crayon drawings) I wanted nothing more than to dine on great food while participating in sophisticated adult conversation. Whether this is the product of my being an only child or that of my environment is debatable, but what's for certain is that to this day, I still eat pretty much everything.

Unlike many kids, I never had to be reminded to eat my veggies or my greens since they were usually eaten before I could get my plate to the table. Back then I ate everything methodically and in shifts, starting with one thing on the plate and not moving on to the next until I'd finished it. Even though my mother told me that to really get a feel for a meal you should alternate, I couldn't be convinced. If we were eating something I loved, like a big juicy t-bone, I'd devour all of the sides so that the last thing I tasted before finishing the meal was a perfect piece of steak. Although I've since stopped using this method (for the most part, anyway), I still make it a point to eat all those vegetables detested by children the world over.

One of my favorites are greens and chick peas. There's a very common Spanish meal of greens with chickpeas and codfish, often consumed on Fridays during lent or for Sunday supper. I purchased a big bunch of rainbow Swiss chard during my recent trip to the farmers market, but didn't have any cod or other white fish on hand. The selection was poor at both my local supermarket and at the fishmonger, so I decided to go searching for a simpler recipe without fish. It was just my luck that I'd marked a delicious recipe for oven roasted chick peas with Swiss chard in the January issue of Bon App├ętit. I didn't have quite as much chard as the recipe called for, but fortunately I was able to use the beet greens from the lovely purple beets I bought this weekend.

I must say that I was shocked to witness 9 out of 10 people purchasing beets asking for the greens to be cut off and discarded. Sacrebleu! This, my friends, is culinary sacrilege. Not only are you throwing out delicious greens that you're paying for, but you're also tossing out a healthy superfood that's easy to prepare. If you don't like sauteed greens you can always add them to soups or use them to make vegetable stock. Instead of tossing mine out, I tossed them in with my Swiss chard and chick peas for extra color and even deeper flavor. The dish was so delicious I wish I'd thought of it myself. The chick peas were crunchy and delicious and the greens took on a sweet, slow cooked flavor (thanks to the roasted garlic and fennel). This would be a great side but an even better vegetarian main dish--it could even work over rice or mixed with pasta. Here's the recipe directly from the magazine:



Roasted Garbanzo Beans and Garlic with Swiss Chard

Garbanzo Beans:
2 15.5-ounce cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained (about 3 cups)
10 garlic cloves, peeled
2 large shallots
3 small bay leaves, preferably fresh

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 1/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil


Chard:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, peeled,
crushed
3 small bay leaves, preferably fresh
2 shallots, sliced

2 bunches Swiss chard, center stems cut out, leaves coarsely torn

2 cups low-salt chicken broth


Garbanzo beans: Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine first 5 ingredients in an 8 x 8 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour oil over; cover dish with foil. Roast until garlic is tender, about 45 minutes.

Chard:
Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic, bay leaves, and shallots. Cover; cook until shallots are tender, about 2 minutes. Uncover; add half of chard. Toss until chard wilts and volume is reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add remaining chard. Toss until chard wilts, about 2 minutes. Add broth. Cover and cook until chard is tender, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Season chard with salt and pepper. Transfer chard mixture to large sieve set over bowl and drain. Drain garbanzos and reserve oil; discard bay leaves. Combine garbanzos and chard in large skillet. Add 2 tablespoons oil reserved from garbanzos. Toss over medium heat until warmed through, moistening with more oil by tablespoonfuls if needed, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

-Laura

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