Yodeling for Swiss Chard by My Mom

May 8th, 2008

My introduction to Swiss chard was during a Sunday dinner at my future in-laws’ home when I was about 16. There was the homemade sauce and pasta, meatballs, a roast, and a bowl of cooked, green, leafy vegetables that looked sort of like spinach. I asked what it was and my future father-in-law said, “It’s Swiss chard. Eat some and it will clear up your face”. I don’t even remember if I tasted it at that time. But years later when I was married, my husband and I bought our first house and we planted a vegetable garden that included Swiss chard.

What is Swiss about Swiss chard? We lived in Switzerland for several years and I don’t recall seeing any there. I’ve done some research to find that Swiss chard is so named because the Swiss botanist, Koch, determined the scientific name of the plant in the 19th century and the name honors his homeland. Swiss chard originates in the Mediterranean area specifically Sicily. If you check out Italian cookbooks, there are always recipes that use Swiss chard. My copy of the first Marcella Hazan has three different recipes, one for a tortellini filling, one for the stalks with parmesan, and the other for a cold salad of the cooked leaves.

According to the World’s Healthiest Foods website, Swiss chard is the “valedictorian” of vegetables because it is so low in calories and rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, etc, although there was no mention that it cleared up acne! It’s been around for a long time and was used medicinally by the ancient Greeks and Romans.

Botanically, Swiss chard is a member of the beet and spinach family and is very easy to grow. It is hardy to about 20 degrees F so you can sow the seed in the fall for an early spring crop. To harvest, pick the outer leaves of the plant and it will keep on producing throughout the growing season. I like the small leaves because they are tender. When the leaves get bigger then the stalk gets tougher much like celery. In that case, you can boil the stalks for about 10 minutes and then add the leaves. The Swiss chard available in the stores is often organically grown in California and has red, orange, or yellow stalks and veins and is called “Rainbow Chard”.

All this brings me to my entry for the “Dollar Dish Duel”. Some years ago on a cold, February Lenten Friday, I was trying to think of a meatless dinner. Before going to the grocery store, I took a walk around the yard and there in the vegetable garden was some beautiful Swiss chard, the first of the year. I picked a bowlful and cleaned it and then the following recipe was born.

-Ginny’s Mom


3 tablespoonfuls olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 can ceci (pronounced “chaychee”, AKA chickpeas, garbanzo beans)
1 bunch of Swiss chard
1 cup vegetable broth (use a bouillon cube dissolved in a cup of boiling water)
1 lb of spaghetti
grated cheese either romano or parmesan

Warm the oil in a large skillet. Mince the garlic and cook in the oil. Drain the ceci well and add to the pan. Cook for a few minutes stirring often. Wash the Swiss chard thoroughly . Discard the stalks if overly large and tough. Chop into large pieces and add to the pan. Saute for a few minutes. Pour the vegetable broth into the pan, bring to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer and cover.

Cook the spaghetti and drain. Arrange the pasta on a platter. Pour the ceci and chard mixture over the pasta. Serve with grated cheese.

Cost of the dish:
The spaghetti was 0.88, the Swiss chard was 2.99, the can of ceci was 0.60 for a total of $4.47. The pantry staples were the bouillon cube, the olive oil and the garlic. That leaves only 0.53 for grated cheese. However, this dish will serve 4 to 6 persons and if you grow the chard in the garden then it’s really cheap!!


P.S. Ginny here…time for The Dollar Dish Duel WINNER!!!!! My judges had a very difficult decision, as all the dollar dishes were excellent, but I think they were all up to the challenge. Just to let everyone know, I did not tell them anything about the entries until the round-up went up on Tuesday, in hopes of keeping them impartial. They read every blog entry and made their decision. The winner of the first Dollar Dish Duel is Kristin of the Pearl Onion for her Soft Boiled Egg Prosciutto with Rustic Toast. She will receive The Improvisational Cook by Sally Schneider. Thank you again for participating!!! Also, thank you to my mother for the wonderful post!!! and my father for the delicious photo! Happy early Mother’s Day!!!!

My Second Dollar Dish: Roasted Red Pepper Alfredo

May 4th, 2008

My dad always makes the Fettucini Alfredo in our family. Once, I walked into the kitchen to discover my mother making Fettucini Alfredo for dinner. It puzzled me. How did she know what to do? It was Dad’s recipe. I asked her about it and she looked at me like I was crazy. But in my young mind, only Dad could make Fettucini Alfredo.

In my family, we can all cook. Even my sister, who has now made her fame through Ramen, bakes amazing orgasmic Pots du Chocolate. Due to work, my father rarely has time to cook but he has invented some delicious dishes such as his famous ham-cucumber stuffed pork chops. Today, as I was craving his creamy alfredo sauce, I began to think about how my father has influenced my culinary development. He has always encouraged me to do what I love, be creative and push myself to do well. These values have spilled into my kitchen and impacted my own cooking. In my dad’s honor, I decided to tweak his original alfredo recipe by making a Roasted Red Pepper Alfredo.

I, also, really wanted to post another Dollar Dish since tomorrow is the deadline. I had bought ingredients to make stuffed red peppers for under $5 but I could not get excited for the dish. Instead, I found myself craving this alfredo sauce. So, I hope you will forgive me but this sauce was not exactly under $5 but it is possible. When I first created my Dollar Dish Duel, I went to the dollar store to check out what kind of food one could find for a dollar. I stumbled across a huge jar of roasted red peppers but I did not have any cash on me and paying a dollar with a credit card seemed silly. So when I had this idea for the alfredo today, my options were to either waste gas to go back to the dollar store or use the red pepper that I bought last week. I opted for roasting my own pepper. If you factor in the dollar jar of roasted red peppers with the whipping cream ($1.25), 1 cup of Parmesan (about $1), and pasta ($1), the dish comes to about $4.25. The dinner was great and there are leftovers for me to take for lunch tomorrow! There is still time to enter the duel…email me your submissions by tomorrow (May 5th). For details, click on the logo…

Roasted Red Pepper Alfredo

1 roasted Red Pepper, chopped
1 cup Parmesan Cheese
1 cup whipping cream
1 box of pasta

1 tablespoon butter
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1. Prepare pasta according to directions.
2. Heat butter in a saucepan over medium heat until melted.
3. Saute garlic and red pepper in butter.
4. Add pasta to the saucepan.
5. Stir in whip cream and paremsan.
6. Cook until thickened and season with nutmeg.

P.S. How to roast a pepper? Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Please the pepper on a baking sheet and roast until the top begins to blacken. Rotate the pepper until all the sides are blackened. Remove from oven and place in a brown paper bag to cool. This helps the skin come off easily.

That’s a spicy..

April 10th, 2008

No, there are no meatballs in this post just a spicy pasta sauce. I used to hate spicy food…I would avoid it as much as possible. But as I’ve gotten older, I have begun to let go of my childhood food prejudices…I make lemon cake, eat cheesecake, love peanut butter and explore spicy recipes. One of my favorite new things is to add some crushed red pepper to the olive oil when sautéing pretty much everything (unless I am cooking for my roommates because they are still not into the spicy). It adds such a great kick to a dish.

This pasta sauce was created tonight by throwing things from the pantry together, as I am trying my best to stay within my food budget. Recently, there was an article in the New York Times entitled “5 Cooks, $40, 5 Dishes, 3 Desserts” in which the famous Chef Eric Ripert and his crew of chefs were asked to make a meal with a limited budget and items from a dollar store. I would be very interested to see what yall think about what they made. I was not blown away with their ideas although the nougat intrigued me. Many of us often find ourselves limited by a budget and I think we could come up with some great ideas to rival Chef Ripet. I have been playing with the idea of turning this into a blogging event, even though I am such an infant blogger, because I think it would be fun to challenge oneself in this way. I have been trying to think of the parameters so any advice would be welcome.

I’m sending this Spicy Quick Pasta Sauce over to Ruth’s Presto Pasta Night. Check it out for some great new ideas!.

Ginny’s Spicy Quick Pasta Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat in a frying pan.
2. Cooking red pepper until sizzling.
3. Sauté onion and garlic until onions are translucent. If garlic starts to burn, turn down the heat.
4. Add the tomatoes and Italian seasoning.
5. Cook for about 10 minutes until liquid has evaporated.

P.S. Want to jazz up the sauce? You may notice many of my meals have no meat. When you cook for yourself, it is often easier to go the vegetarian route. Some chicken or shrimp would go very well with this recipe so feel free to add to it. Also, add other vegetables if you would like…mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant…just sauté them with the onions. Yummy quick sauce!