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

CECI ‘N CHARD

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!!

BUON APPETITO!

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!!!!

The Dollar Dish Duel Round-Up!!!

May 6th, 2008

The day you have all been waiting for has come…THE DOLLAR DISH DUEL ROUND UP!!!!!!!!!!!!

As I have mentioned, the inspiration for this duel originally came from an article in the New York Times entitled “5 Cooks, $40, 5 Dishes, 3 Desserts.” However, as gas and food prices continue to rise, this event seemed to be nicely timed. It forced me to start thinking about how to cut costs but still make an excellent meal. An important skill to have! I found myself roaming around the grocery store and trying to figure out more ways to cut costs. I don’t know about the rest of you but I loved this challenge! Due to the positive response and relevance to everyday life, I plan to do it again, especially once I go back to being a starving student this fall…

Without further ado…I am very proud to introduce eight delicious dishes for our duel!!! Thank you all for participating and for everyone’s support through my first event. The contestants had to make a dish to feed at least two people for under $5. They could also use three staples from their pantry. My judges, roommates and boyfriend, shall deliberate shortly and decide upon who wins the The Improvisational Cook by Sally Schneider. Then, on Friday, I will announce the winner along with a guest post from my mother. You hear that mom? Are you writing?

So, let the games begin!

Serving us Soft Boiled Egg Prosciutto with Rustic Toast for $3.66, Kristin of the Pearl Onion from New York, NY gives us some great tips for Soft Boiling Eggs. A technique I really need to try!

LyB of And then I do the dishes from Lévis, Québec, Canada makes a delicious Zucchini and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta
for lunch. A sun-dried tomatoes meal for under $5? A fabulous idea!

All the way from Manila, Philippines, Heart of Heart and Hearth brings us Stuffed Tilapia for the low price of $1.12! Stuffed with onions, tomatoes and garlic, this is a great quick and nutritious meal!

Rachel of Wheat-Free, Meat Free from upstate New York entered Spanish Rice in Crockpot. A delicious, easy and cheap meal! What could be better?

Brandi of Rantings of a Dixie Pixie in Yankee Land from a small town western in NY bring us Mama’s Texas Goulash for $4.97. A very comforting meal that also comforts your wallet!

Creating a Pasta Frittata for the low price of $2.27, Terry of Blue Kitchen in Chicago, IL proves you can make an under $5 meal worthy of company. When can I come to dinner?

Ivy of Kopiaste, to Greek Hospitality from Greece gives us Patates Antinahtes a delicious and simple Cypriot recipe that means “Tossed Potatoes.” Pair it with a salad and you have a great and inexpensive dinner!

Smita from Smita Serves You Right in Rochester, NY made Chocolate Orange Raisin Cakes in the Microwave! Make an inexpensive version with some orange juice or want to splurge? Use some Grand Mariner or rum!

P.S. If anyone accidentally fell through the cracks and I did not include you please email me. I’ll add you to the round-up post-haste! Thank you all again for participating! It was so much fun and I loved hosting it!

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

Staples:
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.