April 21, 2018
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With chard aplenty, be daring with variations

By Sandy Oliver Special to the News, Special to the BDN

The rain has surely dampened our enthusiasm for gardening. Actually it has dampened my enthusiasm — period. It has not, however, discouraged our chard, bless its green leaves and bright and cheery stalks of red, yellow, orange, pink and white.

We grow the variety called Bright Lights, and they are indeed bright. Early on when the plants were smaller, the slugs shredded the leaves but somehow the chard has pulled off a decent growing spurt, and now I have enough to make a meal.

We use chard casually. One morning this week, Jamie picked one stalk, chopped the stem and sauteed it with a scallion and when it was just tender, dropped the shredded leaf on top, whirled it around in the pan, the added two beaten eggs and a cheese. It made a nice breakfast.

You can find some chard in the grocery store. I always feel sorry for it because it has had to travel quite a way to get here, and then it gets rained on in the produce section under those greens sprinklers, which promote mushy leaves. It is never as nice as the stuff we grow ourselves or that you can find in farmers markets this time of year. For us it is a cut-and-come-again kind of vegetable. We take the larger outside leaves and the chard obligingly sends up more in the center. We can go on like that for a month or more.

The flip side is that I keep on having to come up with ways to prepare it. Plain old steamed or sauteed is OK to a point, but then we hanker for something different.

So, here it is: a braised version with capers in it. I feel a little embarrassed calling this a recipe. If you follow it, you’ll readily see that there is a kind of general principle involved here of sauteing green leafy stuff like chard, spinach or beet greens in oil, then adding a little zest with vinegar, a little interesting flavor with garlic and capers, and then good old salt and pepper.

You could just as easily use a different kind of oil, and substitute lemon juice or some other kind of vinegar, use olives or pickled onions instead of capers and come up with your own variations. You could even steam the chard and serve it with your favorite salad dressing.

Looking for …

a simple egg custard. John Gray of Holden wrote: “My wife and I enjoy a simple dish of custard once in a while. I know this will make you cringe,” though really, John, not as much as you might think, “but Jell-O used to sell custard mix in a box that was good enough for us. It was called Jell-O Americana egg custard. It is no longer on the store shelves anywhere. I checked their Web site and it is not listed anymore. Obsolete, I guess. It was simple and done in one pan on the stove top. Do any of you have a simple recipe for custard? Not as a pie filling, just in small bowls. Your help will be appreciated. I hate to think we will never have custard again unless we buy it in a restaurant.” Surely we can help the Grays out with a recipe for a simple stovetop custard with eggs and not cornstarch.

Send queries or answers to Sandy Oliver, 1061 Main Road, Islesboro 04848. E-mail: tastebuds@prexar.com. For recipes, tell us where they came from. List ingredients, specify number of servings and do not abbreviate measurements. Include name, address and daytime phone number.

Swiss Chard with Capers

1 to 1½ pounds Swiss chard

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 to 2 cloves garlic (minced or pressed)

1 tablespoon capers, mashed

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper

Remove the leafy part of the chard, shred it and set aside. Chop the stalks into bite-sized or smaller pieces. Put the oil, garlic and stems into a saute pan, and cook over a medium high heat, stirring and allowing them to become just tender. Add the capers and the shredded leaves and sprinkle on the vinegar. Cook until the leaves are wilted, turning them over once or twice. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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