Try Chard This Spring: in a Quinoa Salad, in Risotto, or With a Parmesan Cream Sauce

Techniques and recipes for a locally produced, super-healthy vegetable

If you think cooking chard is difficult, think again. This large, leafy, dark green vegetable with varying stalk colors of white, red and yellow cooks up in a matter of minutes, tastes similar to spinach and is just as versatile. It also grows very well on the coast and is extremely healthy.

Many people walk right by chard in the supermarket, thinking it’s hard to cook or that it may come out bitter. That is not the case at all. It does need to be cleaned, especially if it’s coming from your garden or the farmer’s market. The chard in the grocery store still needs to be cleaned but it has had an initial rinse.  There is no need to remove the stems. Cut them at the base, cut into small pieces like celery and add it to the mix. If it’s young, you can eat like a salad or add as part of a lettuce mix. Cooked chard tastes very good with sautéed onion and/or garlic. Once cooked, you can eat it as is or add it to dishes like pasta, risotto or eggs.

Vegetables like loose-leaf lettuce, spinach and chard grow well on the coast because they like cool weather. It’s very easy to grow in your own garden. If you’d prefer to buy it from a farmer, check the Pacifica and Half Moon Bay farmer’s markets (Half Moon Bay will be reopening in May) or in a local grocery store like in Half Moon Bay. 

Chard is in the beet family; the long leaves are very similar. The name “swiss chard” comes from a way to distinguish the seeds from French spinach.

Besides being easy to find and grow, it’s one of those vegetables that is very low in calories and packed with nutrition and health benefits like cancer and osteoporosis prevention as well as boosting iron levels. Just imagine eating chard 2-3 times per week instead of potatoes or pasta…which is why adding it to those dishes is always a good option. Chard is an excellent source of vitamins:  C, E, and K, carotenes,  chlorophyll, and fiber.  You will also have the benefit of ingesting several minerals including potassium, magnesium, iron, and manganese.  Chard is a good source of other nutrients including vitamin B6, protein, calcium, thiamine, selenium, zinc, niacin, and folic acid.  

Next time you are in the store, toss a bunch of chard in your cart and give it a try! Here is a guide to how to cook along with some recipes:

  • Chard and Quinoa Salad
  • Chard and Garbanzo Bean Risotto
  • Sautéed Chard with Parmesan Cream Sauce


How to Cook Chard
Cut up the stems of the chard; don't throw them out. They taste great.

Olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
Ground pepper (experiment with other spices, too)
1 head of chard, chopped with stems, placed in a large bowl of water to remove dirt
Kosher or sea salt

1.    Heat large sauté pan to medium. Then add olive oil. Let heat for a few seconds, then add onions. Give the pan a shake or stir the onions briefly. Season with ground pepper and leave the onions. When you can smell them or when you can see them becoming golden, stir them again and cook until translucent.

2.    Remove chard from bowl, placing your hands into the water and scooping out the chard. This is better than pouring the water as some of the dirt might stay on the leaves. Continue cooking chard until tender and wilted, and the water has evaporated. Cover if necessary.

3.    When the chard is cooked, season with salt and possibly more olive oil, like a high quality finishing oil.

Chard and Quinoa Salad

Chard and Garbanzo Risotto
Serves 4-6
This is the recipe that Amy Fothergill prepared at the HEAL Project’s March event, Spring Ahead, showcasing local produce.

3/4 c dry baby garbanzo beans, see Note
2 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (or ½ large)
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp unsalted, organic butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup of Arborio rice
4-5 cups of organic vegetable broth, simmering on the stove
1 bunch of Daylight Farms chard (local chard produced in Half Moon Bay, available at New Leaf Market), chopped and soaked in water
1 Tbl unsalted butter (optional)
1/4 – 1/2 c grated parmesan or any hard Italian-style cheese
Note: Soak beans in cold water overnight or for at least 8 hours. Drain, rinse and place in a pot with water and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook until softened, about 1 hour. Drain and reserve.

Heat oil in a large pot. Sauté onion and ground pepper until onions are golden and soft, trying not to move in the pan too much.

Add butter and cook another 2 minutes then add garlic and salt. Cook 1 minute. 
Add rice to pan and toast for 1 minute, stirring. Stir in 1 cup of broth and bring to a simmer. Continue simmering and adding broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring every 3-5 minutes. Allow each addition to be absorbed before adding next and until rice is tender and creamy-looking but still firm, about 20 minutes. If you run out of broth, add hot water.

Add the garbanzo beans during the last 5 minutes of cooking and bring back to a simmer. Then add chard and cook until softened.

Taste for seasonings like salt and pepper. Add butter at the end to add extra creaminess. Top with grated cheese.

Sautéed Chard with Parmesan Cream Sauce (serve as is or with pasta)

Olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
Ground pepper
1 head of chard, chopped with stems, placed in a large bowl of water to remove dirt.
Salt and pepper to taste
1 c of whole milk or half and half
1-2 Tbl cornstarch
1/4 c grated hard Italian cheese like Parmesan or Asiago
Sprinkle of nutmeg, garlic, paprika, dry mustard

1.    Heat large sauté pan to medium. Add olive oil and cook onions with some ground pepper.

2.    Remove chard from bowl, putting your hands into the water and scooping out the chard. If you pour the water out, the dirt will remain. Cook chard with onion, uncovered until softened.

3.    Add milk or cream and bring almost to a simmer.

4.    Mix cornstarch with an equal amount of cold water. Add slowly to the chard and cook for 2 minutes. Add the seasonings and parmesan cheese. Continue to cook on a medium-low heat until thickened. Check for seasonings.

5.    Serve with pasta, rice or by itself.


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