- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 11, 2007

It used to be that we could find only regular Swiss chard — that mild-flavored first cousin of the noble beet green — with silvery white stems. That was until ruby chard, with its gloriously scarlet center line, became widely available.

Enter the newest iteration to hit our seed catalogues and farmers markets: rainbow chard.

This is one of those vegetables that seems to have come into existence (or at least into our markets and, therefore, our awareness) sometime in the past decade or so.

With vibrantly colored stems and veins ranging in hue from yellow to orange to pink to lavender and the stunning-as-ever shades of red, rainbow chard is beautiful enough to be a centerpiece on the summer dinner table.

To preserve the colors of the stems during cooking, cut off the leaves and chop them. Then mince the stems and keep them separate. Cook them separately as well, using the cooked stems as a garnish for the leaves.

(Cook the minced stems by simply flashing them for a few minutes in hot olive oil until they are bright and shiny, yet still crisp.)

You can also make a frittata for a perfect summer brunch or supper. Garnish with thick slices of heirloom tomatoes.

Rainbow chard frittata with roasted garlic and goat cheese

The preparation time is 30 minutes.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1½ cups thinly sliced red onion (about 1 medium onion)

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary (or a scant teaspoon dried)

8 large rainbow chard leaves, stems separated and minced; leaves roughly chopped (keep stems and leaves separate)

1 tablespoon roasted garlic paste (recipe follows)

8 large eggs

Freshly ground black pepper

4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Heirloom tomatoes for garnish

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 9-inch skillet with an ovenproof handle, and add onion, ½ teaspoon salt and rosemary. Saute for about 10 minutes over medium heat, until the onions are very soft and just starting to take on a little brown coloring.

Stir in the chopped rainbow chard leaves and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and saute another minute or two, or until the rainbow chard leaves are wilted but still bright green. Remove from heat, stir in the roasted garlic paste and the uncooked chard stems, and set aside.

Break the eggs into a large bowl and beat well with a whisk. Season with pepper, add the vegetables and the goat cheese, and stir with a spoon until blended. Clean and dry the skillet and return it to the stove. Preheat the broiler.

Heat the remaining tablespoon oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Tilt the pan in all directions to be sure the entire bottom surface is coated. When the oil is very hot, pour in the vegetable-egg mixture and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the eggs are set on the bottom.

Transfer the skillet to the preheated broiler, and broil for about 3 minutes or until the frittata is firm in the center. Run a flexible rubber spatula around the edge of the frittata to loosen it from the skillet, and slide or invert onto a large, round plate.

Serve hot, warm or room temperature, cut into wedges, accompanied by thick slices of vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Roasted garlic paste

A wonderful basic condiment on its own, or an ingredient for other things, roasted garlic paste has a surprisingly mild and friendly flavor. The sharpness that we normally expect is dramatically softened through the roasting process, and the result is pungent in a very positive sense.

Get in the habit of making multiple batches and keep this on hand as a staple. It keeps well for a week or more if stored in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. Be sure the top surface of the roasted garlic paste is covered thoroughly with a layer of olive oil during storage, as this creates an airtight seal that helps preserve the paste.

Olive oil as needed

3 medium bulbs garlic (about 3 ounces apiece) (see note)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a small baking pan with foil and pour a little olive oil (about ½ teaspoon) onto each spot where you plan to place a bulb of garlic.

Slice off just the very tips of the garlic bulbs (a fraction of a fraction of an inch) and discard. Otherwise, leave the bulbs intact and unpeeled.

Place the bulbs upright on the oiled spots. Drizzle the exposed tops-of-the-bulbs with about ½ to 1 teaspoon additional oil, and place the tray in the center of the oven,

Roast for 30 minutes or until the bulbs feel soft when gently pressed. (Larger bulbs will take longer.) Remove the tray from the oven, and let it stand while the garlic cools.

When cool enough to handle, simply break each bulb into individual cloves and squeeze out the roasted garlic pulp into a small bowl. This process will be a little sticky. It will also be highly aromatic.

Mash the pulp with a fork, adding about 1 tablespoon additional olive oil as you mix. Transfer to a clean, dry container with a tight-fitting lid; smooth out the top of the paste and drizzle with enough additional oil to make a film that covers the entire surface. Cover and refrigerate until use. Makes about 3 tablespoons (easily multiplied).

Note: A toaster oven works well for roasting the garlic, so you don’t have to heat your entire oven for just this one small item.


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