Sweet & sour red chard

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Red Swiss chard is unrivalled in its beautiful play of colours from deep dark reds to vibrant pinks and has a wonderful earthy taste akin to beetroot only lighter and a little more subtle – excellent requirements for a stunning vegetable dish. Briefly blanched the chard keeps its fantastic colour and fine taste and has its own delicate sweetness balanced by the sweet & sour slow-cooked onions, plump raisins & a splash of vinegar. Again something agrodolce, this time not from Sicily like the Caponata but from the Mediterranean nonetheless: a classic Spanish preparation for spinach served in London’s Barafina translated into chard; I have added wine (or occasionally Noilly Prat) for a smidgen of sauce. P. S. recipe in English + Deutsches Rezept am Ende Continue reading

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Caponata alla Siciliana

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Recipe in German at the end of the post / Deutsches Rezept im Anschluß.

Caponata seems to have enjoyed its own revival in recent years and is best enjoyed at room temperature which makes it a perfect prep-in-advance thing where its ingredients also benefit from a little more lingering. Fantastically versatile – excellent party fare, a great starter or appetizer, perfectly light but satisfying summer lunch, a side bursting with flavour or a nice autumn supper – this is an even more splendid end of summer dish.

Using the ripest aubergines and tastiest tomatoes, it embodies and transfigures all of summer’s lusciousness and warmth that is even more emphasized by the holy Sicilian agrodolce (sweet & sour) trinity: vinegar, raisins, pine nuts – a delicious result of the many Moorish influences on the Mediterranean cuisine, art & culture. No wonder, that moorish is also a synonym for everything utterly tasteful. Continue reading

Sweet & sour ruby Swiss chard

swiss chard by the james kitchen
swiss chard, a photo by the james kitchen on Flickr.

This is the perfect time for the ruby & rainbow swiss chard, I can never pass it by when I see the red, yellow & pink stems with dark green and red leathery leaves at the market stalls. It’s flowery and fragrant, slightly beetrooty flavour (they are relatives) is perfectly matched with this sweet & sour onion, raisin, vinegar sauce and it does come with good health benefits, too: high in vitamins A, K and C – good to beet that winter cold early. I am not sure of it’s origin, there similar agrodolce sauces in various Spanish and Italian cuisines, so I am thinking it might be Moorish.
I have changed the recipe quite a bit since I like to have more sauce and added the stems, too. They are what makes this dish beautiful and a multi-tasker: an interesting side to any meat or fish course or a smashing vegetarian.

Serves 4 as a side or two as a main course

Sweet & sour swiss chard
Adapted by Valentine Warner’s What to eat now

A large bunch of ruby or rainbow Swiss chard (about 8-10 stalks)
50g golden raisins
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, cut into thin half moons
3 garlic cloves, sliced finely
1 teaspoon sugar
50ml apple cider vinegar
200ml white wine
25g pine nuts
¼ to ½ teaspoon of hot smoked paprika
salt & pepper

Prepare the Swiss chard: separate the leaves from the thick stalks and cut them into pieces of roughly the same size, about 3cm (over 1 inch). Same goes for the green leaves, divide the larger ones in 4 to 6 smaller pieces but leave tiny stalks intact. Boil some water and pour over the raisins to plump them up. Use some more of the boiling water to precook the chard, throw in the stems about 2 minutes before you add the leaves and blanch for 4 minutes. Drain and leave to cool.

In a wide shallow pan heat the olive oil over medium heat and slowly simmer the onions until soft (10-15 minutes), adding the garlic halfway through. Sprinkle over the sugar and let it caramelize a little. Add the vinegar – stand back since the fumes are strong – and cook until the liquid has mostly evaporated. Then add the white wine and let it reduce to about half the amount. Stir in the swiss chard and season with salt, pepper and the hot smoked pimenton. Roast the pine nuts in a separate dry pan until golden and sprinkle on top of the chard.

Ideas: with roast chicken, pork chops & polenta; mashed potatoes & sausages; grilled fish or sea bass in a salt crust; or with this wonderful rutabaga puree and walnut sauce we had in Strasbourg => will try to make this soon.