Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Tale of Two Dinners

I had to force myself to eat dinner last night. Honestly, after all that restaurant food, I was pretty sure I never wanted to eat again and I was 100% sure I didn't want any chicken. Skipping dinner may seem like a good idea when one is dieting, but in reality its not. I had swum my usual mile yesterday afternoon and I knew my body needed some kind of quality fuel - whether or not I wanted it. I also knew that the husband would be home for dinner and would be expecting great things. Problem was, I wasn't interested creating or eating said great things. And, I was even less interested in hunting and foraging for them.

Fortunately, Mama and Papa Diva brought more than the wall unit when they came to visit this weekend. Along with the wood and glass, there was a surfeit of produce from my bro's garden. Yay! This week's harvest consisted of: Bright Lights Swiss Chard, red cabbage, some gigantic zucchini and yellow summer squash, cucumbers and a whole bunch of yellow string and flat green beans. Sweet! Thanks to my bro I'll be spared the trials and tribulations of Fairway's produce aisle this week. Bonus!

I knew that I had some turkey sausage in the freezer and I set about defrosting it and cleaning the gorgeous Swiss chard. I also knew that I had no intention of eating what I was about to prepare. No, turkey sausage is not chicken, but its damn close. Close enough that I wanted no part of it ... at least not last night. Hence, the tale of two dinners - one for me and one for the husband. Mine consisted of a large salad with all manner of fresh veggies, the steamed flat and yellow beans, and a hard-boiled egg. Not the most interesting menu, I admit, but it was perfect and just what I needed at the time.The husband shared in the pleasures of the fresh steamed beans, and the expected greatness was provided by my Swiss Chard and Sausage Sautée.

As I write this, it occurs to me that this not a meal for which I have a recipe. Its something I made up as I went along when faced with an enormous bunch of the chard for the first time last summer. As such, the amounts given are flexible. I'm really presenting a technique here, more than a precise recipe. I have also used this technique, with a slight variation, for broccoli rabe. Feel free to substitute the rabe if that is your preference, but in doing so I would blanch the rabe in some salted, boiling water prior to sautéeing it. Doing so will reduce the bitterness of the broccoli rabe. Kale would also work nicely in this recipe and, like the chard, will not require the blanching.

Swiss Chard and Turkey Sausage Sautée:

  • one VERY large bunch of Bright Lights Swiss Chard
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • one package of Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage links
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of low-sodium chicken broth (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • grating of fresh nutmeg
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • sprinkle of red wine vinegar
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • some cooked egg noodles or some variety of whole wheat pasta
Clean and prepare the chard as follows: break off the large, tough ends of the stems and either reserve for later use (they can be steamed and served as you would asparagus) or discard them. Fill the sink, or a very large bowl, with fresh cold water and add the whole leaves of chard. Swish the leaves around in the water to dislodge any dirt and let them sit, undisturbed, for several minutes. This will allow the dirt or sand to sink to the bottom. Gently lift the leaves from the water and place them in a strainer to drain. Rinse with cold water and reserve.

In a large skillet or sautée pan heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the sausages. Cook the sausage until well-browned and cooked throughout. While the sausage is cooking, cut the chard leaves into a rough chop and reserve. When the sausages are done, remove them from the pan and set aside.

If necessary, add an additional teaspoon of olive oil to the skillet and sautee the garlic over medium-high heat for 30 seconds. Begin adding the chopped chard, a few handfuls at a time, and sautee the chard and garlic together, adding more chard as it cooks down, until all of the chard fits into the pan and it begins to wilt. Add the chicken broth, raise the heat slightly and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring frequently. Add the crushed red pepper flakes, the nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste and stir. Cut each turkey sausage link into pennies and return to the pan with with the card, stirring well to combine. Lower the heat and let the mixture simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld. You may add additional chicken broth as needed or desired. Just prior to serving, sprinkle in a dash or two of red wine vinegar and stir to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more of any of the suggested spices as desired.

Serve the chard and sausage over the cooked egg noodles or pasta, topped with the Parmesan cheese and enjoy!

As written, this recipe will serve 4 very happy people, but can easily be doubled. Its nutricious and delicious. I hope you'll try it.

I must say that this is one of my most favorite recipes. I may not have wanted it last night, but the circumstances were unusual. Normally, I'd be happy to scarf down a bowl of this and go back for seconds. Its an easy and satisfying meal. As for the rest of the harvest? Stay tuned. There will be more veggie based greatness later in the week!


Deb said...

Chard recipe sounds great - good enough to try to overcome my chard phobia left over from a bad chilhood. I have yet to venture into the exotic greens as I like to think of them. I really need to get over it and move in. This could be the shove I need. Thanks as always Diva for your fabulous food ideas.


Anonymous said...

I, too, have chard phobia. Recently acquired. I was listening to NPR, and here comes Molly Katzen, who I've always loved. She has a new cookbook out, and on-air, she prepares a recipe from her new book. The recipe is something like "Ruby Chard Decorated With Itself." My mouth is watering listening to her cook it! It sounds so delicious. Has some balsamic glaze ... well anyway, I go to great lengths when I get out of the car to find the recipe online ... I make it ...


You ALMOST make me want to make another run at chard, Diva ... almost. Almost.
-- veejay

Kat said...

I think I will have to give that recipe a try, but substitute baked tofu for the turkey sausage.

Man, a mile swim. I=jealous. I think sometime in the next three years I'd like to do a triathalon. But the swimming seems to me the trickiest part.

Looking forward to other veggie-tastic recipes.

The Diva on a Diet said...

Chard phobia, huh? I guess I can see that - it is kind of scary ... and I imagine that things could turn ugly if its miss-cooked.

That being said, I encourage you to give it another go. Buy the absolute freshest bunch you can find - preferably from a farmer's market and wash it well. I've come to really love it, though I may not have even tried it if it weren't for my bro's garden.

Kat - you could def. substitute some tofu for the sausage, or just leave it out altogether. I've also made this recipe without any meat and the results are just as good.

Thanks to all of you for your kind words. You are much appreciated!