I’ve been on a roll lately with Swiss chard. I keep buying it at the farmers market and then I come home and scour the internet and my recipe books for inspiration. I found one recipe that I cannot seem to deviate from. Actually there are two, and I will get to the other one in another post.
I came across this recipe a while back, and I had high hopes for it. It’s got a simple Mediterranean vibe. It’s humble yet flashy, but not in an over-accessorized kind of way. Just as the right shoes can make an outfit, this dish needs an entree that will not compete or over-power it.
I was pleased with the subtle garlic flavor and warm chard punctuated by little bursts of sweet and nutty that I encountered from the raisins and pine nuts. Then I plated it up with a grilled chicken breast, and I was so unimpressed. The two just didn’t go together. At all. Perhaps it was the smokey, grilled flavor of the chicken or its seasoning. I wasn’t sure. One thing I did know: I wasn’t about to give up on the side dish that appealed to me on so many levels. I put the leftovers into the refrigerator and figured I would do something with it at lunch in a day or two.
Then in one of those moments where I stood in front of the refrigerator with no idea about what to eat for lunch, I grabbed a piece of tilapia and began looking for some veggies to cook up with it. I came across the leftover Swiss chard. And then it came to me: tilapia with balsamic browned butter sauce served atop the left over greens. I have prepared tilapia with balsamic browned butter sauce before, and it just seemed right.
Let me tell you, it was a match made in heaven. I ate it for lunch two days in a row and I crave it on a weekly basis. You can’t go wrong with browned butter and balsamic vinegar. The nuttiness of the browned butter was pure heaven, and the balsamic vinegar turns syrupy and slightly sweet when cooked. Swoon. It was a like symphony playing out in my mouth, and every instrument of this dish played its part beautifully. I can’t wait for the encore.
Rinse the Swiss chard. The best way to do this is to fill the sink up with water and submerge the chard into the water. The leaves have many crevices and dirt and sand get caught in there. Remove the chard from the water leaving all the dirt and grit behind. Remove the stems from the chard, set aside and bring a large pot of water up to a boil. Now would also be a good time to prepare a bowl of ice water.
Dice up the stems and prepare a skillet with olive oil and begin to saute the stems. The stems are slightly bitter, in comparison to the leaves. But I found it to work well with sweetness of the raisins.
Plump up the raisins by pouring hot water over them, letting them soak for about 10 minutes.
This chard had big stems. You can cut back on using all of them if you’re worried about the flavor.
Add in the pine nuts so they can begin to toast along with the stems.
Meanwhile, salt the boiling water very well and drop the chard leaves into the water for about a minute.
Remove and immediately plunge into the ice water to stop the cooking.
Remove the chard from the ice water and squeeze it by hand to remove the excess water. Lay the chard clumps onto a cutting board and chop.
Add the garlic to the stems and pine nuts mixture, cooking it only until it becomes fragrant.
Add the chopped leaves and raisins, toss well and serve hot, warm or at room temperature. I preferred this somewhere in between warm and room temperature.
I love the festive look this dish has.
Here it is with the tilapia and balsamic browned butter sauce. If brown sauce doesn’t appeal to you, just close your eyes and let your mouth be the judge.
I don’t think you will be disappointed. The mellow flavor of the fish pairs so well with the greens. The sweet and nutty balsamic browned butter is a perfect complement to the raisins and pine nuts. Some things were just meant to be together.
Swiss Chard With Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts
Adapted from Martha Rose Shulman’s recipe in the New York Times
3 tablespoons golden raisins or currants (I used golden raisins.)
2 pounds Swiss chard, stemmed and washed in several changes of water, stems diced and set aside
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons pine nuts
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Place the raisins or currants in a bowl and pour on hot water to cover. Soak 10 minutes and drain.
Fill a bowl with ice water. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil and add the chard. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until just tender. Transfer to the bowl of ice water and let sit for a few minutes. Drain and squeeze out as much water as you can. Chop coarsely.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick skillet. Add the chard stems and cook 3 to 5 minutes, until tender. Add the pine nuts and cook, stirring, until they begin to color, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, about 1 minute or just until the garlic begins to smell fragrant. Add the chopped greens and raisins or currants and toss together until they are well coated with oil and heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve, or allow to cool and serve at room temperature.
It couldn’t be easier to make the tilapia with balsamic brown butter sauce. I lightly brush the tilapia with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and saute in a skillet until fish is medium firm when touched. Fish varies in thickness, so you have to gauge for yourself. I usually slightly under-cook my fish and the carry-over cooking takes care of the rest. Remove fish from the skillet and add a tablespoon of butter per piece of fish. Over medium high heat, melt butter to the point where the foamy solids begin to brown. Add about 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar per piece of fish – just eyeball it. The vinegar will splatter in the hot butter, so be careful. Reduce the vinegar down a bit. It won’t take long. Give it a quick stir. Prepare the bed of Swiss chard on a plate, place the tilapia on top and drizzle some sauce over the fish.