The other day I was out doing an errand and happened to run into an acquaintance who has a store in town that sells locally sourced food and organic products. We got to chatting. I told her that Arthur and I are trying to eat more vegetables and more healthy food in general. She told me about the program the store participates in where each week, you can pick out a set box of organic produce for a very reasonable price.
There are several different boxes. Boxes come in large or small sizes, and since it’s just me and Arthur at home, the small size fits us well. We then could pick to get a box of fruit, a box of vegetables, or a box with a combination. The contents of the box vary from week to week. We ordered a small combination box and waited for pick up day to arrive.
I’m a fairly adventurous eater, the legacy of growing up with a parent who was raised largely in Europe and expected us to eat a wide variety of foods. I’ll try just about anything placed in front of me at least once. When Arthur and I went to eastern Europe, I was a bit dubious about sauerkraut, but after trying it, while it’s not something I’d eat on a regular basis, I didn’t think it was too bad. There are few foods I truly detest (mustard, olives, beets, and most organ meats pretty much completes the list). So I was excited when I realized the box had quite a few items I’d never tried before.
I also enjoy making food. In the perennial divide between cooks and bakers, I come down firmly on the side of the bakers since my specialties are homemade bread and desserts. However, because we’re trying to eat better, I’ve somewhat grudgingly turned to working on burnishing my skills at creating healthy entrees and side dishes. I figured all the items in the box would present me a challenge to find some new recipes and learn some new techniques.
So on Monday, Arthur brought the box home and we opened it like kids on Christmas morning. We took out the produce, oohed and ahhhed at the colors and more exotic shapes, and managed to find space in the refrigerator to put it away. Then that evening the realization hit me that – crap – I was going to have to actually find something to do with all of it. Swiss chard? I barely even knew what that was. Artichokes? Well, apparently quite a lot of people find them delicious, but I’ve never eaten one and now had to figure out what parts of the spiny looking thing were edible.
I decided to tackle the Swiss chard first. Turning to my secret weapon (Google), I started looking for basics on how to prepare the vegetable. I found out that it’s a lot like spinach in taste and preparation technique, and that some people even replace spinach leaves in recipes with chard. After combing through recipes, I found one for spaghetti with chard that looked reasonable.
Pulling the chard out of the refrigerator, I stared at the stuff. It was very pretty, dark green leaves with red veining and stems. Following the Google advice, I rinsed the chard well since it tends to have grit all over. I chopped it into medium sized pieces, and then threw those in my salad spinner to get all the water off.
Olive oil went into the heavy skillet, and I put in some red onions. They sautéed for a few minutes, then I dumped in the chard. I watched in fascination as the greens began to wilt. Then I added garlic, tomatoes, a little basil, some oregano, and white wine. I covered the skillet as the mixture bubbled. Mmm. It was starting to smell good.
I put the mixture over a package of cooked whole-wheat spaghetti, some cooked ground sirloin, and more tomato sauce. Some freshly grated parmesan cheese on the top, and dinner was ready to go. Arthur and I both dished up servings slightly dubiously. It smelled good, but neither of us was totally convinced that we’d like the chard.
It came out delicious, though. It tasted like something we’d pay good money for at one of our favorite Italian restaurants. The chard added a dimension to the dish that I hadn’t anticipated and some much needed nutritional content. I was also excited because with a little tweaking I now had a good, solid dish I could make vegetarian when we had some of our friends over (leave out the ground sirloin, make sure my added tomato sauce is meat-product free and possibly leave out the parmesan depending on the type of vegetarian). A go-to vegetarian recipe is something I’ve been looking for.
Now I just have to figure out the artichokes…