As of a little less than a week ago, it’s suddenly fall here in Central Ohio. I’ve shut off the air conditioning, and already find myself tempted to light the furnace (though I’m resisting). I’ve put the comforter back on the bed. My umbrella has gotten a workout in the last few days, and I spent about 4 hours with soaking wet feet on Wednesday thanks to a very poor shoe choice.
Not that this surprised me. Even though the weather stayed hot and humid up until a week ago, the farmers market was a pretty clear indication: delicate summer greens and big heavy bell peppers were getting scarcer, and in their place were growing heaps of apples, winter squash, and hearty greens. Sooooooo many greens. And how exciting is that? Greeeeeeens!
Ok, so maybe you’re not as into greens as I am. But surely we can all get behind chard: big, juicy leaves, with a crisp snap and an eye-catching venation. Nice, inviting bundles tied together by their sturdy ridged stems. And those stems! White, yellow, orange, and red, often all mixed in together in a riot of color, and surprisingly mineral to the bite, almost salty in their earthiness, as if a little hint of the seas has somehow made its way to the landlocked Midwest. I mean, y’all, Swiss chard is such a big deal that I wrote a poem about it in grad school: Limpid when the light shines through it…
Anyway, okay, I love Swiss chard, just as I love pretty much all the hearty autumn greens that I’m about to be swimming in like Scrooge McDuck in a roomful of gold coins. And while they’re incredibly versatile, I always end up going back to the same simple preparation, just a few simple seasonings — garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and a dash of something spicy if you like it.
The recipe below is the slightest twist. I ran out of fresh ginger, but had a good-sized tub of shards of crystallized ginger. I figured I’d give it a whirl and see how it came out, and you know what? Not bad; a little sweetness to balance the salt and minerality of the chard and soy. Now I have a variation in my back pocket, and so I guess do you. Eat your greens; not only are they good for you, but oh! are they good.
Simple Swiss chard with garlic and crystallized ginger
A very slight twist on my usual greens preparation, crystallized ginger subbing in for its fresh cousin. I could eat these simple, sauteed greens all day, savoring the sweet ginger, salty soy, mineral stems, and verdant leaves as they all blend together. An easy side for dinner, or a simple light lunch over rice or with a little bread.
1 bunch Swiss chard, leaves and stems chopped separately (about 8 cups chopped leaves)
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 4 tsp)
Chopped crystallized ginger, about as much as the garlic
Big pinch Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper (opt.)
1 Tbsp soy sauce (or to taste)
Rinse the chard and drain, but leave some water clinging to the leaves.
In a high-sided skillet, heat the olive over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, and Aleppo pepper and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the chard stems and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften a bit (3-5 minutes).
Add the chard leaves and the soy sauce and increase heat to high. Cook, tossing occasionally, until the leaves are all wilted. (It may be helpful to cover the skillet to begin the wilting, but once the leaves begin to wilt you should cook uncovered.)
Taste and add more soy sauce, if you like. Serve as a side dish, or eat with bread or rice for a light lunch.
I use this exact same method for all sorts of light and medium greens (e.g. spinach, arugula, kale, various choys). For most of these other greens, which either don’t have stems or have hard woody stems that should be discarded, just skip right from the garlic/ginger/Aleppo pepper sauté to adding the greens.
No crystallized ginger? Fresh ginger, peeled and minced, works just as well (and is really my usual). You can also leave it out entirely for a garlic-only flavor.
I sometimes use chili-garlic paste instead of the dry hot pepper, which is perfectly fine — add along with the greens and soy sauce. By the same token, a fresh hot pepper, seeded and minced, can go in with the garlic and ginger.
This recipe scales up well, as long as you have a pan big enough to manage the unwilted greens. (You can add them in stages, if you need to, within reason.) You can skimp a bit on the seasonings — that is, a double recipe won’t necessarily need a full 2x amount of garlic, ginger, soy sauce, etc.