I picked up this recipe on the fly at a party recently. My friend, Joan, was celebrating her birthday with a spring cookout. Her niece, Jocela Mae, was in town from Portland with her boyfriend, Brehan. As they soaked up the Austin sun, we talked gardening. I mentioned that my rainbow chard plants had done really well all winter, even in the crazy cold temperatures we had down in the teens. Jocela said that lots of folks grow chard and kale in Portland because it does really well there. There are even famously huge kale plants that just grow on and on getting bigger and bigger every year.
She also passed on a recipe they've been enjoying lately — wilted chard with feta cheese. The cheese gets all melty and adds a salty, tangy luxuriousness to the earthy flavors of the chard. It's fast, easy, and dresses up a simple dish of greens into something fancy.
Note: be sure to rinse your greens, but you don't have to get them super dry afterwards. It's ok if they're a little damp when you slice up the leaves, the water will steam out. I use kitchen shears to cut them, it's faster than slicing with a knife. And I usually slice up the stems as well and throw them in too. The color of the stems in rainbow chard is too beautiful to leave out. They look like candy. But if you don't like the sturdier, crunchier texture of the stems, you can trim the leaves on either side of the stem, leaving it out. And then cut the leaves into ribbons.
Be sure to use your largest skillet for this (I used a wok). Like spinach, the chard takes up lots of space at first, but then wilts down as it cooks. And last, being a Southern girl, I must say that if you're not a vegetarian, you could consider cooking these in a little bacon fat instead of olive oil, or even tossing in a few bacon crumbles at the end. (This is how I get my husband to eat greens.) Up to you.
I cannot strongly enough encourage you to have a bowl of these greens alongside some cornbread. They were made for each other. And make a quick and soul-satisfying meal.
Wilted Chard with Melty Feta
two tablespoons olive oil
two cloves garlic
one small white or sweet (Vidalia or 1015) onion
one bunch rainbow chard
1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles
Peel and slice the garlic. Set aside.
Peel and slice the onion into large chunks. Set aside.
Cut the chard leaves into ribbons across it's shorter side. Trim away the stems, if you like, but I prefer to leave them in. Trim the stalks into smaller than bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
In a large skillet or wok, heat the olive oil.
Sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until the onions turn translucent. Stir frequently so the garlic doesn't burn.
Add the chard and toss together with the onions and garlic. Keep flipping and turning it as it wilts in the heat. This will coat it in the flavored oil and will keep it cooking evenly. Tongs are handy for this. Depending on how you like your greens, you can wilt the greens just slightly, so that they retain their bright green color, but the leaves soften. Or, if you like your greens very soft, cook them longer. You'll notice the color will darken and they'll continue to shrink.
When the greens are cooked to your liking, or even just before they get there since they'll continue wilting and cooking, toss in the feta. Continue flipping and turning and stirring with your tongs until the feta is mixed in well and starts to melt.
Serve immediately with some fresh, hot cornbread.
That's some good eating!
Adapted from Jocela Mae Cunningham.