“Tuscans are big spinach eaters. Spinach is found all year in almost every eating place, from the fanciest restaurant to the simplest osteria. If it is not on the menu, it can often be had for the asking. A plate of spinach and another of white beans are the traditional accompaniments to a Tuscan meal.”
– Susan Mc Kenna Grant – Piano, piano , pienno – Authentic food from a Tuscan Farm
I like to combine green Swiss chard with fresh picked spinach leaves – please don’t use “baby spinach” leaves, nor the red or “rainbow” chard, which tends to “bleed” a reddish color to the final dish. Swiss chard is quite sturdy and can stand up to a main course protein (like a grilled steak or a grilled fish) and adds more bite and body to just plain spinach, which tends to wilt down considerably. Served in a gratin dish with a dusting of grated parmesan, this makes for a very satisfying family meal vegetable side dish, with leftovers available for eggs and toast the next morning. Boo-ya!
2- 3 bunches fresh spinach leaves (about 2lbs.), washed well and thick stems removed
2 bunches green Swiss Chard, preferably organic, about 2 lbs.
1 cup vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
½ cup olive oil
1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic (omit of you have an aversion to garlic)
1 large shallot, peeled and minced
Heavy cream (up to ½ cup)
Grated best-quality Italian parmesan
1. Using a long sharp knife, remove the thick stems form the Swiss chard leaves and set aside (it will resemble stalks of celery). Chop the leaves into 2-3 inch pieces and wash in ample cold water. Dry in a lettuce spinner and set aside.
2. Chop the long white stems into slivers; wash in cold water and drain.
3. In a large, wide sauté pan (12” minimum), melt 1 Tbs. butter and a little olive oil. When the foam subsides, add the minced shallot, the prepared chopped Swiss chard stems, salt and pepper – add garlic at this point, if using. Sauté over medium-high heat till fragrant, but not browned. Deglaze with a splash of white wine and vegetable stock and add a heaping handful of Swiss chard leaves to fill the pan. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon till wilted. Add another handful Swiss chard leaves, till you have wilted all the prepared Swiss chard.
4. Transfer the Swiss chard to a buttered gratin dish, leaving some stems and some liquid in the pan. Add 1 Tbs. butter, and when the foam subsides, add a heaping hand-full of the prepared spinach leaves, cooking quickly and deglazing with white wine and vegetable stock, till all the spinach is wilted, but not browned. Add ¼ cup (or more) heavy cream, bring to a boil and cook 1 minute. Transfer the spinach and the liquid to the gratin dish with the Swiss chard, stir together to combine well. Set aside.
5. When ready to cook, dust the top with grated parmesan, dot with the remaining butter and bake in a fast oven (350-400 degrees), 12-15 minutes, or till the top is nicely browned and the liquid is bubbling.
Serve immediately from the gratin dish.
Chef Willie’s Note
This dish can be held for up to ½ hour before service in a warm oven.