Occasionally I find myself in cookbook ruts, kind of like food ruts. I only cook food from one cookbook for a long stretch of time, just like I might eat granola and yogurt for breakfast every day for two weeks and toast and an egg every day for the next two weeks.
This is my excuse for not cooking something from a birthday gift from my dear friends, Jon and Jess, earlier. Being the thoughtful friends they are, they gave me a beautiful cookbook by Deborah Madison called Local Flavors. The book is organized by produce by season and includes sections like: “Cabbages, Kale, and Other Crucifers;” “Vining Fruits and Vegetables;” and “Winter Fruits: Citrus and Subtropicals.” This organization will be helpful to me when I come home from the farmers market crazed about what to do with my newly purchased bounty.
My first endeavor from my birthday gift was “Bright Lights Chard Gratin,” which calls for a brightly colored “rainbow chard” which I had never heard of nor seen. I used regular swiss chard instead. After washing and chopping the greens, sauteing the onion and garlic, I really wasn’t expecting anything outstanding, just a simple, healthful, and hopefully good dish. What I ended up with was a rather unattractive, very, very tasty dish that reheated well for leftovers. I was pleasantly surprised by the way all of the simple ingredients combined into something so wonderful. So here is the recipe from Deborah Madison, via Jon and Jess (thanks guys!)
“Bright Lights Chard Gratin” from Local Flavors by Deborah Madison
Serves 4 as a filling main dish, 6 as a side dish
2 lbs. chard, including half of the stems
4 T. unsalted butter
1 onion, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1 c. fresh bread crumbs
1 garlic clove, minced
3 T. chopped parsley
1 T. flour
1 c. milk or cream (I used 1% milk)
1 c. goat cheese, crumbled
Separate the leaves and chard stems. You can do this by stacking and aligning the leaves and cutting the stems off all at once. Wash the leaves in plenty of water. Chop them. Trim the stems and wash them well and drain them.
Melt half the butter in a wide skillet (or large pot) over medium heat. Add the onion and stems from the swiss chard. Cook stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes until the onion begins to brown a bit.
Add the chard leaves, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt, and cook until wilted and tender, about 10 additionally minutes.
While the greens are cooking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly oil a 2-quart baking dish. Melt half the remaining butter (1 T.) in a small skillet and add garlic, bread crumbs, and parsley. Cook for about a minute while stirring. Scrape the crumbs into a bowl and return the pan to the heat.
Melt the last tablespoon of butter in the small skillet. Stir in the flour and whisk in the milk. Simmer for five minutes and season with 1/2 t. salt.
Add the milk mixture to the chard mixture. Add the goat cheese. Taste the mixture and add more salt and/or pepper if needed.
Pour the mixture into the oiled baking dish and cover with the bread crumbs. Bake until heated through and golden on the top, about 25 minutes.