Friday, June 21, 2013

Swiss Chard with Parmesan

Recently, I was lucky enough to be given a large bag of Swiss chard from a friend’s home garden.
Frankly, it looked like an unremarkable bagful of large, dark green leaves; some with thick red stems and some light green.

My first inclination was to steam my newly acquired leafy produce, but decided a little research might provide me with a tastier recipe.
I discovered that Swiss chard is not from Switzerland, but hales from the Mediterranean and was very popular in Sicily and Greece. It also can have a variety of colorful stems. The real story about chard, though, is that it is one of the healthiest foods in the world and, as far as I am concerned, is a gardener’s gold treasure!

 This lovely vegetable is easy to prepare and is enhanced by Mediterranean-style ingredients. 

Swiss Chard with Parmesan

Equal parts real butter and olive oil

1-2 Cloves garlic, minced

2 T chopped red or sweet onion

10 Swiss chard leaves and stems, washed well

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Grated Parmesan cheese


In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the olive oil and mix evenly. Add the minced garlic and sauté gently. Add chopped onion to butter mixture and cook until the garlic is fragrant and slightly soft. Meanwhile, tear the Swiss chard leaves from the stems. Chop the leaves coarsely and set aside. Chop the stems into 1-inch pieces and add to the butter mixture in the pot. Mix well and cook gently while adding the white wine; lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  When stems are softened, add the chopped chard leaves. Stir gently to coat with the liquid. Leaves are finished cooking when they are wilted and limp. Remove pot from heat. Salt lightly and mix well.

Use tongs to lift serving portions to side plates. Squeeze lemon on top of each serving and garnish generously with freshly grated Parmesan. Serve.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Potato-Leek Soup with Poached Egg and Salmon

It was a cold, drizzly spring day and I was in the town of Bath, England where I had toured and trudged up and down hilly streets for two hours by myself because my tour bus was not a group thing. We had visited Stonehenge earlier and by now, it was late afternoon and I had a terrific, lack-of-food headache. There was only an hour left before I was to be at the bus departure spot, but none of the restaurants I had passed had appealed to me – some were overpriced, others pushed out ugly fast food fare or heavy, pasta filled meals. Not great choices for a gluten-free eater.
My arms and back ached from carrying a too-heavy bag and camera and I was cold and miserable. I was about to give up  on the food idea when I found myself in front of The Blue Quails Deli. I went inside and looked at the limited choices which were written on a chalkboard. With a  rather sour attitude, I expressed my doubts that anything on the menu would be gluten-free. The proprietor, who was also the chef, humored me. He said he had just the meal for me - a potato-leek soup. In fact, he said he also had gluten-free rolls to go with it. I skeptically placed my order and sat down at a little table next to a friendly English couple who raved about The Blue Quail's food.
With my purse and camera no longer weighing me down, I relaxed and even smiled as the waiter brought my food. It looked surprisingly lovely with little greens floating on top. The first sip was heavenly and wonderful and then I discovered the egg and the salmon - hidden treasures - in my bowl! I could not believe what I was tasting! This beyond great soup dissolved my sorry state of mind, flushed away my headache and bad attitude and I found I was suddenly very happy.
On the bus ride home I knew I would recreate this beautiful soup in my own home…it is one I will never forget!

Potato Leek Soup with Poached Egg and Salmon 


½ Red bell pepper
3 T butter
3 C diced leeks
2-3 large russet potatoes
6 C broth (chicken or vegetable)
Arugula (optional)
Salt, pepper

Preheat broiler. Place red pepper, cut side down under broiler. Roast carefully until evenly blackened. Remove pepper half to a small bowl and cover for 10 minutes. This will allow the steam to help loosen the skin. Scrape away all of the skin with a knife. Coarsely chop flesh.

Bake potatoes in the microwave using a microwave cloth bag. 4-5 minutes per potato, or until almost soft. Coarsely grate flesh; discard skin.

In a large pot melt butter. Add roasted red pepper pieces and diced leeks. Stir to coat well. Reduce heat, cover pot, cook until leeks are tender and slightly translucent, 6-7 minutes.

Add grated  potatoes and broth. Bring soup to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove ¾ of the vegetable solids to a blender or Vita Mix. Process until smooth. Add thick mixture back to liquids in pot. Mix well. Add more broth if necessary. Season to taste.

Egg: in a small pan of water, poach one egg per serving. The eggs should be cooked long enough so they are NOT runny.

Salmon: Thaw salmon portions (1/2 per person); pat dry. Braise in butter and season with a pepper blend until fish pieces are flaky.

Assemble: Ladle soup into large bowls. Carefully slip one egg and a piece of salmon into each bowl of soup. Garnish with sprigs of arugula. Serve.