This Trio of Flavors Moves Easily from Summer Salad to Autumn Side
Growing up, there was always Swiss chard in the garden, one of my mom’s favorite greens. From spring through nearly winter, this cut-and-come-again green is a backbone of the New England kitchen garden, a workhorse for its durability, and also for its beauty on the plate. I love the rainbow chard, but the dark green of the standard variety is beautiful as well–as long as it is not overcooked! Chard packs a great deal of nutrition as well, holding its own alongside kale and spinach!
Cold Weather Friends
The hardy greens of Swiss chard, kale, and spinach grow beautifully in our cold climate, and we can look forward to a winter with these green grown in local greenhouses most of the season. They are hearty, delicious, and filling, and lend themselves to a host of dishes from crostini to omelets to stews. As a side dish, they are quick and easy, a simple steam and a squeeze of lemon juice or vinegar and you’re all set.
One of my favorite salads is a simple green salad with pears, blue cheese crumbles, and toasted pecans. It’s a classic, and for good reason, the combination is a serenade of flavors and textures. I’ve used this combination is any number of recipes: blue cheese, pear, and pecan stuffed endive leaves as an appetizer; halved poached pears stuffed with blue cheese and topped with a pecan and drizzle of honey for a dessert; and, blue cheesecake with a pecan crust and layer of pears for cheese course–a favorite of my guests.
My newest use of this trio of flavors is a simple dressed up side dish of chard, my favorite. But you can also use a favorite green, kale, spinach, collards, etc.
I use Bailey Hazen Blue , a Vermont cheese that can compete with blues anywhere in the world in my biased New England opinion. If you have a local favorite blue cheese, please use it here.
Spicy Greens with Blue Cheese, Pears & Pecans
1 large bunch Swiss chard, kale, spinach, or collards
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 ripe pears, any variety
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
Large pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
2 ounces blue cheese
1 ounce pecans or other favorite nut, toasted
Apple cider vinegar, or other favorite vinegar
Sea salt and pepper
Remove the tough ribs from the chard or kale. You should have about 10 ounces. It will look like a lot, but will cook down considerably as it wilts in the pan. Wash the chard and shake off excess water, but don’t dry. Core the pears and cut into slices (reserve a few to garnish at the end) and chop the slices in half. Mince the jalapeño (then wash your hands immediately so you don’t forget and touch your eyes!).
Heat a large skillet over medium high and toast the pecans for a few minutes, until fragrant. Place in a cold bowl so they stop cooking. In the same pan, add the oil. Once hot, add the jalapeño, and chopped pears and cook for a minute or so to soften.
Add the damp chard to the pan, sprinkle with the red pepper flakes, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Check in three minutes, depending on what green you use, they could be ready, or need a few more minutes; large kale leaves will take considerably longer. You want the leaves to be wilted and tender, but not mushy.
Remove to a serving dish, while hot, sprinkle with the cheese and nuts. Arrange the reserved pears to garnish, drizzle with the vinegar, and sprinkle on sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Make this a meal: This is a delicious lunch or supper if you add some protein to top it off: chicken, tofu, or even shrimp, either grilled or roasted, or leftover from another meal. It is particularly tasty with glazed baked tofu!