Crave-worthy greens within reach thanks to a unique method of preparation that delivers crispy edges and golden brown bits of feta, all while adding a few other colorful veggies to the mix!
Since much of the work I do for The Fountain Avenue Kitchen takes place in the quiet of my kitchen or in front of the computer, I derive a certain joy from the comments some readers share after they’ve cooked a recipe.
Mary Lou from Kentucky found my blog in 2012, and over the years, she has graciously commented on every recipe she has tried. Sometimes, she has provided a brief backstory or asked a quick question.
On occasion, Mary Lou has even shared a treasured recipe from her collection.
When I first read the following recipe, I was intrigued that Mary Lou baked Swiss chard. Until then, I had always sautéed chard or added it to soup.
However, the first time I prepared this recipe for my family, I knew it would become a regular on our dinner plates. The dish is unexpectedly delicious and, for those who tend to overlook this leafy green, it’s good reason to try.
What does Swiss chard taste like?
Swiss chard is considered a bitter green, although I consider it one of the more mild in this category. When cooked, any bitterness noticeable when raw dissipates and the flavor sweetens. Chard is similar to spinach yet with a little something extra.
Those who find kale to be too fibrous may find the more tender leaves of Swiss chard to be quite enjoyable.
Can I eat the stems?
Yes! Texture-wise, the stems are similar to celery and benefit from a few minutes of cooking before the more tender leaves are added. The flavor of the stems is much like the leaves.
When possible, I like to buy a variety called rainbow chard, simply because the stems are a mixture of vibrant colors. Regular Swiss chard, however, with white stems tastes just as good.
As mentioned, baking nutrient-rich Swiss chard mellows its flavor. The addition of onion, which also sweetens when baked, enhances the flavor, while the bell pepper adds crispness and color.
The lightly browned feta topping is the crowning glory. For added crunch and nutrients, Mary Lou always sprinkled the finished dish with toasted walnuts. As much as I enjoy nuts, I often skip this step.
The baked chard pairs beautifully with chicken, steak, or seafood. With its array of veggies, cheese, and optional nuts, this dish is also satisfying enough to stand as a light vegetarian meal.
I prefer to use a block of feta as opposed to the pre-crumbled variety in this recipe. Crumbling the feta yourself, directly over the greens, allows you to control the size of the pieces (sometimes the crumbles have a lot of small, powdery pieces), and the flavor is typically better. For those living near Lancaster’s Central Market, Linden Dale Farms offers a goat’s milk feta that is outstanding.
Added note: The last time I made this recipe, I had one candy cane (Chioggia) beet on hand, so I very thinly sliced it with a mandolin and added it with the greens. It tasted great and looked beautiful, and I would not hesitate to do this again. I think golden beets would also be lovely. The key is to thinly slice the beet so it cooks quickly and the edges have a chance to lightly brown.
Yield: 4 servings
- 1 bunch rainbow or regular chard (about 10 ounces), rinsed, well drained, and patted dry
- 1 medium onion, chopped or sliced (separate the pieces)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided use (plus a little extra for greasing the pan)
- 1 red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced or chopped
- 1 slightly rounded ½ cup (about 2½ ounces) feta cheese, crumbled
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- Optional topping: ¼ – ⅓ cup chopped, toasted walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350℉. Grease or spray a rimmed baking sheet.
Separate the stems from the leaves of the Swiss chard and chop both, keeping the piles separate. I chop the stems into bite-size pieces and slice the leaves down the center, lengthwise, and then into 2 to 3-inch strips.
In a large bowl, toss the chard stems and sliced onion with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Season with pepper to taste, and spread evenly over the prepared baking sheet. (I omit salt in this recipe as the feta offers sufficient saltiness; if you prefer more, you may always salt at the end.)
Bake in the preheated oven until the chard stems have softened and the onion is starting to brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir.
In the bowl you used to toss the stems and onions, toss the chard leaves and the sliced pepper with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a few more grinds of the pepper mill. (I find this easiest to do with my clean hands.) Sprinkle the leaves and peppers over the stem mixture, and then scatter the feta cheese over top.
Return to the oven, and bake until the leaves are beginning to crisp and the feta is starting to turn golden, about 20 minutes. You may broil for a minute or so at the end to add an extra hint of crispiness to the leaves and golden brown color to the feta. Just watch very closely so as not to burn.
Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the optional walnuts, and enjoy. Any leftovers will lose their crisp edges but are still delicious.
Adding the bell pepper in the second stage of baking keeps it slightly crisp. If you’d prefer the pepper to be softer, you may add it with the onions and chard stems.
Original recipe posted 9-17-14. Always fun to keep one of the old photos!