april 11, 2014
All winter long I made stuffed cabbage with sauerkraut tomato sauce. For other people. The aroma drove me to distraction but somehow I never got around to making it for myself and loved ones. The vibrant hues of spring here in Richmond – periwinkle blue sky, butter yellow of daffodils, lime green of tender leaves on twiggy shrubs – inspired me to remaster the dish with rainbow Swiss chard, handily found at my local market Little House Green Grocery, which also had organic ground beef from Polyface Farms. The arrival of the chard marks a new collaboration with the owners and Amy’s Organic Garden in New Kent County, making it super convenient to travel the few blocks for dinner fixings on the fly.
It’s not that I lack motivation to visit local farmer’s markets, which are now in full force in and around Richmond, but the alluring one stop shopping garners support for our local farms plus our fabulous neighborhood markets remain alive and kicking. Another plus is seeing what’s new on the shelves and in the produce cases. Yet another plus is seeing neighbors and friends appreciate and support our local bodega, and of course, be greeted by the gregarious owners.
Waste not, want not, and with that in mind, use every bit of the glorious bunches of chard you bring home, and cook all the leaves so that extras can bolster the rolls made from smaller leaves (use two for those that don’t quite contain their meaty filling) and so that you also use any extras in a colorful stir fry with other compatible veggies. The stems are diced and made into a heady sauce made with crushed tomatoes and my favorite ingredient for boosting flavor, namely chocolate balsamic vinegar, also made locally by Chocolates by Kelly. See my recipe for strawberry balsamic gelato for a sweet spring dessert using this magical elixir.
This stuffed Swiss chard recipe takes a little time, but if ever there was a great weekend dish that provides nourishment and comfort all the week through, this is it, folks. House smells great, too.
stuffed Swiss chard with chocolate balsamic tomato sauce
makes four servings, eight rolls
recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company
two large bunches rainbow Swiss chard, rinsed, stems removed
finely diced chard stems, about ¾ cup
finely diced sweet onion, about ¾ cup
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
one 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons chocolate balsamic vinegar – I like Chocolates by Kelly
½ cup medium or short grain rice, cooked and cooled to room temperature
one large egg at room temperature
one large clove garlic, grated with zester
one pound ground beef, preferably organic
½ cup fresh bread crumbs*, gluten free if desired
scant ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper (have pepper mill handy)
extra chocolate balsamic vinegar for drizzling, if desired
*cook’s note : grind leftover bread in food processor, storing recipe-ready crumbs in freezer
- Fill a large mixing bowl with ice and water to make a chilled bath for the chard leaves.
- Bring 3 quarts of water to boil with about 2 tablespoons kosher salt (don’t skimp on the salt since it gives flavor and preserves the color of the leaves without leaving a salty taste).
- Add whole chard leaves, gently swish to immerse, then remove after 30 seconds, draining well in colander and immediately plunging into the ice water bath.
- Quickly remove the leaves from the bath and spread out on sheet pans or flat surface covered with tea towels or paper towels to dry.
- In heavy sauté pan, combine chard stems, onion and olive oil over medium heat with a pinch of kosher salt and a few turns of the pepper mill, cooking and stirring frequently until tender, about 10 minutes.
- Add crushed tomatoes and chocolate balsamic vinegar, stir well, then simmer uncovered over low heat for 20 minutes without stirring.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- While sauce simmers, make rolls : whisk egg with garlic in large mixing bowl, then add cooled rice, ground beef, fresh breadcrumbs, fine sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper, mixing well with clean hands or spatula.
- Choose eight largest Swiss chard leaves (you may also choose to use two smaller leaves to equal one, if needed) and stuff with meat mixture as follows : with raised rib side facing down, and stem end closest to you, place an oval of meat filling about one inch from the stem end, fold bottom over once, then fold in leaf sides like a package, continuing to roll the leaf, tucking in sides as you go.
- Place rolls with seam side down in casserole dish, cover with tomato sauce, then bake with very loose foil cover for 45 minutes.
- Remove foil and serve immediately; dish may also be made ahead up to 3 days, with reheating for 30 minutes at 350 with loose foil cover.
- If desired, drizzle chocolate balsamic vinegar over at serving time.