Acelga Guisada – Spanish Stewed Chard

Swiss chard is a popular vegetable in Spanish cooking. This is perhaps not surprising when you consider what a convenient and long-standing (in the garden) green it is. It also has reasonable heat tolerance, and would certainly do better in a hot climate than, say, spinach.

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Which is not to say that I haven’t been finding our Swiss chard a little tough and bitter this year, what with persistent heat and sporadic rain. This dish calls for cooking the chard a bit longer than I usually do, and I have to admit that under the circumstances that was undoubtedly a good thing. I served it with quinoa, grilled chicken and a sprinkle of cheese and we thought it was impressively good, considering the hacking and sawing required to pick the stuff this year.

The mushrooms were nice, but maybe a little overwhelmed by the other ingredients. It’s up to you to add them, or not, as you like.

4 to 6 servings
45 minutes prep time

450 grams (4 medium; 1 pound) red tomatoes
1 large bunch white-stemmed Swiss chard
1 medium onion
125 grams (1/4 pound) button mushrooms (optional
3 to 4 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon sweet (smoked) Spanish paprika
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Put a pot of water on to boil and blanch the tomatoes. Peel them, chop them, and set them aside in a bowl.

Wash and trim the Swiss chard. Cut the stems from the leaves, and chop them into pieces about the same size that you would chop an onion. Put them in their own bowl, then peel and chop the onion and add it to them. Clean, trim, and chop the mushrooms in slightly larger pieces, and add them to the bowl.

Peel and mince the garlic, which now goes in a new, small bowl along with the cumin seed, ground with the salt, and the rest of the spices.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, chard stems, and mushrooms and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and cooked down, and perhaps browning very slightly (If it wants to brown more than slightly you have the heat too high.) While this cooks, chop the Swiss chard leaves fairly finely.

Add the little bowl of seasonings to the pan and mix in well. Let cook for a minute or two, then stir again and stir in the tomatoes. Let them cook for another 5 minutes, adding a little water if it looks like the pan is getting too dry. Your ultimate goal is a mixture that is moist and juicy but not swimming in liquid, so only add a little at a time.

Add the shredded Swiss chard leaves and mix them in until they are wilted and amalgamated. Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Once they are well in, add the vinegar.

Serve hot as-is, or with a little grated cheese sprinkled over the top.

Last year at this time I made Cream of Zucchini & Mushroom Soup.