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Choose chard for a quick, colorful vegetable

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Have you tried those leafy green vegetables with the bright yellow, magenta, red and white stems? That’s chard, often referred to as Swiss chard, a member of the beet family. It’s one of those good-for-you leafy greens, a good source of iron and vitamins A and C.

In Europe, chard stems are often prized over the leaves, braised and stewed in soups and gratins. But eaten together, chard has a unique earthy flavor and firm texture and adds color to a meal.

Chard should have fresh-looking leaves and crisp stems; the Bright Lights variety will no doubt have great eye appeal. Once you wash chard, separate the stems from the leaves and cut each part into bite-size pieces. Chard’s leafy greens cook up like spinach in a flash; its celerylike stems take a bit longer to cook. The leaves will wilt down to practically nothing when you cook them; the stems don’t shrink as much and can be cooked through or left a little crisp.

A classic preparation for chard is to sauté it. Heat olive oil in a hot pan, add the chard stems and sauté until almost cooked through. Add minced garlic, chard leaves, pine nuts, raisins, salt and pepper. You can blanch whole chard leaves in boiling water until stems are cooked through; drain well and cut into serving-size pieces. Serve at room temperature with oil and vinegar or lemon; it’s delicious with a miso-based dressing, too.

Hawaii food writer Joan Namkoong offers a weekly tidbit on fresh seasonal products, many of them locally grown. Look for "Fresh Tips" every Wednesday in the Star-Advertiser.
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