The light crunch and the nutty but delicate flavor of the toasted pine nuts enhances this simply sauteed chard. Just a little sprinkle of the nuts is all that it needs to tie together the taste of the earthy greens with the hint of smoky cumin and charred pepper.
Sauteed greens are something I could not live without as a child. I think this addiction was induced by my grandmother.
I had the privilege of having lunch with my grandparents during many of my elementary school years . The table would be set up and all ready when I got back from school. She made the best “Shaag bhaja“; spinach, amaranth or some kinds which I still have not found out what they are called when translated to English. But there definitely would be one sauteed green I always expected to see during lunch time. What might have started as an effort on her part to make us eat healthy turned into a love affair for me. Hot steaming rice, slightly spiced greens sometimes with peanuts, sometimes with a sprinkle of fried bari, sometimes with brown chickpeas and many times just by itself. And there had to be a slice of fresh lemon to go with the Shaag Bhaja. The entire experience feels incomplete without the aroma and the slight tart of the lemon – even now.
While I find some greens here which I grew up eating, there are many that I crave for and miss. I have grown the red and green Amaranth at home for a few years. The red ones were not as red as back in India. Those used to be my favorite as they turned the white rice red or deep pink. It was a moment of magic I waited for. I giggled every time I saw the hue.
What surprised me was when I heard T saying “more, more, more” after she had a spoonful of this sauteed chard. When I asked her what she liked about it, she said it was mostly the color. Then while she ate, I told her how when I was little like her, I would love it too, for the color. I have a warm feeling when I share my childhood with my children and I think they like to hear about it too. The joy comes in little things, and it proves that a thin thread of familiarity runs through different places and times.
I find the chard tastes very similar to the red Amaranth or Laal Shaag ((or referred to as Red Spinach by some).
The Rainbow Chard has a milder hue,
but the Red/Ruby Chard is really beautiful red and it retains the color even after being cooked.
Pine nuts are not something we had access to when I was a child. Not in the small town I grew up and that makes me sound like I am prehistoric. That could be true. But I think they are lovely with the chard.
So here it is, my version of the traditional.
Sautéed Chard with Pine Nuts
Ingredients: (serves 4)
- 1 bunch chard (any kind – Rainbow, Red, or Swiss) – about 6-8 stalks with leaves
- 2 tablespoon oil
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1-2 red dry chili pepper, broken (remove the seeds if you do not want it spicy)
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1/2 cup red onions, peeled and finely chopped
- salt, to taste
- 3 tablespoon lightly toasted pine nuts, or as much as you would like
- fresh lemon juice
Wash the greens. Take the chard leaves off the stalks and place one leaf over the other and then roll them up. Now slice them in fine ribbons. Slice the thick stalks into thinner strips and chop all stalks in small pieces. In the recipe I grew up with, the finer the greens where chopped the better it was. However if you would like yours bigger, please feel free to do so.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok. Add the cumin and the red dry chili pepper. When the cumin sizzles and the pepper turns really dark brown, add the garlic and the onions. Stir fry until the onions start to brown. Now add the the chard stalks and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes until starting to soften. Add the ribboned chard leaves and salt. Toss everything together and cover and cook for about 5-7 minutes until the leaves have turned really tender.
Uncover and stir-fry at high heat for another 2-3 minutes until all the water (there will be quite a lot of water released from the greens while they were covered – you will not have added any extra water) has evaporated and the greens are all dry. Switch off the heat. Drizzle some fresh lemon juice.
In a pan or a skillet lightly toast the pine nuts until they are golden brown. Sprinkle over the cooked greens before you are ready to serve.
Enjoy as a side.
Preparation Time: less than 15 minutes
Cooking Time: Less than 15 minutes
Difficulty Level: Easy
Serves: 4 as a side