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Baby Chard? Oh Yes, Oh Yum

[Baby chard from the Fillmore farmers’ market, July 2007]

The other day in San Francisco it rained and yesterday was cool and breezy, almost fall-like; this morning (very early) there was an earthquake! Strange days, to be sure. But rather than try to figure out the why of all this, I decided instead to make a very fall-appropriate dinner, albeit with very summery ingredients: fingerling potatoes, corn on the cob, squash, and baby chard.

That last one — the baby chard — I’ve never tried before. I picked it up at my favorite organic farm’s stand at the Fillmore Market, because, why not? It looked pretty, I have been overindulging in baby spinach lately, and for the most part I do love regular chard, though it can be a little tough even when cooked well. A baby version would surely be almost as delicious.

To start, I quickly scrubbed the fingerlings, pressed some garlic, swirled them in olive oil and salt, and dumped them into my cracked, old, but still much-loved Le Creuset baking dish. I baked for about a 1/2-hour on 400F and washed the salad while they were cooking.

Potatoes on, salad coming together, I sliced some purple garlic and put that along with a good glug of olive oil into my cast iron pan. Going on a tip from a friend recently returned from Italy, I started it out “cold” — meaning that I didn’t heat the oil first, something she learned while in Tuscany. (Actually, I do this quite often, not because I’ve heard it’s better for flavor, but because I’m trying to maximize my time. So, not sure if there’s merit to the trick, but it was nice to hear those glorious Italian cooks do the same thing.) Then I cut up two small summer squashes into very thin slices and sauteed them until they were soft and curling; then I added a can of — drained and washed — chickpeas. The chard was thrown in at the end and cooked until wilted (it took less than a minute).

Well, I’m hooked. The chard was was great. Make that great. It cooked up in a flash and was tender, light, and so much better than its grown-up sibling could ever hope to be. I’ve been quietly counting the days until I can get back to the market to pick up some more (please let there be some this week!). We might be experiencing a typical San Francisco summer complete with fog, chilly temperatures, and a few tremblings of the earth, but at the market — and now in my kitchen — it’s truly summer, and I love it.

Midsummer Weekday Dinner

Roasted fingerling potatoes with garlic
Summer squash sauteed with olive oil, garlic, baby chard, and chickpeas
Market salad (organic greens, cherry tomatoes, sunflower seeds, radishes, lemon cucumber)
Corn on the cob (one yellow, one white)

[Wednesday dinner, July 2007]

This weekend: a summer fruit upside-down cake to bring to a welcome-home (!) party in Sebastopol.

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