Growing up my family always had a summer garden complete with a healthy patch of midwestern faves like Swiss chard and rhubarb. Being more native to the western states, I never developed a fondness for these central state staples. Thick tough stalks of fiberous stems tinged with blood red veins made me cringe. My memories are all but fond.
It took a trip to Italy to give me an appreciation for chards. Similar to spinach, which I love, and related to beets, which I crave, it only seemed reasonable that I would have some affinity for the greens. The Italians use it in everything from salad to ravioli. Both flavorful and colorful it lends more complexity to dishes than mere spinach. By the time I returned home I was hooked.
Remembering how prolific was the chard crop in my family’s vegetable patch, I opted to plant some in my summer garden. It seemed the more you cut, the more it grew back. Tall, tenacious and nearly foolproof, it was a sure bet for this novice gardener. I also hoped the varmints would pass it by for juicer fare in my neighbor’s yard. My memories proved reliable when by early May I had a hearty row of not too tall and temptingly tender leaves to pick from.
Eager to share my success I blanched some leaves and mixed up a warm dip. Stirred into a white sauce base, then combined with tangy goat cheese and salty parmesan it only needed some garlic, cayenne and black pepper to finish it off. Spread on baguette slices or used as a pita dipper, the flavors were an ode to the start of spring season. The only problem was leaving room for the rest of the meal.
Recipe for Chard Dip