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Birthday Greens

Working fifty hours a week has kept me out of the kitchen, but yesterday we belatedly celebrated Isaac's 60th birthday with a cake and a home-cooked meal.

  • Spiral-sliced ham (a heat-and-serve shortcut)
  • Hot German Potato Salad
  • Swiss Chard with Garlic
  • Pumpkin Walnut Bundt Cake with Spiced Rum Glaze

The cake recipe went up yesterday, and the potato salad deserves a post of its own, so here is the swiss chard. I really must flesh out my essay on cooking greens and get that posted. I shall do that in my copious free time ...

Swiss Chard with Garlic
  • 1 bunch swiss chard
  • 1-2 slices of bacon (or a splash of olive oil)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (or more)
  • salt
  • pepper

Wash the chard well, especially if it's from the farmers' market rather than a supermarket. Dump it into a sink of cold water, swoosh it around, then drain the water. Repeat until you don't see any more dirt or sand at the bottom of the sink. Set aside.

In a large frying pan (one with a lid) or wide, shallow sauce pan, fry up the bacon until crispy. Remove bacon from pan and pour out most of the bacon grease.

While the bacon is frying, cut off the very ends of the chard stems and discard. Tear off the leaves from the thickest part of the stems. Chop the stems in little slices. Once the bacon and most of the fat is out of the pan, put over moderate heat and toss in the stems. Stir them a bit, then add the minced garlic. Let the garlic and stems cook a minute or so while you prepare the leafy bits.

Roll up the leaves into big cigar shapes and slice across into shreds maybe 1/4 inch wide (precision is not important). Add to the pan with the stems and garlic and toss it around. Shake on some salt and pepper to taste. Cover. The moisture still clinging to the leaves will steam the greens. Give it a good stir every few minutes.

Once it's wilted to your liking, turn off the heat. If you're using a heavy pan with a good lid, you can also turn off the heat any time after it starts to steam and just let it sit with the cover on. It will continue to wilt until you're ready for it.

Crumble the bacon over the greens, toss and serve.

I didn't actually add the bacon back in last night, as I was using it in the potato salad. I usually make this with olive oil, so if I'm using bacon I don't use much salt. Along with the salt, pepper, and garlic, you could also add dried red pepper flakes, or maybe a couple of drops of hot sauce or hot sesame oil. To taste, of course. Hey, it's your dinner--make it the way you like!