The larger, sturdier Swiss chard leaves that come with cooler weather require, for me, a little easing into. When oven-roasted, Swiss chard takes on a rather fragile texture, not unlike the oak leaves we pressed between sheets of wax paper with an iron in elementary school. That is to say, both brittle and sturdy.
Oven-roasted Swiss chard doesn’t offer so much a momentous revelation as it does a quiet satisfaction. It’s nothing more than a simple, last-minute side dish, except perhaps a boon for chard that’s slightly droopy and almost past its prime. While roasting won’t resurrect lifeless chard, it will make your languishing greens far more palatable, a conversation starter, even. Although the brilliant hues of rainbow chard will fade—slightly or considerably, depending on many variables—the tradeoff is worth it.
If you’re like me, you’ll want to catch the roasted chard after about three minutes, when it wilts ever so slightly and just begins to turn brittle at the edges yet still glistens from tip to stem with oil. Expose it to heat for any longer, and the chard will turn brittle and brown and take on a taste to match, much like those kale crisps that tend to fade in and out of trendiness. And if you simply want something less unwieldy than a stovetop saute, in which the oversize leaves flop about and must be handled in batches, simply cover the baking sheet tightly with foil and heat until wilted.
And don’t discard the oh-so-lovely and psychedelic chard stems; they possess a crunch that contrasts sharply with the leaves, distinguishing the vegetable from the decidedly one-dimensional boringness of some vegetables.–Renee Schettler Rossi
LC Know Your Cooking Equipment Note
Be sure to use a baking sheet, not a roasting pan. Anything with high sides will trap the moisture in the leaves rather than allow the chard to throw it off. In other words, the chard will end up soggy if you use a baking dish or roasting pan. Chard tends to be really quite perishable. We store ours in the door of the fridge, where it’s warmest, protected not by the flimsy clear plastic bag from the greenmarket but that of a resealable plastic bag left open.
Oven-Roasted Rainbow Swiss Chard
- 1 bunch rainbow Swiss chard
- Olive oil
- Position two racks in the upper and lower third of the oven. Crank the heat to 425°F (220°C).
- Rinse the chard and pat it lightly dry. Trim the very ends of the stems and discard. Coarsely chop or rip the chard leaves to make them more manageable to eat. Trim the stems where they meet the leaves, then lop the stems into 1-inch pieces.
- Arrange the still-damp chard leaves and stems in a single layer on two baking sheets and drizzle with 1 to 2 tablespoons oil (be sparing with the oil) and toss to ensure all surfaces of the leaves are barely slicked.
- Slide the sheets into the oven and set a timer for 3 minutes, as the chard can go from barely brittle to burnt in a matter of moments. The exact timing depends on the sturdiness of the chard leaves. If you want to do no more than take the edge off the rawness, it should appear to be wilted slightly, glistening with oil, ever-so-slightly brittle at the edges but still supple throughout and very vibrant. If you prefer it more crisped, let it turn progressively more brittle and brown, checking it every minute or so, 5 to 7 minutes total.
- Transfer the chard to a platter or cutting board. Do not allow the chard to remain on the baking sheet or it will continue to cook from residual heat. If desired, drizzle with a little (or a lot) more olive oil. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.Before oven roasting, for a sweetly tart touch, toss some red seedless grapes on another baking sheet, slick them with oil, and give them about 30 minutes' head start, waiting until they're sizzling and slightly shriveled before starting the chard. The same goes with thin wedges of red onion, thickly sliced radishes or turnips, roughly chopped butternut squash, wedges of sweet potato, fingerling potatoes, carrots cut on the bias, anything you please, preferably something with some slight sweetness to offset the chard’s earthy undertones, though these require something more akin to 25 to 45 minutes advance roasting before the chard.After oven roasting, a drizzle of fresh olive oil, some coarse salt, maybe a little freshly cracked pepper will do. A splash of balsamic can be lovely, especially if serving the chard with something quite rich. Essentially, anything that goes with sautéed chard goes with roasted chard. Olives. Citrus zest. Shaved aged cheese or a crumble of fresh goat cheese. A handful of nuts, toasted on a separate sheet but at the same time. And, natch, a splash of port or Madeira can be lovely.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Think you don’t care for Swiss chard? If this recipe doesn’t convince you otherwise, I don’t know what will. A pleasant surprise, this one. I just harvested gorgeous rainbow chard today and wanted to try something a touch different. All you do is place it on a baking sheet, drizzle on some olive oil, and roast for exactly 3 minutes. I was wondering how it’d work—kale crisps up, for example, but this didn’t. It was sort of steamed and still pliable rather than brittle. Optional add-ons at the bottom of the recipe included, amongst other things, a splash of port and toasted nuts. Well, that is what we did—we used almonds—and what a treat. It was very pretty on the plate—all those vibrant oranges and reds and greens and yellows. I thought I made too much, but no, I didn’t. My husband and I ate it all and just felt healthier eating it. This is another that I’ll be making again with citrus juice and soft goat cheese. Sooooo many possibilities….
Originally published October 22, 2010