Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What Mama's Cooking: Lentils, Swiss Chard and Pasta

I think Swiss chard is beautiful as well as tasty. Remember my photo of the glass vase filled with the red? This year I even planted some rainbow chard in my flower garden and have learned that deer share my aesthetic. So, these two bunches of rainbow came from a farmer's market.

Now that Molly and Alex have their CSA, every week they are asking "What should we do with the greens?" This is a recipe I'd started making long before Molly joined us in this world. I really don't remember what ladies' magazine I copied it from, but I sure remember the chef and the restaurant---Annie Sommerville of The Greens in San Francisco. After trying this recipe and then, a few years later traveling to San Francisco, Anthony and I made a point to eat at The Greens and enjoyed the restaurant about three times total. There were just so many great dishes and really good vegetarian restaurants were not that common at that time.

I remember serving it at a dinner party where a friend blurted out surprised, "this is restaurant quality." She was then very embarrassed, but it was true and it was at a time when vegetarian food was on the kooky fringe.

So if you find yourself with some Swiss chard and you've already tried my Swiss chard pancakes, try it with some pasta and lentils.

1 cup dried lentils, rinsed and drained
2 bay leaves
3/4 tsp salt
2 cups cold water
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
8 ounces uncooked linguine
1 lb Swiss Chard, rinsed, stems cut in 1/2 inch lengths; leaves stacked and cut crosswise in 1/2 inch strips
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring lentils, bay leaves, 1/2 tsp salt, and water to boil in a medium-size sauce pan. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 25 minutes or until lentils are tender. Discard bay leaves. Drain off water; stir in garlic, thyme and oregano.

Meanwhile bring 4 quarts water to boil in a large pot. Add pasta; boil 4 minutes. Add Swiss chard stems; boil 2 minutes. Stir in leaves; boil 2 minutes or until pasta is cooked to firm stage and stems are crisp-tender.

Remove 1/4 cup water, reserve. Drain pasta and Swiss chard in colander; return to pot. Add lentils, reserved pasta water, lemon juice, parsley, oil, remaining 1/4  tsp salt and the pepper. Mix well.

Serve with the cheese.

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