Swiss chard is one of the first vegetables to appear in the markets around here in the spring. Chard is always appealing to me because of its brightly colored stems, and the fact that it is easy to prepare, with big wide leaves that make removing the stems easy. Chard works well in all kinds of dishes, with its relatively mild flavor that has a slight earthiness reminiscent of beets (which are closely related to chard). I bought a bunch of chard at the market last week, and decided that I wanted to make a main dish with it, using both the stems and leaves. I thought about combining it with garlicky bread crumbs and cheese, or raisins, nuts, and olives...but none of those ideas seemed quite right. Then I remembered the tomato sauce in the fridge that needed to be used, and decided to combine the chard with chickpeas for protein. I thought some smoked paprika would be a nice flavor addition, and decided at the last minute to add some fennel. I loved the way the dish came out - it had a nice mix of textures and the flavors of the seasonings really came through. It was delicious served on top of some brown rice.
Swiss chard with tomato sauce and chickpeas
1 bunch Swiss chard
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 cup tomato sauce or tomato puree
1/4 tsp hot smoked paprika
1 can chickpeas (15.5 oz)
Freshly ground black pepper
Cut stems away from chard leaves and thinly slice stems into 1/8-inch pieces. Cut chard leaves into 1/4-inch ribbons. Heat a splash of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until golden, about 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and fennel and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chard stems to pan and saute, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce, chickpeas, and paprika, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover pan. Cook for 10 minutes. Add chard leaves to pan, stir to mix leaves into sauce, and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until leaves are tender, about 10 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.