Thursday, April 29, 2010

Swiss Chard Rib Gratin with Pine Nuts and Parmesan

An easy way to enhance flavor when cooking with vegetables or grains is to use vegetable broth instead of water. This technique works wonders whether you're making a soup, cooking grains like couscous, farro, bulgur or arborio rice, or braising vegetables.  The broth adds depth and flavor without adding fat, acting as a natural flavor enhancer.  Grains cooked with vegetable broth become rich and distinctive, and soups do not miss the standard chicken broth when vegetable broth is used instead.  We always keep vegetable broth on hand because it is such an easy, effective way to intensify flavor.  The next time a recipe calls for cooking a vegetable or grain in water, try using broth instead to boost the flavor dramatically.

In this recipe, vegetable broth turns Swiss chard ribs into a rich and complex gratin.  The ribs, which are normally discarded in favor of the leaves, take center stage here.  Working with the ribs is a bit time-consuming, perhaps the reason the leaves are often preferred.  But the delightful results may make you regret all the Swiss chard ribs you've discarded in the past.  The dense texture of the ribs combines with the cheese and pine nuts to create a hearty and filling dish.  They also keep their intense red color, making for a dish that is both beautiful and satisfying.  This is vegetarian comfort food at its best.
Swiss Chard Rib Gratin with Pine Nuts and Parmesan

4                 lbs            Swiss chard, washed and leaves removed, 
                                  leaving about 2 lbs of ribs (use leaves 
                                  for another recipe)
1                                 lemon
1/4              cup           pine nuts
2                 cup           vegetable stock
1                 cup           parmesan, grated
1/4              cup           celery leaves, minced
1/2              cup           parmesan, cut into small cubes
1/4              cup           basil, cut into thin strips


  1. Preheat oven to 450° and place rack on highest row of oven.
  2. Fill a large bowl with cold water.  Cut lemon in half, then juice and add lemon halves and juice to bowl of water.
  3. Cut Swiss chard ribs crosswise (against the grain, like chopping celery) into thin, even slices.  Add these slices to the lemon water.
  4. Toast pine nuts in a small, dry skillet over low heat, shaking regularly, until evenly browned and fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Drain Swiss chard ribs and place in a large saucepan with the vegetable stock.  Cook, covered, over moderate heat until tender, about 10 minutes.  Remove Swiss chard from liquid and place in a pyrex dish.  Discard the liquid.  Cover the ribs with the grated cheese and bake until the cheese is golden and bubbly, 5 to 7 minutes. 
  6. Remove from oven and sprinkle with celery, pine nuts, cubed cheese and basil.  Return to oven until cheese and pine nuts are browned, 4 to 6 more minutes.
Printable Recipe

Other Vegetable Matter recipes using vegetable broth to enhance flavor include:
Fresh Chickpeas with Couscous, Grains and Haloumi
Brothy Meditteranean Lima Beans
Fresh Chickpea, Bulgur and Mint Pilaf
Granny Smith Apple Risotto
Chickpea and Lentil Pilaf
Arancini with Fresh Mozzarella, Petit Pois and Toasted Pistachio
Italian Breakfast Chickpeas


  1. Robin, this sounds lovely! It is a fantastic idea.

  2. Sounds terrific, i like the pine nuts here!

  3. I am always looking for different ways to cook chard, since usually I just saute the chopped leaves and ribs in olive oil. This gratin is such a great idea, and I love that the stems retain their vibrant color!

  4. I love swiss chard, its so yummy. the basil is an intriguing choice. I wouldn't have put the two together

  5. that dish looks good! very colourful and bet it's delicious!

  6. Waw!! What a good for you dish & so colourful too!

    MMMMMMM,... I so love swiss chard!

  7. I'll have to try this recipe soon, if for nothing else because it includes one of my fave under-the-radar ingredients: celery leaves

  8. ooo, that looks like a delicious way to enjoy chard! great recipe!


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