I made lemony braised leeks and green chard on the weekend and brought it to a friend’s home for dinner. I was thinking it would definitely go with whatever vegetarian food would be served.
Dinner was pasta, and the lemony braised leeks and green chard were excellent with it, adding depth of flavor, contrasting texture, and best of all, more vegetables.
At least one person at dinner had never tried leeks outside of the somewhat ubiquitous potato leek soup.
After trying the braised leeks, she commented with delight that it tasted like restaurant food. I’ll take that compliment! Not that I haven’t cooked in restaurants for seven years. Oh yes, I have!
I just love how this recipe involves the lesser-known leek, and kale’s little sister, often referred to as Swiss chard (even though this plant isn’t native to Switzerland, and no one can quite figure out why it’s called Swiss chard).
Leeks and chard are not the most popular, and I know that, but that is all the more reason to keep reading, and in the name of exploration and diversity maybe give this braised leek vegetable side a try.
These braised leeks taste outstanding, with a combination of three different acids—white wine vinegar, fresh lemon juice, and grainy mustard—adding an underlying complexity of flavor to the natural astringency and pungency of the vegetables.
As they cook, the braised leeks get super sweet too. With a good pinch of salt, this dish has it all, and texture-wise it is simply succulent. I ate it up with a fork as soon as it was ready, and found it hard to stop.
What Is A Leek? What Is Chard?
Leeks are just a mild onion, but what I think really distinguishes them is how they take on caramelization differently from onion. When leeks caramelize they get really sweet, and really flavorful. It’s completely different from red or yellow onion, which still tastes acrid, even after cooking.
The color is neat too. The edible part of the leek is a silky white, with some parts that are silky green, as well as bits of dark opaque green parts.
When you put all the bits together, leeks look like a green rainbow, and I am fond of green rainbows.
Different shades of the same color complement each other. This is also why I added green chard to this recipe. More green, with more white from the stems.
Swiss chard, part of the beet family, comes in different colors: red, yellow, rainbow, and green.
It is a leafy green with a tough, edible stems.
I know a lot of people do not eat the stems, but I enjoy it and recommend it.
The stems just need a little longer to cook, so you’ll want to test the chard stems for doneness in this recipe before calling it ready.
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Recipe for Lemony Braised Leeks and Green Chard
- 6 cups (about 2 large leeks), chopped
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, for high temperature cooking
- 4 cups green chard, half a bunch
For the braising liquid
- ½ cup water, or vegetable stock if you have it
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, or more to taste
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, rice vinegar or white balsamic also okay
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon grainy mustard, dijon also okay
- 1 clove garlic, grated or crushed
- 1 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt, or to taste
Complete the recipe prep
- Trim the leeks. Retain 2 inches of the deep green part and discard or compost the rest (or use it for stock). Cut off the roots. Remove 1-2 outer layers of the leek if it is damaged or dirty. Slice the remaining leek in half lengthwise, and then chop into 1-inch lengths. Wash the leeks in a large bowl of cold water, swishing them around to loosen any dirt. Rinse and repeat if necessary. Scoop the prepared leeks from the water with your hands or a slotted spoon to avoid disturbing the dirt, which will have settled on the bottom of the bowl. Place leeks on a clean tea towel to air dry a little before using.
- Chop the Swiss chard into 1-inch pieces and use the same bowl (with new water) to wash it. This time you can keep the chard in the bowl until it’s time to include it in the recipe.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine all ingredients for the braising liquid.
- Make the braised leeks and green chard
- Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add vegetable oil and the prepared leeks. Sauté until the leeks turn golden brown. Scoop the chard from the water and add it to the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium low. Wait a few minutes for the temperature to reduce, then add the prepared braising liquid evenly over the leeks and chard. Stir to remove any stuck bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for 15 minutes, until the leeks and chard stalks are nice and tender.
- To Serve
- Place in a serving dish along with the braising liquid. Serve as a vegetable side with rice, pasta, or a whole grain. Enjoy the braised leeks and chard as one element of a nutritious healing bowl.