Swiss chard (silverbeet for some of you) is good eating, don’t get me wrong. But damn is it fine to look at! Those Rubenesque stems in every color imaginable. Those enormous succulent dark green wrinkled velvet leaves. Oh my!
I like Orange Fantasia and Pink Lipstick. I mean, in varieties of chard. The only problem with chard is that the prettiest varieties are the ones with mammoth stems, and the 36-24-36 proportions that look so heady on the plant never seem quite right in the kitchen. So little leaf, so much stem. So few ideas how to use those stems…
And that chard, true to it’s lascivious proportions, keeps on putting out! Every trip to the garden lately finds me returning with a 10 pound bouquet.
Enter my latest, and possibly best to date, recipe brainchild. Unlike that last recipe for empanadas, this is easy! Quick! Nutritious! And extremely tasty! Dare I say, these muffins do a better housewife make….
Now, understand that I do not mean savory, cheesy chard muffins, which would be delicious in their own right. I mean sweet chard muffins. Like carrot cake or zucchini bread. I’m not the first person to think of vegetables going sweet, but I’ve never heard of a sweet greens recipes before. Have any of you?
I first got the fire under my kettle for Swiss chard muffins a few weeks ago. I don’t remember how or why, but suddenly I found myself thinking, ‘chard stems—rhubarb… chard greens—sorrel pudding (Icelandic)… zucchini bread… chard muffins!’ and I knew I had to try it.
I did almost chicken-out at the last minute and go the savory direction. But fortunately for all of us, and generations to come, I powered through the second-guessing and gave it a go. What’ve I got to lose anyway?
There is an ever so slightly mineral, beety flavor to these which could potentially put picky people off, but it’s very, very slight. I can almost guarantee that if you like zucchini bread you’ll like these. I personally found that the barely detectable mineral flavor gave the sweetness complexity.
If you wash your chard, be sure to dry it thoroughly before adding it, or it will make the batter too wet. You can use both stems and leaves, or just the stems. I’ve tried both and couldn’t really taste the difference. But if you have little people who might be offended by green specks, leave them out. Plus, isn’t it nice to have a way to use up all that extra stem?
Slice the stems very thinly, almost shredding them. If the ribs are very wide, cut in half lengthwise first.
This recipe makes one dozen. When I make muffins lately I like to bake off half in my little six cup tin in the toaster oven. Then I line another muffin tin with paper liners, fill and freeze the rest. Cook’s Illustrated turned me on to this. Muffin batter freezes great, and you can bake them off straight from the freezer! Who knew? Muffins, especially the whole grain variety, are so much better freshly baked. Now you don’t have to eat them any other way! The frozen muffins only take an extra 10 minutes or so to bake.
Unlike those pesky empanadas, this is a great recipe for cooks of any skill level!
CJ’s Best Brain Child
- 1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 cup white all purpose flour
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon each salt, baking powder, baking soda, powdered ginger and cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon each nutmeg and allspice*
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- 1/4 cup oil
- 2 cups firmly-packed shredded chard stems and leaves, or just stems
- 1/2-1 cup walnuts, optional of course
- apx 2 Tablespoons water
*If you don’t have all those particular spices, use whatever you have. Or use pumpkin pie spice, which is really a great mix. As long as your spices are reasonably fresh (I mean, less than 2 years old) it’ll be good.
Preheat oven to 425 F. Starting out at a high heat helps make the lovely domed tops that whole grain muffins often lack.
Mix all dry ingredients together in a big bowl. Crack in the eggs, pour in the fats, chard and nuts, and gently fold/stir the lot together. An advantage of whole wheat pastry flour is you really don’t have to worry about overworking the batter.
When everything is mostly incorporated, drizzle on the water and keep folding until you have a very thick but workable batter. You might not need both tablespoons of water.
Scoop into well buttered or paper lined tins. Fill each cup completely, the old advice of 2/3 full might work for white flour muffins, but it doesn’t work for wheat.
Put into your preheated oven and leave for ten minutes or so until the edges have set, then lower the temperature to 375 F. Leave another 5-15 minutes. Muffins are done when you can press your finger lightly into the top and feel the spring back of a squishy muffin, instead of the give of puffed raw batter. If you aren’t certain, stick a butter knife into the center muffin. It should come out clean, wet crumbs maybe, but no batter clinging.
Allow muffins to rest in pan for ten minutes, then carefully remove to a rack to cool.
Or bounce hot muffins back and forth between your fingers, jumping up and down yipping like a coyote. If you want to make your kidlets laugh.