Franco-Italian Swiss Chard and Spinach

More lasts and more starts.

It’s time to eat up the last of the Swiss Chard and Spinach growing on my plot. As the days get longer and warmer they have sent out lots of new leaves and shoots, but they are about to start flowering so I’m picking huge handfuls to cook up in the kitchen. Besides I need to clear the space for new seedlings, and dig in lots of manure and compost to enrich the soil in readiness for Summer.

I rarely see Swiss Chard in the shops here, it doesn’t seem to be on the British shoppers menu, in France the reverse is true. Go into any French supermarket or look at any market stall and you will see huge leaves of Chard or Blettes, with beautiful white ribbed stalks. We ate one night with our neighbours and friends and ate well ~ the classic Blettes a la Crème.  Elizabeth David in French Provincial Cooking gives us a lovely version of this dish.

You can use either Spinach or Chard, or as we did a mixture of the two. Both the dishes are simple to prepare, no great long list of ingredients or tricky techniques, both baked and equally delicious.

Blettes a la Crème –

Elizabeth David French Provincial Cooking

Wash the Swiss Chard and cut the ribbed stalks into chunks and roughly chop the green leaves. Steam them gently for a few minutes, remove from the pan and try and get as much water out of the leaves as is humanly possible.

Make a Bechamel sauce, David recommends that you enrich it with cream, who am I to argue?

Take a gratin or oven dish and pour some of the Bechamel sauce into it, enough to cover the bottom of the dish. Then add the greens and cover completely with the remainder of the sauce.

Cook in a moderate oven for 20 to 25 minutes until the top is golden.

Let’s jump across the border to Italy for the 2nd way to prepare Chard and Spinach

Baked Spinach –

The River Café Cook Book

Serves 6 people

1.3 kg / 3llb Spinach, 2 eggs, 400ml / 14 fl oz double cream, 100g / 4 oz Parmesan cheese,  ½ tsp grated nutmeg, Salt and Pepper to season.

While the oven is warming up, (190) blanch the spinach and then drain very well, and roughly chop the leaves, again getting as much of the water out as is humanly possible :)

In a bowl beat the cream, eggs, nutmeg, ½ the Parmesan and salt and pepper for a minute.

Gently mix the chopped greens into the cream and egg mix. Put them in a baking dish that is at least 4cm deep. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes.

And yes, as I clear the ground for new seasons crops and eat the last bunches of Spinach and Chard, we are sowing them. These pretty seedlings are Rainbow Chard that a kind friend has given to me. I’ll be supplementing this with standard Swiss Chard (the white stalks) and several varieties of Spinach.

51 thoughts on “Franco-Italian Swiss Chard and Spinach

    • I love it with pasta too. But I now I have to try making it like Sharyn from the Kale Chronicles mentioned here “My favorite way to eat chard is to chop it up, saute it with scallions, mix in some feta and sun-dried tomatoes and make turnovers or quiche with it.” It sounds delicious!

  1. I love this veg and its so versatile, its a spinach that doesnt boil away to nothing and the ribs are great steamed and put into a cheese sauce. I wouldnt be without it , and it lasts all through the winter so you always have greens. Also the very young leaves are great in a salad. Probably my best veg. My girls (chickens ) love this as well especially when it goes to seed so nothing is wasted.

    • You are right it doesn’t melt away and the young leaves are lovely in salads.
      I’d love to have some chickens, at least the upside is that I have plenty of waste for the compost bins!

  2. Both dishes sound great, Claire, but I’d lean toward the 2nd, based solely upon my experience with the mascarpone & spinach pasta. The nutmeg, spinach, and cream go so well together that the addition of chard can only make it better. Still, I don;t think one could go wrong preparing either dish. :)

  3. I thought I saw you standing in my veggie garden this morning looking at all the lovely new chard and spinach we have growing! Thanks for the inspiration, we love both these vegetables and it´s great to be inspired to cook them in dfferent ways :)

  4. I love both recipes…they would certainly convert anyone who doesn’t like vegetables, I’m sure. I love growing the rainbow chard. It adds so much color to a dish.

  5. You are all about richness today, Claire. My favorite way to eat chard is to chop it up, saute it with scallions, mix in some feta and sun-dried tomatoes and make turnovers or quiche with it.

    • hi Sharyn, yes the weather has turned cool! Typical timing just as I want to start hardening some plants off.
      And I love your addition of sun dried tomatoes and feta. I often saute a pan of shallots or leeks, some chard and sometimes some bacon for a lunch. But now I want to try your version

  6. I have some starts that look to about the same size as yours at the moment. The recipes sound wonderful, and by the sound of it, I am liking the second one best. Can the nutmeg be left out? Or will it kill the flavor? I hope you don’t mind me asking questions every time you post a recipe, but my eating choices are so restricted that I jump at the chance for a “new chew” any time I can find one. Thank you Claire! ~ L

  7. I had never tried chard until this past year thanks to a recipe I found on a blog when I made a gratin of swiss chard. It was SO tasty and my elderly mother, who had never had it either, enjoyed it as well.

  8. Spinach is always growing over at our place so even reading the title
    1. I felt really posh ;)
    2. I was sure it would be perfect for home
    Thank you!

    Choc Chip Uru

  9. Wonderful dishes, Claire! I love both spinach and chard. I’ll be growing some rainbow chard, too. I’m a little late getting started, but it will catch up, I’m sure. I hope I have the same abundance that you’ve experienced! You’ve certainly jumped right in since getting home :-) Debra

  10. Well.. I’m looking out on a yard without a garden. I seriously have to consider moving soon. Your chard is so lush! I’m thinking the first recipe jumps out at me because it’s a quick one and looks so wonderfully roasted on top! xo Smidge

  11. I really enjoyed the Chard and Spinache recipes you provided as I have quite a few vegetarian friends and cooking for them is always a nightmare. Do you have an alternative to using nutmeg though?

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