I love greens but have always avoided chard. Why? Well my theory is that I have a subconscious terror of eating a green that sounds a lot like shard, but I’m not really sure about that, because if such a terror does exist, so far it has successfully remained subconscious. Also, chard costs more. So for years I passed over big bunches of bright rainbow chard in favor of kale, collards, and mustard. It was only after I found an intriguing recipe for chard and lentils that I finally decided to give chard its shot.
As I chopped the pretty stems, I got excited about the new taste sensation that I would experience. There’s nothing like preparing and eating a novel ingredient, I thought happily. When you can’t travel much, it’s a delight when a simple vegetable prepped right in your own mundane kitchen can transport you to a virgin landscape via your palate. Why, what’s more stimulating than a brand new taste dancing on your tongue, teasing you with unfamiliarity, drawing you into its heretofore unknown flavor tango of—
“You bought that vegetable!” my mom said.
“I used a whole pile of that it in the soup I made last week, remember?”
“Those were small leaves.”
“They were younger.”
“But they didn’t have colored stems.”
“There are two kinds, the kind with colored stems and the kind without.”
That was true. But… but… my flavor tango…
“We grow it every year,” she added.
I set down my knife. “We grew this vegetable? In the garden? This summer?”
“You’ve eaten tons of it in my soups. It’s very popular in Korea, though I think it tastes a little bit like dirt.”
As I was saying, lentils du Puy would be a brand new taste sensation that would transport me to a virgin landscape via my palate. The tiny, mottled, flavorful lentils have a lovely pink and black color and hold their shape when cooked. Lentils du Puy go particularly well with chard, a vegetable that Koreans have eaten for countless centuries—nay, countless millennia—and chard just happens to be a big personal favorite of mine. I think.
Lentils du Puy with Chard
This dish, adapted from The Best Light Recipe, by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated, couldn’t be simpler (well okay, it could be, but I bet it wouldn’t be as tasty if it was). It yields a delicious, nutritious, hearty dish with a wonderful dirt—er—earthy flavor. Serves 3 to 4 as a meal or 6 as a side dish.
Sweat a finely chopped medium onion, the finely chopped stems of about a pound of chard, and a big pinch of salt in a little oil in a medium pot until the vegetables are translucent and soft. Add 1 and 3/4ths cups chicken broth, 1 slightly heaping cup sorted du Puy lentils (about half a pound, or 225 grams), and a few pinches of minced fresh thyme. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30-40 minutes, stirring now and then, until the lentils are al dente. Roughly tear the remaining chard into pieces and add to the pot. Cook 10-15 more minutes or until the lentils are just tender all the way through. Salt and pepper to taste.
Plate, then drizzle each serving with a touch of fruity extra virgin olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon. I tasted the dish without oil and lemon and found it insipid. Even just a small amount of those finishing touches makes a big difference here, intensifying the richness of the lentils and brightening the tang of the chard.