Baked Chard Stems

Photo by  Zachary Cross

Photo by Zachary Cross

Ever wondered what to do with those brightly colored stems when you cook chard leaves? Don't throw them out, bake them into an easy comfort food. 

There are several recipes on the blog that help use parts of vegetables that you might ordinarily throw out. From Broccoli Fried Rice, to Carrot Top Pesto, to Chard Stem Hummus, or simply sautéing your stems with your greens, there are many ways to use up what others might throw in the compost pile.

The idea is not new; cooks have always used scraps of meat and vegetables for soups and stocks.  But now there are cookbooks to help us use our ingredients in innovative ways. I recommend Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal and the post for Carrot Top Pesto came from Root to Stalk Cooking. I’m intrigued by and would like to read Scraps, Wilt & Weeds, which expands the idea into wild foods and meat.

This recipe for chard stems comes from my old faithful cookbook, Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop. This was my first introduction to using the stems instead of throwing them away and is a family favorite. What’s not to like about butter and cheese?

In this recipe Bishop says to parboil the chard stems so that the stems can become tender before the butter and Parmesan brown in the oven. I’ve found that I can bake the stems, covered, with a little water until they are soft, then add melted butter and the cheese. Do what works best for what’s you, and whether you have more oven or stove space free.

I’ve also used more stems and a bigger pan, or baked at a different temperature if something else was in the oven. Just expect the stems to take longer at a lower temperature, and possibly if in a larger pan as well. The stems are very forgiving until you add the cheese and it starts to brown, then needs to be watched more closely.

Any color of chard can be used. The stems’ color will fade so the darkest, ruby-colored stems come out the prettiest. The browned cheese makes up for some of the color loss. A cheese like Parmesan or Romano is the best, but use what you have on hand!

Baked Chard Stems With Butter and Parmesan

1 bunch chard stems (about 12 large stems)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾  cup grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Lightly grease an 8-inch-square baking dish.

  2. Add the chard stems and salt to the boiling water. Cook until the stems are almost tender, about 8 minutes. Drain and reserve the stems.

  3. Lay three or four chard stems in the prepared baking dish in a single layer, cutting them as necessary to make them fit. Dot with a little of the butter and sprinkle with some of the cheese. Repeat the this process three or four more times, alternating the direction in which you place the stems for each layer, until all the chard, butter, and cheese have been used.

  4. Bake until the chard is very tender and the top of the casserole is lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

imilar, printable recipe at Kayln's Kitchen

Photo by Heather Cross

Photo by Heather Cross