I know I don’t make a whole lot of vegetable-heavy meals here, and it is something I want to try to do more often, but I’ll be honest, I usually find myself hitting a brick wall when it comes to being creative with vegetables. I know there’s so many ways to enjoy and prepare them, but for some reason I have a difficult time coming up with any of them myself. And on top of that, I’ve noticed that I somehow always manage to incorporate something decidedly unhealthy into the healthy, vegetable-based meal I am trying to create. Like the time I tried to make a salad and ended up putting bacon drippings on it (it was basically a BLAT without the bread, and it was delicious). So when McCormick approached me about participating in another ingredient challenge for April’s Go 4 Gourmet and I heard that the first ingredient was leafy greens, I was a little nervous because, aside from spanikopita and beet greens, my experience with salads and the like is fairly limited. But agreeing to the challenge would provide me with the motivation I needed to experiment in the field of vegetables, so I accepted to basically force myself to be a better vegetable-maker.
I began by conducting some research (and by that I mean I wandered around the produce section of my supermarket googling every frilly green thing I saw), and in the midst of my mental frenzy, a bushel of large, vibrant leaves caught my eye. It was chard, the rainbow variety of which comes with wonderfully saturated stems in a variety of colors. The hues are so vivid and bright that it almost looks as though someone injected ink into them (but I purchased an organic variety so I’m fairly certain that was not the case). Their flavor is slightly bitter, much like spinach, and after reading about their preparation methods, I saw that they took well to sautéing, so I decided to do just that.
But after jumping that hurdle, I still had to figure out how to incorporate the rest of the required ingredients; ricotta, marjoram, and panko breadcrumbs. I thought about sprinkling the cheese over the top, but then I thought about the texture of having to sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the sautéed greens, too, and had to veto that idea immediately. And then a memory popped into my head, a memory of a goat cheese salad I’d had many, many years ago. It was, and still is, the best salad I’ve ever had. It was very simple, just mixed greens and a light dressing, but what made it wonderful was the little fried goat cheese medallions on top of it that were still hot and gooey and melty inside, but wonderfully crisp on the outside. And that’s when I realized I needed to fry up some cheese.
I made the ricotta medallions with some egg, marjoram, and other seasonings, and then served them on top of the sautéed chard. The medallions brought a wonderful crunch to the soft sautéed greens, and the acidity of the chard complimented the creamy ricotta and mildy sweet marjoram perfectly. It’s an easy dish to throw together, and if you use low-fat ricotta and olive oil for the pan-frying, it’s very healthy, too. I’ll definitely be using chard again in the near future, its depth of flavor and incredible beauty has left me feeling very inspired. Perhaps there will be a chard quiche in the near future…
Sautéed Swiss Chard with Ricotta and Marjoram Medallions
2 tablespoons white wine
pinch of salt and pepper
1 egg, whisked
First, prepare the medallions. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, 1/2 teaspoon of the marjoram, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper until a smooth mixture forms. Cover the bowl and place it in the freezer for 30 minutes to help the ricotta mixture firm up a bit. Pour the bread crumbs into a small wide bowl and add the remaining spices, mix until blended.
Remove the bowl of ricotta from the freezer and scoop about 1 heaping tablespoon of the ricotta mixture into the panko, completely coating it in the crumbs. Pat it down into a little disc and set it aside, repeat with the remaining ricotta. Pour the oil into frying pan so that the oil is 1 inch deep. Heat it over medium heat and flick a drop of water into the pan to see when it is ready for frying (if the water hisses and evaporates immediately, it is ready). Fry the medallions until golden on each side, taking care when flipping them. When done, remove them with a slotted spatula and set them on a plate lined with paper towels.
Now you can make the sautéed chard. Cut the stems out of the chard, and then cut them into 1-inch thick slices. Chop the remaining chard into roughly 4 inch x 4 inch pieces. Set aside. Heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the garlic has softened and the pan smells strongly of it. Add the white wine and chard stems and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the stems have softened a little bit. Now add the chard leaves, and cook them for about 3-5 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds to ensure that the leaves are being evenly cooked. Once they just begin to wilt, remove them from the heat and stir in the vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste, then transfer to the serving surface and top with the ricotta medallions. Serve immediately.