The change of the seasons is official when it arrives in the markets of Italy. Or, at least, it’s officially tasty! Fruits and vegetables suddenly appear that we haven’t enjoyed for awhile, and it’s fun to see what will be new at the market each week. Shopping seasonally and locally is a healthy habit we can all cultivate. It just so happens that living on the Amalfi Coast makes that so much easier. Right now the markets and small shops are full of grapes, persimmons and lovely greens that only show up in the autumn. I stopped into the local fruit and vegetable shop yesterday and noticed a crate of fresh picked bietola with dark green leaves and white stalks. What’s bietola? That luscious vegetable is called swiss chard and is one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat. I brought home a big bunch and prepared it quickly as a side dish for dinner. While this recipe is so simple it hardly counts as a recipe, I couldn’t resist sharing one of my favorite autumn vegetables. If you haven’t had swiss chard, or perhaps don’t usually care for greens, do try this unusual and tasty flavor combination!
Bietola (Swiss Chard) with Mustard Seeds
1 big bunch of swiss chard
1 1/2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1-2 cloves of garlic
salt (to taste)
1. Wash the swiss chard thoroughly. Remove the thick white stalks and cut in 1/2″ slices. Cut the greens in 1/2″ or thicker slices and set aside separately.
2. Place the olive oil, garlic and mustard seeds in a large pot and heat over a very low flame until the garlic has infused the olive oil and the mustard seeds start to pop. Remove the garlic.
3. Add the white stalks of the swiss chard and mix well to coat in oil. Cover and cook over medium flame about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the stalks begin to soften.
3. Add the swiss chard greens and mix well to coat in the oil and they begin to wilt. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes (depending on quantity) until tender.
4. Salt to taste and serve as side or over rice or quinoa.
If you don’t have mustard seed handy or don’t care for the flavor, leave it out and prepare the bietola with olive oil and garlic or add a bit of peperoncino for a spicy punch!