Last week my sister gave me a cooking challenge. She asked if I could suggest a Swiss chard recipe that would be delicious, healthy, and easy to prepare. In her words, “I know there are ways to cook [greens], and I have tried, many times, but I just can’t seem to nail it. I just want some way to make them delicious without boiling them in bacon grease.”
My first thought was, “Yes, bacon grease is delicious.” This got me to thinking about pancetta, an Italian-style bacon (salt-cured pork belly), and how good it would be added to the standard Feta and nut treatment that I often apply to greens. Pancetta tends to be used in smaller doses than bacon, to flavor a dish, rather than be gobbled by the greasy fistful—so I decided it would not violate my sister’s requirements. (You’ll usually find pancetta at the deli or butcher counter of your supermarket, or an Italian specialty store, where it’s sliced to order. If you can’t find it, you can substitute regular American-style bacon.)
For a vegetarian option you can leave the pancetta or bacon out altogether, and you’ll still wind up with a delicious and satisfying combination of flavors and textures. Sometimes I add garbanzo beans to the vegetarian version. And of course you can substitute any greens you like for the chard (kale, spinach, beet greens, etc.) and any nuts for the pistachios (walnuts, pecans, etc.). You can also use a blue cheese instead of Feta.
- 5 ounces (about 1¼ cups) diced pancetta
- 1¼ pounds chard (or other leafy greens), stems removed and leaves chopped
- ¼ cup water
- 3 ounces (about ½ cup) crumbled Feta cheese
- ⅓ cup toasted pistachios
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and crispy (5 to 7 minutes).
- Remove pancetta from the skillet and set aside.
- Reduce heat to medium. Add chard and water, stirring occasionally until chard is wilted (5 to 7 minutes).
- Remove pan from heat and stir in cooked pancetta, Feta, and nuts.