ReLocavore: Redefining "local"

A locavore moves from Wisconsin to New Hampshire and rediscovers what "local" means.


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Stuffed Chard

A few years ago, I tried to make sushi using chard leaves instead of nori. It was a complete failure, but what emerged was this recipe for stuffed chard.

Stuffed Chard

This recipe makes 8 chard rolls  (4 servings) stuffed with creamy rice.

  • 8 large (about a foot long) pieces of Swiss chard with stems and leaves
  • 8 slices of ham
  • 8 slices of provolone cheese
  • 4 cups cooked rice
  • 4 tender aromatics (ramps, green onions or green garlic)
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

Cook the rice – You’ll have to look elsewhere for directions because I use my rice cooker.

Prepare the vegetables. Wash the chard well and dry in the salad spinner. Lay each piece on the cutting board and make a V shaped cut to remove the stem (See picture). Dice the stems. Set the leaves aside. Similarly, wash and dry the aromatics, and dice the leaves and stems.

Melt 2 tbsp butter in a small skillet or saucepot over medium heat. Sauteé the chard stems and aromatics until soft.

Off the heat, add rice to the sauteed greens, along with an additional 2 tbsp butter and cream. Mix well using a folding motion (to not break the rice grains) until the rice absorbs the additional fat and moisture. The rice should stick together, not be separate grains. (Think sushi rice, rather than Uncle Ben’s.) Add pepper and salt. Don’t skimp on the salt or else the rice will taste boring.

Assemble the Stuffed Chard:

If your chard is very fresh and crisp, like in the picture above, microwave each leaf for 5 to 10 seconds to soften it and make it easier to roll.

Lay the chard leaf on your work surface and close the hole from the stem by crossing over the two “lobes” that were on either side of the stem.  Lay a slice of provolone centered on the leaf. Lay a slice of ham centered on the chard leaf. Using an ice cream scoop, #6 disher or 1/2 cup measure, mound 1/2 cup of rice on the center of the provolone. Starting with the chard, gently roll the chard, ham and provolone around the rice. Add to a 9×9″ glass baking dish with the seam side down. If the roll is wider than about 5″, tuck the ends into the rice.

Repeat these rolls, arranging them 2 across in 4 rows in the glass baking dish. Add 1/2 cup white wine to the baking dish. You can add 2 tbsp melted butter if you’re not watching calories. Cover with plastic wrap. Microwave for 8 minutes on high, then for 8 minutes on 50% power.

Optional: If you really like cheese, take the dish out of the microwave, top with cheese and broil it (6″ from the broiler) for 5 minutes until the cheese is melted and browning.

Serve two rolls per serving, topping with liquid from the bottom of the dish as a sauce.

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Rhubarb? No, YOU barb!

How many variants of this picture have I posted to this blog? Egads...

The writer with her rhubarb bars. How many variants of this picture have I posted to this blog? Egads…

Rhubarb was in season at the farmers market for two dollars a pound. I decided to pick some up and make my annual Sisyphean attempt to make good rhubarb bars.
For those of y’all who aren’t from the upper midwest, a bar is as midwestern as hot dish. (as a sidenote, I’m dictating this blog post using iOS voice recognition software. Hot dish came out as “hot bitch.” ) Bars are a baked good, not a cake, made in a rectangular pan and cut into squares. For example, brownies are a subtype of a bar. Midwestern social functions rarely feature cupcakes or cookies, since bars are easier to transport and can be cut on site. Sam rightfully points out that bars have the individual serving and easy finger-eating like cookies, but are easy to make like a cake.
So that explains the “bars” part – do I need to explain rhubarb? Rhubarb is the stalk of a toxic and poisonous plant used historically as a laxative. However, when the stems are pink, they have a VERY TART taste that can be cooked with sugar to tame the sweetness and denature the toxins that would upset your stomach. I’ve eaten raw rhubarb only once, and I still regret it. It tastes more tart and bitter than a lemon. Think celery mated with lemons and lye. We still eat it because rhubarb is a perennial that grows early in the year when most other vegetables still resemble salad.

This will be the fourth time- if not the fifth – that I tried making rhubarb bars. I think they haven’t ever turned out well except for the first time, but Sam thinks that they’re good. He’s biased. I can steal his heart through his stomach. Rhubarb bars are basically rhubarb jam sandwiched in between a crumble. You make the crumbly stuff with oats, butter and nuts,  press a bunch of it into the bottom of the pan, dump the jam on top, and sprinkle the last of the crumble on top of the jam (see photo illustration). The bars bake in the oven and hopefully come together as a coherent sandwich of oaty goodness and jam. Problem is, if you get the water balance wrong, they don’t turn into coherent bar things they become crumbly mess things.

Sam gently mixes the crumble... but not too much.

Sam gently mixes the crumble… but not too much.

Rhubarb jam - chopped rhubarb, sugar, a little water and flour to thicken.

Rhubarb jam – chopped rhubarb, sugar, a little water and flour to thicken.

The jam gets dumped on top of the crumb.

The jam gets dumped on top of the crumb.

A little crumb is sprinkled on top of the jam, thus completing the sandwich.

A little crumb is sprinkled on top of the jam, thus completing the sandwich.

Sam helped to make the crumble. This was a big risk, but I knew he could handle it. This is because Sam is inflicted with MHT or Male Homogenization Tendency. (It’s in the DSM V – Look it up…)  This is the tendency for men, when asked to combine ingredients, will incorporate them to their most homogenous state. This is, of course, the antithesis of crumble which is supposed to be butter and crumbs and not a paste. Sam handled the responsibility admirably, and kept his MHT in check the entire time. We got crumble as opposed to pastry. (Don’t get the mistaken impression that MHT is always a bad thing. Sam creams butter and sugar like nobody’s business.)
Typically I use Barb Perkins’s recipe from the Vermont Valley farm website, but this year I tried a variant of that recipe from Midwest living. The jam was much thinner more liquidy and there was a lot more of it. It was easy to spread over top of the crumble. I used slivered almonds instead of walnuts or pecans, as the recipe called for, because they were on sale at the co-op.
All and all, the bars turned out OK. Pretty good, actually. I’m glad I left the almonds fairly large, as they added a good crunch to the bar. Not too crumbly, either. I may have found a rhubarb bar recipe that I could get behind.