Even the most elaborate and beautiful main dishes appear a little dull and painfully lack something if presented on their own, without a single side dish. To me, side dishes are not just a side issue, but an important component of a meal. It is often the complexity and the number of side dishes that impress the guests. In that spirit, let me present you with one of my favourite Dalmatian side dishes: Swiss Chard with garlic and olive oil, or in Dalmatian, Blitva s maslinovim uljem i lukom (scroll to the bottom of the post for the recipe or better said guidelines, since I included no quantities).
If you ask me, this is THE perfect accompaniment to grilled fish (Dalmatian recipe to come)! Perhaps only the Dalmatian-style potato salad comes slightly close, but not too close. It’s also great served with grilled meat. In addition, this dish, and some fried eggs, make a simple but tasty dinner. (To us, lunch is the main meal of the day, while we tend to have something small and simple for dinner, unless we’re entertaining).
I called this recipe ‘Dalmatian’ because this is how my mum and grandmas, and other cooks in Dalmatia, cook chard. Reading around, I found out that chard is prepared in a similar manner elsewhere, namely in Italy and France. This didn’t come as a surprise. After all, chard is native to Mediterranean, and olive oil and garlic are omnipresent in all Mediterranean cuisines. Similarities like this are not uncommon in areas of shared geography and climate. Also, chard was known to Ancient Greeks and Romans, who valued it for its medicinal and nutritional properties. It may well be that this recipe comes from their time. Dalmatia, or Illyria as was then known, was first colonised by the Greeks, and then later by the Romans.
This simple method of preparation enhances the flavour of the vegetables, and the garlic goes really well with Swiss chard. Any green leafy vegetable can be prepared like this. We prepare cabbage, Savoy cabbage and spinach in the same way. All are delicious, but in Dalmatia, we really like our chard. So much that we’ve been nicknamed accordingly… But who cares? I certainly don’t!
Chard – Beta vulgaris var. cicla
Chard is also known as Swiss Chard, Silverbeet, Perpetual Spinach or Mangold. This tall, leafy green vegetable is actually a beet, like beetroot for example, but it doesn’t have a bulb. Swiss chard has beautiful dark green leaves, while the stalks can be white, yellow or red. All three types taste pretty much the same: similar to spinach, but slightly more bitter. Both its soft leaves and the crunchy stalks are used in cooking.
In spite of the word Swiss in its name, ‘Swiss’ Chard is actually a true Mediterranean, being native to Mediterranean countries. Chard was named after cardoon, a Mediterranean celery-like plant with thick stalks that resemble those of chard. The French called both plants “carde.” The Swiss connection comes from the fact that the Swiss botanist Koch determined the scientific name of this plant in the 19th century. The adjective Swiss was also used to distinguish the two vegetables.
This vegetable is rich in vitamins and very nutritious.
Dalmatian Chard with garlic and olive oil
Blitva s maslinovim uljem i lukom
SOURCE: Mum’s recipe
PREPARATION TIME: 5 – 10 min
COOKING TIME: 15 min
CUISINE: Croatian Dalmatian
Swiss Chard (or any other green leafy vegetable)
Salt and pepper
1. Begin by preparing the chard by removing the stalks, and any leaves that are damaged. Rinse well.
2. Peel the potatoes, and cut them into pieces. Put the potatoes into water, and boil for a few minutes.
3. When the potatoes are starting to become soft, add the chard, and cook until both the potatoes and the chard is soft.
4. Meanwhile, peel the garlic and chop into pieces.
5. When the chard is done, strain the water.
6. Heat some olive oil in a pan and add garlic to it. Fry for a minute or two, and add the chard and the potatoes.
7. Continue frying the vegetables until the water has evaporated and the flavour of garlic and olive oil has permeated the chard and potatoes. Break the potatoes with the back of a spoon if you wish, to make the potato pieces smaller, and the dish creamier.
Serve along some grilled or fried fish, grilled meat, or fried eggs.
Delicious! It really goes well with grilled fish. Do try it!
Swiss Chard recipes elsewhere: