Charming Chard and Loving Leftovers

Leftovers night.

I love love love swiss chard. I still remember the first time I cooked with it and how in awe of its gargantuan leaves I was. And it’s so good for you. And for picky eaters like Alex, it resembles spinach and can generally be used in place of spinach.

I decided that leftovers night is often one of the more creative nights in the kitchen. It’s all about making do with what you have and making creative replacements to your favorite recipes– a challenging sort of race against the rot clock, if you’d like to think of it that way.

Here are a few creative things I did that resulted in this lovely dish:
1. I saved time (and dishes) by cooking the chard in the same pot as the pasta. When, according to my pasta’s package directions, it had 5 minutes left to cook, I added the chopped chard and let it go, draining both pasta and chard together in the colander when the pasta cooking time was up.

2. I used up all the bread. Because I bake my own artisan bread without preservatives or dough softeners, the loaf can get extremely hard extremely fast if we don’t eat it fast enough. Sometimes this means I have to toss an end piece every now and then. This week’s loaf was rescued and turned into croutons.

I know it may seem odd (or perhaps quintessentially Italian?) to top carbs pasta with carbs croutons, but I was inspired by a recipe I remembered seeing in Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution in which rotini pasta is tossed in a sauce with breadcrumbs and anchovies.

3. I added a little bit of parmesan cheese to help everything stick together and add an extra nutty layer of saltiness–a sort of cheese sauce without going crazy with cream and eggs.

Improvised Pasta Pangrattato with Swiss Chard (inspired by Smitten Kitchen’s Spaghetti with Swiss Chard and Garlic Chips and Jamie Oliver‘s Pasta Pangrattato)
Yum Factor: Alex – 6, Jessalyn – 7

Make the croutons:
stale bread

– olive oil
– salt and garlic powder
1. Preheat oven to 375F. Cut bread into small cubes. Toss with olive oil, salt, and garlic powder, then spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake 20-25 minutes, turning once for even browning.

Make the pasta:
1/2 onion, sliced

– the stems of one bunch of chard, chopped
2. Get the onions going in a bit of olive oil in a medium pan over medium high heat.

3. When the onions start to soften, add the chopped chard stems and continue to saute.

– 1/2 pound pasta, such as linguini
– leaves from 1 bunch chard chopped
4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water generously and add your pasta, cooking according to package directions. When there is about 5 minutes left in cooking the pasta, add the chopped chard and continue cooking until the pasta is finished. Drain.

– small glass of white wine
– 1 tablespoon milk
– 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
5. When the onions and chard stems have softened, add the wine and let it boil down so that it is almost evaporated. Add the milk and a small handful of the cheese, stirring to combine and heat through.
*Note: If you’d like, consider adding 1 finely chopped anchovy fillet here. Haven’t tried it, but I think it would work.

6. Toss the pasta and chard with the onions and chard stems along with the rest of the parmesan cheese. Serve warm topped with croutons, parmesan cheese, and sliced almonds (if desired).

Next time it’s leftovers night, see if you can unleash your creative powers to make a new favorite meal. Maybe your favorite meal evolved “accidentally” from a leftovers fridge raid? Do tell.

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