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Farmers market report: Swiss chard is in season. We have recipes

Swiss chard.
Swiss chard.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

What’s in season:  A member of the beet family, chard is known for its long, frilly leaves and thick, celery-like stalks. And chard itself — it’s not necessarily “Swiss” — suffers from a confusion of names.

According to Los Angeles-based food historian Clifford Wright, the word “chard” is a corruption of the French word for cardoon — “carde.” Italians refer to chard as biete or bietole, which is the same name they give beet greens. Other names include white beet, strawberry spinach, seakale beet, leaf beet, Sicilian beet, spinach beet, Chilean beet, Roman kale and silverbeet. The greens, generally available from winter through early spring, come in a variety of colors and shades and are one of the best cold-weather cooking greens.

What to cook: You’ll find chard can be one of the sandier greens to deal with, so separate the leaves and wash them well before using. The trick with the greens is to cook them low and slow: cook them slowly as a base for soups, or to add color and rich flavor to pastas. Or blanch the greens quickly and sauté, using as a simple side or adding last minute to mains or even pizzas.

What’s on the horizon: More varieties of citrus, including Buddha’s hand, are showing up at select stands.

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CHARD SHAKSHOUKA

Total time: 50 minutes | Serves 6

Note: Adapted from a recipe in “V Is for Vegetables” by Michael Anthony.

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1/4 cup olive oil, divided

1/2 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, 1 minced, 1 smashed, divided

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

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1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 bell pepper, cut into matchsticks

1 sprig thyme, plus leaves from 3 sprigs thyme, divided

1 sprig rosemary

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8 canned plum tomatoes, plus juices

Pinch sugar

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon butter

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2 bunches Swiss chard, center ribs removed

6 eggs

1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, divided

2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves, divided

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Pinch dried oregano, divided

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Sweat the onion, minced garlic, red pepper flakes and paprika for 3 minutes. Stir in the peppers, thyme and rosemary sprigs and continue to cook for 5 minutes to marry the flavors. Add the tomatoes, sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper, and simmer until the peppers are soft and the sauce has thickened, about 30 minutes (try to leave the tomatoes intact).

3. When the tomato mixture is almost ready, cook the chard: In a large cast-iron skillet heated over medium-high heat, melt the butter along with the remaining 3 tablespoons oil. Add the smashed garlic, Swiss chard, a generous 1/4 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper and sauté until the chard is wilted, about 4 minutes. Remove and discard the rosemary and thyme sprigs from the tomato mixture, then spoon it over the cooked chard. Make 6 little indentations and break the eggs into them. Sprinkle over half of the thyme, parsley and tarragon leaves, as well as half of the oregano.

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4. Place the skillet in the oven and bake until the yolks are just set, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle over the remaining herbs and serve immediately.

Each serving: Calories 213; Protein 9 grams; Carbohydrates 10 grams; Fiber 4 grams; Fat 16 grams; Saturated fat 4 grams; Cholesterol 191 mg; Sugar 5 grams; Sodium 515 mg

Love cooking as much as I do? Follow me @noellecarter

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