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Greens n’ beans: Swiss Chard with Cannellini Beans

swiss chard and cannellini beans

For a vegetarian, greens and beans are classic meal fixin’s. So is pasta of course, but we’re always being made to feel guilty for eating too much pasta, aren’t we? “It’s just useless carbs and empty calories” I’ll read, or “Once you become a vegetarian you’ll just eat pasta all the time” someone will tell me. Well, given that I’m Italian at heart, I would love to eat pasta every day, but I know better. So when I went veg early last year, I told myself I’d try to put aside those evil, empty carbs and get some greens n’ beans in me instead. At least part of the time.

The beans I was already on board with. I’m a self-confessed legume lover: lentils, chickpeas, beans small and large, I’ll take ‘em all. I like them in soupscurries, cold salads, warm salads- I even like them with pasta, for heaven’s sake! In fact, I just might like beans more than pasta. (Don’t tell my countrymen, okay?)

It’s the greens that I knew I’d struggle with, particularly my leafy greens. I’ve never really been a salad girl, and despite my parents’ best efforts, I didn’t eat much from this family as a kid. I loved plenty of other vegetables (broccoli is a lifelong favourite), but leafy greens always seemed so boring. So when I became a vegetarian, I knew I had some work to do. Back then (and somewhat pathetically), my repertoire didn’t extend much past spinach, but I’m happy to say that I’ve been gradually educating myself. 

Swiss Chard is one green that I’m still getting to know, and it’s taken me some time. I noticed it at the market last year, but didn’t buy any until recently. Whether this is because I was intimidated by the brightly-coloured stems, or because my internet searches revealed nothing more inspiring than “it’s good sautéed”, I’m not sure. I’ve only cooked with it a few times, but I’m already loving the earthy, sweet taste.

cannellini beans, in sink

The bunch of chard I bought this week was destined to be my lunch; I’m still working on convincing Andrew of the merits of greens and beans. I was thinking of making this soup, but when it came to it, I thought a simple sautée would be quicker and easier. Hmm- does this make me an official Chard fan?

Any white bean would work in this recipe. I used cannellini, but navy, great northern or even chickpeas would be delicious, too. I ate this dish on its own, but I bet it would be great a little soupier (just add more water) with some crusty bread, or even over pasta if you missed the empty carbs. 

chard and beans, close up

  • Swiss Chard with Cannellini Beans
  • serves 3
  • 1 head Swiss Chard
    3 Tbs. olive oil
    1 Tbs. tomato paste
    1/2 tsp. chili flakes
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    2 X 400g cans of cannellini beans, OR
    3 cups soaked and previously cooked dried beans
    1/2 cup stock or water (reserved from cooking the beans, if possible)
    sea salt and black pepper
  • 1. Trim the very bottoms of the swiss chard stems and discard. Cut the stems into 1 1/2″-sections, and roughly chop the leaves. Rinse well and set aside, keeping the stems and leaves separate. 

    2. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. When hot, add the chards stems and sautée for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato paste, garlic and chili flakes and cook for another minute. 

    3. Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the beans and chard leaves. Pour in the water or stock, add a good pinch of salt, and cover. Let cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. (This can easily be adapted to your liking: if you want it soupier, add more water. If you like it drier, remove the lid and let the moisture cook off.) 

    4. When the leaves are cooked and the stems are tender, remove from heat. Salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

5 comments

  1. Hilary says:

    Your ‘countrymen’ – snort.

    I can’t believe how pretty and colourful this is. I’ve never really been able to get behind Swiss chard, but this makes it look appetizing.

  2. I love Swiss Chard, although I’ll admit that more often than note I just saute it with pine nuts and currants. But I’ve occasionally made dolmas with the leaves instead of using grape leaves and have liked the result. If you’re casting about for good veggie recipes, I highly recommend Madhur Jaffrey’s The World Vegetarian. Really interesting recipes that more often than not are new to me.

  3. MH says:

    I agree, swiss chard always scares me a little. It also reminds me a little of rhubarb, which for some reason is intimidating to me.
    This dish looks extra pretty though!

  4. Ele says:

    Hil- If the Chinese can be your countrymen, then the Italians can definitely be mine!

    Laura- I love Madhur Jaffrey, but I only have one book of hers, Quick & Easy Indian Cooking. I will check out The World Vegetarian, it sounds perfect for me!

    MH- It reminds me of rhubarb a bit, too, and also of celery. We had giant rhubarb in our garden when I was growing up- it was a bit scary.

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