These flavorful little bundles are perfect for a fall meal, simply served with a salad of bitter greens, pears and walnuts or as a side dish for roast chicken. I wrapped lightly blanched leaves of young chard around a risotto-like combination of roasted winter squash and brown rice, perked with little bites of dried currants and a pinch of ground mace. The bundles were baked on top of blanched slivers of freshly dug carrots and chard stems (don’t throw them away, they’re delicious!). The texture of the slightly crisp slivered vegetables complemented the soft centers of the stuffed greens, and the flavors were a great combination.
This dish was a real workaround of the weather. First, with a pending snow and ice storm (yes, in October, do you believe it?) I harvested an armful of chard from my garden and tented the remaining crop just in case. The chard was young, with delicate leaves and long leggy stems, so I was determined to use both. Second, after the hurricane that we had here a few months ago, the local crops of winter squash were compromised. Our CSA warned us not to keep the squash too long and to wipe down the outside with hydrogen peroxide or diluted bleach when we took it home. Scary idea. While I normally would have stored the squash in our cold basement until sometime in the winter, we’re eating our way through the small crop right now. I used a portion of a small dumpling squash, dicing it into ¼-inch pieces and roasting it in the oven. For the rice, I decided on short-grain brown rice since it’s stickier than other types and I thought that it would hold its shape better. I made the stuffing the day before and stored it in the refrigerator.
Chard Stuffed with Winter Squash, Brown Rice and Currants
6-8 stalks of green chard
1/3 c short grain brown rice
1 c diced (1/4–1/3 inch cubes) firm winter squash (e.g., butternut or dumpling)
1 tbsp dried currants
¼ tsp ground mace (or nutmeg or cinnamon)
Salt and pepper
1 small carrot, cut into 1½-inch long matchsticks
Slice the stems from the leaves of chard, reserving both. Cut the stems into 1½-inch matchsticks and set aside.
Make the stuffing (this can be done a day in advance and refrigerated). Add rice to boiling water and cook it, at a gentle boil, until al dente, about 30 minutes. Drain and set aside. Toss the diced squash in a little olive oil and salt and roast in the oven at 400 degrees until soft and slightly brown, about 10 minutes, turning part way through roasting. Remove to a bowl to cool. Combine the rice and squash, add the dried currants and spice of choice, and season with salt and pepper.
When ready to assemble and bake, bring a large pot of water to boil and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Plunge the chard leaves in the boiling water and remove them quickly to an ice water bath. Drain the leaves immediately and place them on a towel to flatten and lightly dry. Add the carrots and chard stems to the boiling water to blanch them and remove them to a baking dish, sprinkling them with salt and a few drops of olive oil.
To make the chard bundles, place a spoonful of the rice mixture (amount depends on the size of the leaves) on each chard leaf, roll up from the stem end, adjusting to make sure no filling is visible and folding in the sides to make a neat package. Place on top of the carrots and chard stems. Bake for about 25 minutes.