I really enjoy my vegetable garden, especially when it's producing edible things. It's fun, in a nerdy-gardener way, to figure out how to use all the chard that is so prolific that I am quite sick of it. Yeah, it's frustrating to harvest an ear of corn and find 20% of the kernels mature and juicy while 80% of them are non-existent, but it's kind of fun. And it's exciting to see that the first cucumbers are finally maturing.
I'm not a big fan of chard. Though I really, really like it in this fall dish, I generally prefer collard greens and kale. This year we planted six little chard plants, because that's what the vendor had the day we decided to plant. At least once a week we harvest a handful of leaves and have to figure out something to do with them. As tempted as I am to tear out the plants and replace them with something else, it's not that simple. Would there be enough sun in that spot to plant some stevia or another pepper plant? I don't know. And as I consider the question, the chard just keeps growing.
This week the leaves got pretty large, so I decided to stuff them in this fashion . I harvested about two dozen large chard leaves. I blanched them. Then in a small skillet in olive oil, I sauteed one small minced onion, two inches of Spanish (hard) chorizo*, minced; one grated carrot and a sprig of thyme. I added about 1/4 cup of short grain white rice and sauteed for two more minutes, then turned off the heat and added "the rest" of a jar of Italian Tomato Sauce and some chopped parsley. (The tomato sauce was left over from our Pizza Grilling Adventure earlier this month. I would guess that there was about 1/2 a cup left in the jar.)
I carefully separated the delicate chard leaves from each other, sliced off the tough stem end of each leaf and placed one tablespoon of filling onto each leaf. I folded over the edges and rolled each leaf into a little bundle.
In the same large pot that I had blanched the chard, I melted a tablespoon of butter. I set the bundles on top of the butter and added just a little water and tomato sauce. (I swished a big splash of water around in the tomato sauce jar to take advantage of any sauce left in there.) I brought the pot to a simmer without stirring, reduced the heat to low, covered the pot and simmered for 20-25 minutes to cook the rice.
Abby and Jason chose to eat cereal instead, and I can't blame them; dolmas are not an attractive food. But Grace and I genuinely enjoyed them. Maybe part of our enjoyment is the excitement of harvesting our own food. I've heard some experts recommend the strategy of having a kid harvest their own veggies and help cook to encourage kids to eat more veggies (and that has definitely worked with Grace this week); but I don't want to discount the opinion that they taste really good. The smoky chorizo cuts the grassiness of the chard. The carrots and onions had sweetness, the rice adds a nice texture. All-in-all, they are a nice little package, and one I will surely resort to again.
*While soft Mexican chorizo is readily available in discount supermarkets in our area, Spanish chorizo, a hard paprika-laced sausage, is not. I find Spanish chorizo at S&S Produce.