Swiss Chard and Heirloom Tomato Casserole

I love a good plate of vegetables.  The more the merrier!  Seriously, I have been known to make a full plate of just veggies before having a second plate of whatever is actually for dinner.  In the summer I tend to eat whatever veggies I pick from my garden.  Sometimes it’s a lot of zucchini or beans or kale (you get the idea).  This summer has been a bit of a bust for my leafy greens.  It’s very sad as kale, collards, and chard are my favorites.  I reseeded my patches twice, but nothing took.  Must be something in the soil.  For the past few weeks I have been eating a ton of beans, zucchini, and herbs to fill my green requirement.  I started over 200 kale, collard, and swiss chard seedlings a few weeks ago and just planted them this past weekend in hopes that if they have a head start they will take. In the meantime, I started hitting up some local farmer’s markets to get my deep green fix.

I decided to grab a big bunch of ruby chard because the color is so stunning!  I swear you could sell me anything in a pretty shade of pink 🙂  Besides the color, the first of my tomatoes started ripening so I wanted to pair sweet, tender swiss chard with tangy, flavorful roasted heiroom tomatoes.  After admiring my chard purchase in a glass (and thinking about how someday I want my wedding bouquet to include all sorts of cruciferous vegetables), I got to work slicing, dicing, and roasting.

To highlight the sweet chard, I caramelized onions in some olive oil before sautéing the greens to perfection.  The key when cooking swiss chard is to slice it thin and triple soak it.  Place the chopped chard in a large bowl, fill it with water then place the chard in a strainer and drain the water.  Repeat that process two more times to make sure it’s not sandy.  For some reason swiss chard is quite dirty, and can be very gritty if you don’t properly rinse it.  Also, unlike kale and collard greens, chard stems are very tender and delicious so you don’t have to devein each leaf!  Simply chop the leaves thin and saute until tender.

To make this dish a casserole, I layered the sautéed chard with roasted heirloom tomatoes and pecorino romano cheese.  Now, I’m using the term “casserole” loosely because usually when you hear casserole you think of a heavy, creamy, bread-crumb laden dish with green beans or sweet potatoes. This is my take on a summer version, starring in-season produce with a few herbs and spices for emphasis.  I’m all about simplicity when it comes to food.

The cheese works acts as breadcrumbs while also adding a wonderful rich, creamy flavor without a ton of fat and calories.  If you can’t eat dairy or are vegan, feel free to swap the cheese out with toasted ground nuts.  Anyway, the final layer is fresh herbs.  It’s important to add the herbs last because they retain their flavor much better fresh as opposed to cooked.  And that’s it!  Serve it warm as a side, or eat alone as a light meal.  This really is the perfect summer casserole…dig in while it’s in season!!

Swiss Chard and Heirloom Tomato Casserole

1 large bunch of swiss chard (about 8 cups chopped), or 2 smaller bunches
1 red onion, sliced thin
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup oven roasted tomatoes (I used heirloom yellow and red cherry tomatoes here)

2/3 cup pecorino romano cheese*

1/2 cup mixed fresh basil, parsley, and oregano, chopped

Directions:
1.  Saute the onion and 3 Tbsp olive oil in a pot over medium heat for 5-7 minutes until translucent.
2.  Add the swiss chard in small batches and saute until the chard is tender, another 5-7 minutes.  Add the extra virgin olive for flavor and season with salt and pepper to taste.
3.  Pour the sauteed chard into a 8×8 glass baking pan or casserole dish.  Spread evenly throughout the pan, then layer the roasted tomatoes on top in an even layer. Top with the cheese then place in the oven and broil until the top of the cheese becomes brown and crispy.
4.  Remove from the oven and top with chopped fresh herbs before serving.

*can sub cheese with toasted ground nuts.  Simply throw a cup of nuts in the food processor and sprinkle on top before broiling.  Make sure you really watch the whole time it’s in the oven because the toasted nuts will burn fast.

Here’s my plate from the other night.  It’s not the most gorgeous plate of food, but it was oh-so-tasty! I paired this casserole with pan-seared sage and thyme tilapia and a glass of red wine.  How will you enjoy this delicious dish?!

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