Do you ever have those days where nothing seems to go the way you planned? Not to say that things don’t turn out well, they just turn out differently, and the journey took a bunch of unexpected detours on the way? Do those days ever turn into entire weeks?
I had a week like that recently. It coincided with the week I decided to do quite a few experiments with cooking and baking. I made some muffins that were a bit off. I made a pilaf that spiraled from simple to so many ingredients that it barely fit in the container I had set aside for it. But I think the biggest thing that went nothing like I had planned, and yet was probably the biggest success, was my stuffed Swiss chard leaves.
I happened to be watching Food Network (well, ok, so I always happen to be watching Food Network), and Giada came on with a vegetarian episode. One recipe in particular caught my eye – her stuffed Swiss chard leaves. And the next time I was at the farmer’s market, do you know what was staring at me while I waiting in line to buy apples? A beautiful bunch of Swiss chard leaves. It seemed like fate.
So I looked at the original recipe for a bit, then concocted my own version. I didn’t want rice in mine, since I’m generally not a fan. But I did have this bag of bulgur that I never got around to using. And while I am a huge fan of goat cheese, I just wasn’t feeling it. So I made up my own version and got to work.
Funny thing about reading recipes – you actually need to read them. For example, you need to read the words “cooked” when a recipe specifies a cup of “cooked” lentils and two cups of “cooked” rice. Well, I ignored these words and decided to go with uncooked measurements. Which meant that I made an obscene amount of filling. Which meant that I was eating it for days. Which meant that afterwards I had to rework the recipe in order to make a not-so-obscene amount of filling. Which took a lot of me scribbling on pieces of paper to divide cups of everything because apparently I can’t do math in my head.
Like I said, it was one of those weeks. The good news is, the result was delicious. The craisins in the stuffing give a nice tart element, and the peppers give crunch. The lentil-bulgur combo is high in protein, and the mint and lemon juice add a fresh, bright aspect to the dish. And of course, anything covered in sauce and cheese tastes good. These stuffed leaves make a great appetizer. Or, if you’re like me, you could just guzzle down 6 at a time and pretend it’s a meal.
Stuffed Swiss Chard Leaves
8 large leaves of Swiss chard (preferably still on the stalk)
Large pot of water
1 3/4 cups water, divided
1/4 cup lentils
1/2 cups bulgur
1 1/2 tablespoons Tahini
1/4 Mint leaves, julienned
3/4 cup Craisins
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Red Pepper, finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons of agave nectar
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400F
1. Put 1.5 cups of water and the lentils in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Lower it to a simmer, and let it cook, covered, for 15 minutes.
2. After 15 minutes, add the bulgur and another 1/4 cup of water to the pot. Bring it to a simmer and let it cook, covered, for 5 minutes. Then take the pot off the heat, give it a stir, and let it sit, covered for 15 minutes.
3. In a large bowl, mix the tahini, lemon juice, and agave to form a loose paste. If the mixture looks too thick, add in a little water, a teaspoon at a time. Add the julienned mint and the peppers. When the bulgur and lentils are done, add those to the bowl, along with the craisins, and mix thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Bring a large pot of boiling water to a boil. Dunk the Swiss chard leaves into the water and hold for 10 seconds, then remove.
5. Pour a cup of the marinara sauce over the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish.
6. Cut each leaf in half down the center, removing the stalk as you do so.
7. Now it gets a little tricky. Place a heap of the bulgur-lentil filling 3/4 of the way up the leaf. Fold the top half of the leave over the filling. Using your best burrito-folding skills, fold the sides of the leaf up (to contain the filling), and roll the leaf towards you. **If you end up with extra filling, toss it with some fresh baby spinach and red wine vinegar for a great salad.
8. Place the stuffed leaf into the baking dish, and repeat until all the leaves have been stuffed.
9. Pour the rest of the marinara sauce over the top of the stuffed leaves, and sprinkle the cheese on top of everything.
10. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the cheese is nice and bubbly and the dish is heated throughout.
Serve warm, and enjoy!