Ara Kassabian from Los Angeles sent me a recipe he makes with farm-fresh Swiss chard and chick peas. It sounded delicious- and somehow familiar.
As I rummaged through my recipes, I discovered a copy that I'd saved a long time ago, but never got around to making. You know how it is. My copy is very similar to Ara's recipe (how different could it be, really?), and makes an excellent lenten meal or side dish.
Living in an agricultural section of Palm Beach County, Florida, I was determined to find farm-fresh Swiss chard, too. My mother accompanied me as I searched several farm stands to find the perfect bunch.
We were in a time crunch, because the temperature was about to plunge, causing farmers to worry about a cold spell that could possibly damage delicate vegetables. (Can you imagine? Cold weather warnings in February in Florida? Just yesterday I was swimming in the pool!)
On our third stop, I found a perfect specimen of this wonderful, green leafy vegetable. Our dinner menu was set.
Here is the recipe Ara sent for ‘Swiss Chard with Chick Peas’:
“ This is my version, which is based on my mom's recipe (but, really, it's a very simple dish):
1 bunch swiss chards (green or mixed)
1 can chick peas
2-3 tablespoons of tomato sauce
1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Salt (very little), black pepper
Aleppo red pepper or equivalent (cayenne, chili colorado, etc.), to taste.
Wash and coarsely chop the chards. Make sure you get all the dirt out. (Robyn says: 'A very important tip, trust me!') Heat the oil over medium-high heat and saute the chard until it is limp. Add the chick peas, tomato sauce, salt and peppers. Cover and simmer on low heat until the chard is soft but not "dead". About 20-30 minutes.
As a variant, you can substitute some ready-made ajika (Georgian tomato-pepper paste) for part of the tomato sauce. In which case, you can omit the Aleppo red pepper.
Note: Swiss chard tends to be high in sodium, and of course canned chick peas also have sodium, so go easy on the salt. You can of course use dried chick peas but I'm a lazy bum.
Nevik is traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve (January 5th), along with rice, fish, and yogurt soup (madzoonaboor).”
The Armenian Kitchen's variation: We sauteed 1 small, sliced onion, and 2 small, minced cloves of garlic in the oil before adding the Swiss Chard. Instead of tomato sauce, we used 2 Tbsp. pepper paste diluted in a few tablespoons of water. Yum, yum! Served with rice pilaf, our meal was complete.