Greens season is here. Gardens and farmers’ markets in Anchorage are filled with every type of cool weather green. Swiss chard, spinach, and kale are in their prime.
It’s also the season during which many Alaskans are doing hard duty out on the salmon grounds, making sure freezers are filled with fish for the upcoming winter.
The best reason to eat greens and salmon is they just plain taste good. Luckily, both are good for your health: greens because they’re high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber and salmon because it’s loaded with omega-3 fatty acids
Freshly caught salmon has so much flavor it doesn’t need anything more than salt, pepper, and a little time on the grill or cast-iron pan. Swiss Chard Braised with Olives and Feta is a good accompaniment. The greens’ earthiness, when paired with salty olives and feta, balances fresh salmon’s richness.
Any greens, wild or domesticated or, better yet, a mixture of greens, can be substituted for Swiss chard. This is delicious made with plain Kalamata olives, but I prefer using Roasted Kalamata Olives. Dry-cured or salt-cured olives (such as those from Thassos) may be substituted, but be sure to taste them and use less than 1/2 cup if they’re strong flavored. Most Greeks squeeze a lemon wedge over braised greens; I like them better plain. Serve lemon wedges on the side so each eater can choose their own amount of lemon. Swiss Chard Braised with Olives and Feta goes well with grilled or pan-fried salmon and other simply cooked seafood.
2 large or 3 medium bunches Swiss chard (about 10-12 cups cleaned, chopped leaves)
Strip Swiss chard leaves from stems; reserve stems for another use. Wash and roughly chop the leaves (don’t dry leaves; the clinging water helps cook them).
In a Dutch oven or deep sauté pan, sauté garlic in olive oil over medium heat for 30 seconds, being very careful not to burn the garlic. Stir in Swiss chard, olives, a liberal seasoning of black pepper, and a light seasoning of salt (olives and feta also add salt). Cover, turn heat down to low, and cook until chard is tender, but not falling apart. (The dish may be made ahead to this point and reheated just before serving.)
Remove chard and olives from pan with slotted spoon. Put in serving bowl along with the feta. Toss well. Serve with lemon wedges on the side.
Pancakes with Leftover Greens, Olives and Feta
Makes 4-6 pancakes
Too lazy to make crepes, I mixed leftover Swiss Chard Braised with Olives and Feta into a simple batter and cooked it into pancakes. These cakes contain the same flavors as crepes, but can be mixed and cooked in less than 1/2 hour with a lot less hassle. I served the savory pancakes with soft goat cheese, basil shreds, and thinly sliced prosciutto; they made a lovely lunch.
3/4 - 1 cup leftover greens, olives, and feta
Put leftover greens in a strainer set over a bowl, press down to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Measure the liquid and add enough milk to make one cup. Whisk egg and half the milk mixture into flour. Whisk in remaining milk mixture. Whisk in greens and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Heat small amount of oil in a griddle or cast iron frying pan over medium heat. When pan is hot, ladle in 1/2 cup batter, spreading it out to form a 7” circle. Cook it on one side until it’s dry around the edges and the underside is nicely browned when lifted. Flip and cook on the second side. Repeat until all the batter is used.
Serve plain, with cheese, or with thinly sliced prosciutto or salami.