We know we’re supposed to eat lots of fruits and veggies. We know that some pack more of a nutritional punch than others. But which ones are the best – and how do we cook them? Happily, there’s a new book that answers all of those questions and more: 50 Best Plants on the Planet from our friends at Melissa’s.
This book is so cool. It’s part encyclopedia, part nutritional handbook, and part cookbook. And it’s so gosh-darned beautiful to look at that currently in the Jolly Tomato household we’re leaving it out as a coffee table book.
You can use this book to check out classic nutritional powerhouses like asparagus. You can use it to find out which are the best foods to eat if you want better skin or if you want to improve your mood. And you can use this book to learn more about products that are lesser-known in the U.S., like chrysanthemum leaves, gai lan, or cactus pear.
Case in point: Chard. It’s beautiful to look at (especially the rainbow variety) and it packs a powerful nutritional punch. But most people pick it up at the store, say, “I have no idea what to do with this,” and put it back down.
So here we are to help. We love steaming chard with a little bit of chicken broth or vegetable broth and serving it as a side dish or tossing it with pasta. We often add it to soups or on top of pizzas. Earlier this week, we sauteed it with onions and spices and then pureed it for chicken saag. It’s so mild in flavor that you can use it in just about anything (yes, even your morning smoothie).
Melissa’s has an even better idea, though – wrapping the leaves around mozzarella cheese and olives and grilling it. NOW we’re talking. Here’s the recipe straight from the book, used with permission from Melissa’s.
Grilled Mozzarella-Stuffed Chard with Black Rice, from 50 Best Plants on the Planet
Coarse salt (kosher or sea)
6 to 8 large chard leaves, thick ribs removed and discarded, leaves washed
1 cup Chinese black rice, rinsed with cold water
One 6- to 8-ounce sphere fresh mozzarella, cut into 6 crosswise slices
2 T. chopped pitted black olives, such as kalamata or nicoise
2 T. chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained
1 T. chopped fresh thyme
⅛ tsp. dried red chile flakes
About 1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
Canola oil or vegetable oil for oiling barbecue grate
1. Preheat a grill for indirect medium heat (with a gas grill, light only one side; with charcoal, arrange coals along two sides, leaving an area in the center without any coals).
2. Bring 2 cups salted water to boil in a 5 to 6 quart saucepan or Dutch oven on high heat. Using tongs, dip each chard leaf in the boiling water just to make it limp enough to be flexible, about 15 seconds. Drain the leaves in a colander and refresh with cold running water. Drain again.
3. Add the rice to the remaining boiling water (there should be about 1 ¾cups). Once the water returns to a boil, skim off any foam that forms on the surface. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Gently simmer until the rice is tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Drain off any remaining water. Season with salt, if needed.
4. Meanwhile, flatten out a chard leaf shiny-side down on a paper towel, overlapping the portion where the rib was removed to make a solid sheet. Pat dry with another paper towel and if necessary, patch any flimsy portion with part of an additional chard leaf. Place a mozzarella slice in the center and top it with some olives, tomatoes, thyme, chile flakes, and salt. Fold the bottom and top portion of the chard to cover the cheese; fold over the sides to enclose the cheese. Put it seam-side down on a plate. Repeat with the remaining chard, making five more packets. Bush with olive oil.
5. Clean the grill grate and lightly oil it. Grill the packets, cautiously turning once, until they are thoroughly heated and the chard is a little crisp, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Serve atop the rice. Serves 6.
Note: Remove the chard’s central rib by cutting out just the lower thick part of the stalk, leaving the leaf attached at the top.
Want to own your own copy of the book? You can order it online for $35 from Melissa’s right now. In April, a softcover version will be available at booksellers across the country for $30.
Thank you to Melissa’s for sharing a copy of the book with us and giving us a chance to meet author Cathy Thomas. Here’s to a wonderful new year filled with bountiful fruits and vegetables!