Swiss Chard Like You’ve Never Tasted It Before
Saturday mornings in downtown Lancaster are magical. The sun is up, but the heat of the day hasn’t yet assumed its place in our consciousness. The streets and sidewalks are alive but not yet crowded. There is a gentle breeze rolling down Prince Street.
At 7, I step into the alley in front of Central Market, and all around are pleasing sights and sounds: happy shoppers heading to and from the market in all directions; stand holders and their children unloading trucks full of freshly picked goods, chatting about the morning and their week; a young blond-haired girl plunking out a tune on one of the Music for Everyone pianos, stationed just outside the market; someone hawking fliers in the alley.
All in all, a serene Saturday morning in Lancaster.
I was going to write about my garden and the beautiful bunches of chard, red Swiss and yellow rainbow stalks, big green leaves still glistening from the overnight rain, and then I got distracted by this wonderful Lancaster morning.
When we moved here eight summers ago, my family and I wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. It was an OK place to live, work and raise kids, but it was quiet, conservative and very slow-moving. Now I can’t imagine living anyplace else.
What a terrific place Lancaster has become. It is alive with the pulse of a city in love — with the artists and galleries up and down the streets and alleyways; fabulous events virtually every weekend and many more during the week; the Barnstormers and their family-centric baseball, fireworks and fun; more than a dozen small coffee roasters and numerous excellent breweries and wineries; cool museums, lively parks and a busy new convention center and YMCA; great restaurants and hotels; and the centerpiece of this thrilling renaissance, the beautifully renovated Central Market.
What a great time to be living in Lancaster.
This amazing place is the way it is, I suppose, because for more than 200 years, the people here have been making their way off the land, off the deep, rich earth that is Lancaster County; and here in my small corner my family is, like so many others, growing food in our backyard—peas, tomatoes, peppers, chard, squashes, grapes, pumpkins—crops we will be able to keep and use all year.
Here’s a recipe we tried just today, after cutting some of that beautiful chard from our garden. What will you make from your garden, or from one of the fabulous Lancaster County growers?
SOBA NOODLES WITH BACON AND SWISS CHARD
6 ounces soba noodles
4 ounces bacon, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems and leaves chopped and separated, about 3 cups
1 tablespoon tamari or light soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped scallions to garnish
Cook the soba noodles according to the directions on the package; reserve about 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Rinse well with cold water, drain and set aside.
In a large heavy pan, cook the bacon until crisp, about 6 minutes (we used turkey bacon; if you do so, add 1 tablespoon peanut or canola oil to the pan, as turkey bacon is much leaner than pork bacon). Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Add the garlic, onion and chard stems, and sauté over medium heat for about 6 minutes, until soft. Then add the chard leaves and season with salt and pepper; continue to stir and sauté until the chard wilts; add the reserved noodle liquid and stir until the chard is completely wilted and tender. Add the tamari or soy sauce and cook for one more minute.
Remove the pan from the heat, add the cooked noodles, the bacon, vinegar and toasted sesame oil and toss to coat. Garnish with chopped scallions and serve immediately. Serves 6.