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Looking Back, Moving Forward 

Swiss chard with olive oil and lemon

click to enlarge Fresh greens with a squeeze of fresh Meyer lemon for a fresh start.

Photo by Simona Carini

Fresh greens with a squeeze of fresh Meyer lemon for a fresh start.

As 2019 was drawing to a close, I saw reviews covering the last decade in terms of books, movies, music. I decided that, before writing something new, I would also look back and get a sense of the road traveled from March 1, 2007, when the first piece with my byline appeared on this space. Thanks to the North Coast Journal online archive, I realized that to date I have written 101 articles for this column. This little bit of accounting gave me a nice uplift as I moved forward into the new year. Considering that the vast majority of those articles contain a recipe, I have basically written a small cookbook in installments. That was my goal, though: I hope that among those 101 articles somewhere a snippet of inspiration fell from the page into someone's lap and made a difference in some way.

Before we move too far into the new year, I suggest you do something similar: Look back, consider the progress you have made in your life (the last decade, year, month — whatever makes you feel optimistic) and congratulate yourself. Then, fortified by a nice dose of positive energy, you are in a better place to make personal wellness plans for the near future.

For years my wellness plan has been to get fresh ingredients and prepare my meals, to eat a varied diet that's rich in vegetables and other whole ingredients, and make cooking and eating joyful activities — emphasis on joyful.

In 2020, I once again plan to try new foods, invent new recipes and enrich my culinary experience as chances to do so present themselves. While well-rehearsed recipes are useful to bring dinner to the table in a timely manner every day, trying new flavors helps me steer clear of boredom.

When I write about food, my goal is to pique readers' curiosity about trying new ingredients or new ways of combining familiar ones. The majority of recipes I contributed to this column feature vegetables, which reflects my diet: I eat a large amount of vegetables, and my husband does, too.

The recipes also reflect my desire to move vegetables from a supportive role to a starring one. So avoiding boredom is particularly important when it comes to vegetables. If you go back to my columns, you will find help covering the vegetable alphabet from asparagus to zucchini.

Swiss chard is popular in our household: It is tasty, versatile, easy to prepare and available year-round. The recipe on this page (a rendition of a childhood favorite) is for a simple side dish that goes well with everything. Keep it in mind also when you have a lot going on in the kitchen, as you can cook the chard in advance and dress it at dinner time.

Happy New Year!

Swiss Chard 'Olio e limone' (with Olive Oil and Lemon)

I like my chard lemony and I am partial to Meyer lemon. Follow your personal preference, taking into account that Meyer lemon is sweeter and less acidic than regular lemon.

Serves 2 as a side dish.

Ingredients:

1 bunch of Swiss chard

Fine sea salt, to taste

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Juice of 1 Meyer lemon or regular lemon, freshly squeezed, to taste

Toasted hemp hearts (shelled hemp seeds) optional

If the chard has long stems, trim them down to 2 inches long and use what you cut away in another recipe (for example, gratinéed as described in "Charmed by Chard," June 9, 2011).

Wash the chard and place it in a large skillet, leaves flat with some water still clinging to them. Add ¼ cup of water to the skillet. Cover and cook on medium-high heat for 2 minutes, then turn down to medium-low and cook for another 10 minutes, or until the stems are tender. Check after 5 to 6 minutes to ensure the skillet is not dry (if so, add some water).

Place the chard on a serving plate, sprinkle a small amount of sea salt on it and let cool to room temperature.

Cut the leaves into 2-inch-wide ribbons and the stems into 1-inch-long pieces.

Place the olive oil and lemon juice in a small jar, tighten the lid and shake it well. Distribute half of the vinaigrette on the chard and toss lightly. Serve with the remaining vinaigrette on the side.

My husband likes to sprinkle toasted hemp hearts on his portion.

— Simona Carini also writes about her adventures in the kitchen on her blog www.pulcetta.com. She prefers she/her pronouns.

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Simona Carini

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