On Your Table: Not too late to start the year eating healthy

And remember, ‘healthy’ doesn’t have to mean boring or tasteless

By Cathy Branciaroli, Food Correspondent, The Times


Swiss Chard is a winter green chock full of nutrients and when combined with beans or even pasta it makes for a healthful dinner meal.

Here I am still thinking about the New Year…. And since it’s January we can yet have a conversation about healthy eating resolutions. Indeed, what finer gift can someone give to him or herself and the family but to take better care about the food one prepares. And this needn’t be painful. Following through on a resolution to eat more fresh foods is really fun and simple.

I spoke with Chef Greg Smith of the recently opened Avenue Kitchen in Glen Mills about his thoughts on this subject. He recommends choosing whole grains including farro instead of rice. He also suggests to limit the amount of red meat included in a dish. “Cleaner and fresher are what it’s all about this time of year”, he said   At Avenue Kitchen, they are currently offering a number of winter salads and handmade pastas including cavatelli. The restaurant, which opened in September, is a new venture owned and operated by the same folks who run the acclaimed Avenue Restaurant in Villanova.

During our visit we talked about how winter greens can make a dish really nutritious while still being tasty and enjoyable. My personal favorite of the winter greens, being of Italian heritage, is Swiss Chard, although kale is still all the rage.

Swiss Chard is one of the healthiest vegetables on earth. Indeed, all vegetables are healthy to some degree or another, but Swiss Chard is an extremely strong performer, loaded with vitamins and nutrients. And unlike kale, it’s a tender green that doesn’t need much cooking.

Like spinach, it is a store-house of many nutrients. It is very low in calories and an excellent source of antioxidant vitamins including vitamin-C.   It is one of the great vegetable sources for vitamin-K.. It is also rich source of omega acids; vitamin A, Beta-carotene and B-vitamins.

Oh and did I forget to mention how great a cooking ingredient it is?   Swiss Chard, can be steamed, sautéed, braised and baked or combined in casseroles with other healthy ingredients like beans

My grandmother grew up in the Abruzzo region of Italy where a favorite side dish was made with Swiss Chard and beans, sprinkled liberally with red pepper flakes.  Although I like this dish just the way she made it, my husband prefers a more substantial meal, and I have been making it with pasta in recent years.

Italian Style Swiss Chard and Cannelini Beans


1 large bunch swiss chard, stems removed and sliced

½ pound or box of orecchiette pasta (Optional)

1 small onion, diced

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, diced

1 can cannellini beans drained and rinsed

1 cup low-salt chicken broth

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

½ tsp salt

½ tsp cayenne pepper flakes


Rinse the swiss chard and remove the stems.  Cut into 1 inch slices and steam the chard in a little water for 2 minutes.  Then plunge into ice water.  Set aside.

If you are serving the dish with pasta, cook the pasta according to the directions and drain, reserving ½ cup of the pasta water. Sauté the chopped onion in the olive oil till translucent and then add the garlic.  Cook for 3-4 minutes.    Heat the chicken broth and pour over the savories.  Then add the beans and the pasta water.  When everything is heated, add the Swiss Chard, cook for 2 more minutes then top with the parmesan cheese.


Cathy Branciaroli also writes about her adventures in the kitchen on her blog Delaware Girl Eats

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