Sometimes, when I’m scouting out the produce at the shuk, I can’t resist bringing home a big, leafy bunch of fresh Swiss chard.
I imagine all kinds of wonderful dishes to make with it, but usually I give in to laziness and just sauté the white stalks in olive oil with onions and garlic, adding the thickly-sliced greens a little later and stir-frying till all is done. That’s a delicious green side dish, but on occasion, I want to pair Swiss chard with something else. Something substantial.
Friends were coming over for an informal dinner. I needed a menu with a good protein punch, but something light, and with plenty of vegetables. A search in the fridge turned up a half-kilo of ground chicken from the previous day’s shopping: had to cook that up soon. I remembered a dish of chicken patties flavored with Mediterranean herbs and preserved lemons that’s always a hit with my carnivore friends. The patties are lightly cooked with a melange of Swiss chard, tomatoes and potatoes that simmered down to a light, brightly-favored sauce. Just the ticket.
Chicken Burgers With Swiss Chard
4 generous portions
1 large potato, peeled and thickly sliced
1 large, ripe tomato, thickly sliced
1 bunch of Swiss chard or beet greens, rinsed free of dirt
1 pound organic ground chicken
1 onion, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 -1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed dried herbs: sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme – alone or in any combination
Olive oil for shallow frying
Juice of 1 lemon or 1/2 preserved lemon, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, mashed
1 cup water or chicken stock
1 cup white wine
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 small bunch scallions
Cut away the white stems of the chard leaves. Reserve them.
Put the green leaves in a large pan without any added water. Cook, covered, over low heat until they wilt. This should take 2-3 minutes.
Remove the greens to a chopping block with tongs or a large fork. Allow them to cool, then chop them finely.
Put the ground chicken, egg, onion, chopped greens, bread crumbs, dried herbs, and salt and pepper into a large bowl .
Blend vigorously with a large spoon or spatula, then knead the seasoned meat mixture with your hands, until you have a firm, well-blended mix.
Shape 4-6 patties.
Prepare a skillet with a little olive oil on the bottom. Fry the patties for 5 minutes on each side, just enough to make them hold together and to give them a good brown color. Remove them to a plate.
Dissolve the cornstarch in a little water. To the still-hot frying pan, add 1 cup white wine and stir, loosening up any bits of meat. Add the dissolved cornstarch and stir, 1 minute.
Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil into another, large skillet that you can cover with a lid later. Fry the potato slices over a medium flame. Add the sliced tomato and fry, stirring, until the potatoes are barely cooked through.
Meantime, slice the white part of the beet stems into 3” – 8 cm. lengths.
Fry the garlic until just soft in the skillet with the potatoes and tomatoes. This should take 1-2 minutes. Drizzle in a little more olive oil if needed to keep the vegetables from sticking. Add the lemon juice or preserved lemon.
Stir the chard stems into the vegetables cooking in the second skillet. Scrape the cornstarch mixture out of the first frying pan, into the vegetable skillet. Place the chicken patties on top, moving the vegetables around to make room for them. Add 1 cup water or stock, and more if needed to cover the patties about half-way up.
Cook, covered, over medium heat, for 20 minutes or until the burgers are cooked through.
Taste the vegetables and surrounding liquid for seasoning; add more salt and/or pepper if needed.
Remove the burgers and keep them warm in the oven. Uncover the skillet and cook the liquid down to a thin sauce.
Pour the reduced liquid over the burgers. Chop the scallions and scatter them over the meatballs just before bringing them to the table.
Serve with rice or couscous.