Thursday, August 28, 2008

Many greens, one formula

I was reading an article in a food magazine about a southern California food stylist who hosts the most perfect parties by her mansion poolside overlooking some of the most precious vistas. If you are wondering about my reading habits, let me explain that I was in need of a break from my other, ahem, more intellectual pursuits. To continue, her cooking style was emphasized by approximations and lack of precise recipes. I am supposed to find this charming. I do, but then, that is how most of the people I know cook, and so did the generations of people before me, even when cooking for a large number of people, so it isn't exactly ground breaking either.

Most of my everyday cooking would fall into this style - simple sabjees, dals, pastas, stir fries and salads. Even for the ones that do have a certain recipe behind it, the quantities are rarely measured, and yet they work just fine. The fallout of this for me is that there are so many posts languishing in the drafts because I don't have the exact (or good enough) measurements on them to write it up on the blog.

Greens: beet leaves, rainbow chard, radish greens, red chard
Top L-R: Beet Greens, Rainbow Chard
Bottom L-R: Icicle Radish Greens, Red Chard

One such is my favorite way to cook many greens, particularly chards, beet greens, and radish greens. A simple tadka, lots of onion, and a few spices is all it takes for the greens to shine through. Very easy and quick, it makes for a nutritious and delicious accompaniment to polis, or rice and dal, or can be a part of an array of other dishes. It has now become my touchstone combination when I find a new type of leafy green and I am not sure how to cook it or how it is supposed to taste. There is no need for much precision here, so here is the recipe, with a few approximations.

Greens: Cooked red chard

Chard chi bhaji


1 bunch of any type of chard (red, green, swiss, rainbow), about 6 cups when chopped
1 large red onion
2-3 Tablespoons of oil
1/2 teaspoon of mustard seeds
a big pinch of good asafoetida
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
salt to taste
1 teaspoon red chili powder
3/4 teaspoon cumin powder
3/4 teaspoon coriander powder


Wash and clean the chard. Remove the tough stems and finely chop the leaves.

Onion: thinly slicedCut off the top and root end of the onion. Slice it through vertically, then slice it thinly crosswise. If the onion has a large diameter, cut the slices in half.

Heat the oil in a kadhai or wok. Add the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, add the asafoetida and turmeric, add the onion, and saute it on medium heat till it starts to soften. Add the chopped chard leaves. Add a little salt and red chili powder, and toss everything together till the leaves begin to wilt. Lower the heat, add the remaining spices, and cook the leaves through for another minute or two. Add a little more salt at the end.

A new favorite for Red Chard

After years of applying the same formula, change is good. Very very good in this case, and it comes from talented blogger Mints, who writes a lovely blog in Marathi. Her recipe for red chard is so delicious, that it has become my new favorite and I find myself turning to it a lot more than my onion-walla standard.

With this post, I also thank her for the awards that she has passed on to me. Right back at you, Mints.

With her permission, here is her recipe, as adapted by me.

Greens: Chard with garlic and green chilies

Lal Chard chi lasun mirchi chi bhaji

1 bunch of red chard leaves
3-4 cloves of garlic
2-3 green chilies
1 Tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon of mustard seeds
pinch of asafoetida
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
salt to taste

Wash and clean the chard. Remove the tough stems and finely chop the leaves. Peel the garlic, and remove the stems of the green chilies. Smash the garlic and the green chilies until they are flattened.

Heat the oil in a kadhai or wok. Add the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, add the asafoetida, turmeric and cumin seeds. Add the garlic and green chilies, followed by the chopped chard leaves. Add a little salt and toss everything together till the leaves begin to wilt. Lower the heat, and cook the leaves through for another minute or two. Add a little more salt at the end.


  • The smashed garlic and chilies add a wonderful touch to this dish, so make sure you don't chop or mince them, and use them as described. This action is called 'ThechNe' in marathi.
  • If you don't have green chilies on hand, try it with dried red chilies for an equally delicious variation.


Sunshinemom said...

I made these too, without anything else but the chard;) Yours looks yummy especially the first snap - too good!

sra said...

Nice post and pix. Most of the greens I use go into dal. Only amaranth gets stir-fried as well. We don't get chard here, of course.

Sangeeth said...

nice post thr

Divya Vikram said...

Great info..Healthy one!

Mints! said...

Thank you ET!

Anonymous said...

Hi EvolvingTastes, have been reading your blog for a while and like your style of writing - your Maharashtrian recipes feel very close to home - and your farmer's market adventures have inspired me to check out the local farmer's markets in the Bay area. Have often eyed the chard in grocery stores with serious contemplation but never quite dared to bring it home. With your post I feel like it's time to go for it after all :-)

Thanks, SD

evolvingtastes said...

Sunshinemom, thanks. Thanks also for your comments on all the other posts!

sra, thanks. The wonderful thing about most greens is that there are local varieties everywhere. You have all kinds of keerai! I usually like dal on the side, but like to taste the greens on their own.

Sangeeth, you are welcome.

Divya Vikram, thanks.

Mints!, your garlic chard is a HUGE favorite already.

SD, thanks for your wonderful comment. So glad to hear from you. Farmers market are great for those who like good quality and variety. Not to mention the amazing discoveries. Do try and visit while the weather is nice. See you around here!

प्रिया said...

Neat! Simple and nice recipes :) My mom would sometimes add crushed peanuts to the onion version.

Aparna said...

We have traditional ways of cooking greens. I tend to go the onion and spice way too.
Otherwise I use them to make rotis or occasionally pooris as this is one way my daughter will have them.:)

Anamika:The Sugarcrafter said...

Hi evolving tatse
forget the measurements, you still make wonderful disshes..its an interesting post to read !

Priyanka said...

You do come up with the most unique recipes....where do you shop for the veggies by the way? i cant find all of these collectively even at whole foods.

Potpourrie said...

Hi Evolving Tastes!
(Sorry i don't know your real name yet)
I take it you are a Maharashtrian? And i came across your blog while googling for Ruchira. Very interesting i must say! I feel like rushing into the kitchen and whipping something up rightaway!

All the best,


Hima said...

Good way of having greens.

Vij said...

hi ya
This is my first time have a lovely space...
the recipe looks yum yum!!! The first pic is jus amazing!
Popped in to say a hi!

delhibelle said...

Both look like fast and fabulous ways to have greens. Thanks a bunch for sharing.

Cynthia said...

Approximation and personal taste is what I live for when it comes to cooking. I hate writing recipes.

प्रिया said...

ET, I got mustard greens and turnip greens from the store yesterday. Any suggestions for cooking them? Will one of these recipes work?

प्रिया said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sophie said...

I love green veggies. They have such a great earthy flavor, combining all like this is a tasty idea. I would love to feature your recipe on our Demy, the first and only digital recipe reader. Please email if you're interested. Thanks :)!

Aishwarya said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Hi Evolving Tastes,

I saw the Pictures of Chard chi Bhaji and they are wonderful!!

If you are Maharsshtrian, can you tell me "Does Chard means Rajgira"?Mala nehami Hirvya paley bhajyan madhe confusion hota :-)

evolvingtastes said...

Anonymous, thanks and welcome to my blog!

Rajgira is called Amaranth, and usually has leaves with a green-red pattern.

I don't know if chard has a desi equivalent.

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