Unlike other ‘old-fashioned’ vegetables like parsnip that are now in every supermarket, chard is still difficult to find in the Netherlands. As research for this post I googled Italian recipes for lasagne alle bietole and noticed that most recipes use only the green part and add a lot of cheese. To bring out the mild, earthy and slightly sweet flavor of chard as well as the crunchy texture of the stems I decided to do it differently: I made a green sauce with the leaves and included the white stems. The method is very similar to that for asparagus lasagna that I posted recently, so I am not going to repeat all of the steps in detail. The result was very nice indeed.
For a 20 cm (8 inch) square lasagna (4 servings as a main course or 6-8 servings as primo piatto)
1 head of chard of about 900 grams (2 lbs); about 600 grams (1.3 lbs) white and 300 grams (.7 lbs) green
about 750 ml (3 cups) milk
100 grams (2/3 cup) flour
100 grams (7 Tbsp) butter + more for greasing the dish
salt and freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
freshly grated nutmeg
fresh pasta dough made with 2 eggs and about 200 grams (1 1/3 cups) of Italian 00 flour, or enough store-bought lasagna sheets for 4 layers of pasta
Separate the green and white parts and chop them both.
To preserve as much flavor as possible I vacuum sealed the green and white parts separately with some salt…
…and cooked them sous-vide for 1 hour at 85C/185F. But you could also steam them.
Puree the green part in the food processor, adding the juices from the sous-vide bag of the white part.
Add milk to the pureed greens to end up with 1 litre (4 cups) of liquid.
Make a bechamel sauce with the chard/milk mixture, butter, and flour, according to this method.
Add a dash of freshly grated nutmeg…
…and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Roll out the pasta dough and cut 4 sheets that are slightly smaller than your lasagna dish. Parboil them briefly as shown in the recipe for asparagus lasagna. Store-bought pasta may also need to be parboiled, especially if it’s dry pasta.
Grease a 20 cm (8 inch) square lasagna dish with butter and cover the bottom with a layer of pasta.
Arrange one third of the white part of the chard on top of the pasta.
Cover with one quarter of the green sauce.
Sprinkle with freshly grated parmigiano reggiano.
Repeat with 2 more layers and then a final layer of pasta covered with green sauce and extra cheese.
Bake the lasagna in the oven at 200C/400F for about half an hour, or until the top is nicely browned.
One of my favorite dishes in Taiwan was ‘3 cup’ scallops. The name refers to the sauce, which includes equal amounts of soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil. But the star of the dish is the Taiwanese basil, which is known outside of Taiwan as Thai Basil. This type of basil has an anise or licorice type of flavor and is not the same as regular (Italian) basil. It is also not the same as Thai holy basil. The Taiwanese basil works very well with the scallops and the sauce is delicious. The hardest part may be to find the Thai basil. Otherwise, preparing this dish is pretty straightforward and quick.