During the CSA’s winter hiatus, we spent part of the time perusing cookbooks from the public library. And, since we know that we’ll get lots of greens during the winter months, we tried, at least a bit, to look for recipes that sounded good and used a bunch of greens. This one stood out. After all, who ever heard of pickled raisins?Yes, pickled raisins. One of us was skeptical; the other a bit more enthusiastic, but we were both willing to go for it and try out these raisins. Especially since they form more of a garnish than an ingredient. So, are you willing to try these raisins, too? Good! Let’s scratch ’em up.
Oops! Almost forgot: this recipe comes from Vedge, by Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby. For those readers in Philadelphia, you can eat at the restaurant from whence these recipes spring.
Serves 4 as a side, 2 as a large side.
We didn’t have rice vinegar. We keep saying that we need to pick some up at the Asian market, but we never do. Partly because we forget, and partly because, when we remember, we see that the number of choices is bewildering. Anyway, we used white wine vinegar, instead. Also, about those golden raisins. We didn’t have those either (plus, we’re not sure how different they are, except for the color), so regular raisins went in. We did use organic raisins, though; we think that grapes, and hence raisins, use a lot of pesticides (grapes are number 2 on the dirty dozen list). Similarly, chard shows up on the list (well, spinach actually, but the cultivation is similar), so we went with some from the farmers’ market and some from our CSA share.
Procedure in detail:
Pickle raisins. Now, that’s a phrase that doesn’t come up often, “pickle raisins.” In fact, we’re not sure we’ve ever used the phrase before, but that’s what we’re going to do. No, it’s not hard: just combine raisins, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and vinegar in a small saucepan over high heat, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Finally, remove from heat, cool, and drain. There! Pickled raisins.
Blanch chard. Blanching helps the chard to retain a nice green color, but other than that, it’s not really necessary. We did it, because we have a quick little trick that makes it easy. Load all of the chard into a colander, and place it in a sink. Bring a tea kettle of water to a boil, and slowly pour the boiling water over the chard. There! Blanched chard. Let it drain.
Cook garlic. In a large skillet over high heat, bring the oil to a shimmer. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic just begins to brown.
Add chard. Once the garlic has started to brown, add chard — careful, it’ll spatter — 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chard wilts, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Plate. Dish the chard until plates, and top with pickled raisins and pistachio pieces.
So that’s it. A fairly simple side dish that comes from one of the highest-rated restaurants in Philly. Now, we know you’re all wondering, “what about those pickled raisins? What were they like?” Well, to be honest, they tasted mostly like raisins that had been plumped by soaking in water. They didn’t have a very strong pickle taste at all. Sure, if you happened to eat about half-dozen raisins in one bite, you could taste a hint of vinegar, but it wasn’t very strong. If we hadn’t known they were pickled, we’re not sure we’d have noticed at all. With the raisins and pistachios, the flavor was reminiscent of Chard Pie, which is one of our favorites, but this is actually easier (and lighter) to put together, making it good for when you want to avoid just plain steamed chard. Four stars.