I find particular satisfaction in making something from not-so-much. I save my Parmesan rinds to add depth of flavor to lentil soups. I save my vegetable trimmings make homemade broth. And when I made those risotto-filled chard rolls, I saved the chard stems to make this dish.
I often cook chard stems right along with their leaves, chopping them into confetti and sauteing them with onions and garlic before adding the glistening green leaves to my pan. And I sometimes chop the stems up for my stock-trimmings bag in the freezer if I only have a few of them. But chard stems are a delicious vegetable on their own, with a sweeter flavor than the leaves and a bit of crunch or chew, depending on how long you cook them.
This recipe is a longstanding family favorite. It comes from Jack Bishop’s A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen, which I once checked out of the library. (I love getting cookbooks from the library.) I sauce things up by increasing the tomato and often serving a poached egg on top, but you can do what you like. I also usually serve the sauteed chard leaves alongside if I didn’t already use them up to make chard rolls.
Baked Chard Stems with Tomato, Garlic, and Parmesan: Slice chard stems into 3-4″ lengths and simmer in broth or lightly salted water until tender, about 7 minutes. (I did this when I was blanching my chard leaves in broth the other day.) Meanwhile, make a tomato sauce by sauteeing a few thinly-sliced cloves of garlic in olive oil until golden, then stirring in a 28-oz. can/tetrapak/jar of chopped tomatoes. If you want to speed things along you can drain the tomatoes and save the liquid for a soup or put it in your freezer to make stock later. Cook the tomatoes down into a thick sauce, then remove from heat and stir in a handful of minced parsley. In a lightly oiled baking dish, layer half of the chard stems, half of the tomato sauce, then a handful of freshly-grated Parmesan. Repeat. Bake uncovered at 400 until the cheese is lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Serve alone or topped with a poached egg and/or sauteed chard greens.