I love Swiss chard! It’s a tasty alternative to spinach and the size of Swiss chard leaves offer many fancy possibilities creative culinary delights.
Of Mediterranean origin, Swiss chard has been prescribed by Aristotle since the ninth century BCE. The Talmud also mentions that its consumption is recommended to ensure good health.
Used in the Middle Ages in Spain, Swiss chard has been associated with both moments of joy and sadness. Records from the Spanish Inquisition trials show that Swiss chard was used to highlight the culinary customs of the conversos. At the beginning of the 15th century, in Toledo, Spain, a dish prepared with Swiss chard, cumin, onions, black pepper, caraway, chickpeas and broad beans, was elaborated with fat meat (like mutton or lamb) and cooked overnight. The amazing smell it spread was called güesmo. In a similar way, in Northern Spain at the beginning of the 16th century, another dish with Swiss chard, cheese, and breadcrumbs was prepared for sibah by a daughter after her father had died. Another dish from the Spanish Middle Ages was usually cooked on Friday nights for Shabbat and made with boiled and fried Swiss chard leaves, onions, crumble bread and spices.
To celebrate the 15th of Shevat and reconnect with Sephardic Spanish roots, Here is a historical and healthy dish I call güesmo (in reference to the Spanish word which means “smell”), made with Swiss chard leaves and pine nuts that–in addition to commemorating the renewal of leaves, trees and the consumption of its fruits–will brighten your days.
Recipe for the güesmo Swiss chard dish
Preparation time: 40 minutes
7 oz (200g) of Swiss chard leaves
2 cloves of garlic
2 tsps of sugar
½ tsp of ground cumin
3 slices of bread (½-inch thick)
4 tsps of grated cheese (like Swiss cheese or feta cheese)
2 tsps of pine nuts
For the toasted bread:
- Preheat the oven to 425 °F.
- Mix together 1 tbsp of olive oil, ¼ tsp of salt and ½ clove of chopped garlic in a bowl. Take the slices of bread and brush them with this mixture on both sides. Put them on a baking sheet and bake them for 4 minutes until crisp. Set aside.
For the güesmo:
- Wash the chards and cut the green leaves only.
- Boil salted water and immerse the leaves for 6 minutes.
- Drain with cold water to keep them green, and squeeze them to remove all the water.
- Take a pan and heat ½ cup of oil. Add 1 ½ of chopped garlic and slice the 2 onions very thinly. Add ¼ tsp of black pepper. Cook for 5 minutes until it is light brown. Sprinkle with 2 tsps of sugar.
- Add the chard leaves, ½ tsp of salt, ½ tsp of ground cumin, and cook on a low heat for 5 minutes.
- Take the toasted slices of bread. Cover them with 1 tsp of grated cheese for each slice and 1 tsp of pine nuts, and toast them in the oven for 2 minutes. Be careful that it doesn’t burn.
- Take a plate and put the slices of garlic and cheese bread. Cover them with the Swiss chard mixture. I personally use a round cookie cutter.
- Sprinkle with 1 tsp of pine nuts.