Ciao'd after a March Madness weekend. And I do mean mad.
Continuing the asparagus theme from last week (spring is to asparagus what summer is to zucchini), here's a recipe that pairs the subtle flavor of white Swiss chard stems with the more pronounced one of asparagus. It's a brilliant marriage and, of course, Marcella Hazan offered the recipe to us. The vegetables are topped with Parmesan cheese and butter. As Marcella says, "It's a rare vegetable that cannot profit from this classic technique." She is so, so right.
2 pounds Swiss chard
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 pound asparagus
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Trim the Swiss chard stalks of all leaves. Reserve the leaves for another use. Cut off any discolored portion of the bottom of the stalks but shorten them no further. Wash the stalks in cold water.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil with one tablespoon of the salt. Add the stalks and cook until tender when pierced with a fork, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a colander and rinse with cold water. Transfer to a plate and pat dry.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Trim the ends of the asparagus, leaving only the moist tender parts of the stalk, about 1 inch or so. Peel the tough green skin from the base of the spear to the end of the stalk. Bring the chard water to a boil once again, add the remaining tablespoon of salt and asparagus spears. Cook until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a colander and rinse with cold water. Transfer to a plate and pat dry.
Grease a shallow, medium-sized baking dish with 1/2 tablespoon of the butter. Line the bottom with a layer of chard stalks, and then top with a layer of asparagus. Repeat until you have used up all the vegetables. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top, distributing it evenly. Dot with the remaining butter. Place the dish on the top rack of the oven and bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes before serving. Recipe by Marcella Hazan, Marcella's Italian Kitchen, Alfred A. Knopf, 1986.