BARLEY AND LENTIL SOUP WITH SWISS CHARD

I absolutely love Swiss Chard.  I first discovered this beautiful green about a year ago when trying a new soup recipe, similar to this one, and it was love at first taste.

With its earthy, slightly salty taste, Swiss chard (or just chard) pleases the palate in two ways: first with its nutrient-dense leaves and second with its crunchy stalk. Don’t let its name fool you, though. This green hails from Sicily, not Switzerland, and is a staple of Mediterranean cuisine.

Related to spinach and beets, Swiss chard offers fantastic antioxidant protection in the form of phytonutrients known as carotenoids. Specifically, the beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin found in chard help maintain eye health and may reduce the risk of cataracts. Further support comes when the body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A, which also helps promote healthy vision, boosts immunity, and may even fight cancer.

Chard’s high vitamin C content provides even more immune support. Just 1 cup of cooked Swiss chard supplies more than a third of your daily value of vitamin C. Vitamin E, another chard superstar, has shown anti-inflammatory effects and helps protect tissue from oxidation damage.

Eating foods with plenty of vitamin E might also reduce the chances of developing coronary artery disease, which can lead to a heart attack or heart failure. Other heart-healthy perks found in chard include vitamin B6 and potassium — which may reduce the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, respectively. Keeping your cholesterol low by eating good sources of fiber such as chard may lower heart-disease risk even more.

Aside from supporting your eyes, immune system, and heart, chard helps maintain bones and may protect against osteoporosis, thanks to high doses of vitamin K and magnesium as well as a good amount of calcium.

You’ll typically find three types of chard in stores and at farmers’ markets: Rainbow chard has colorful red, pink, yellow, or white stalks; Fordhook Giant is identifiable by crinkly leaves and thick, white, tender stalks; and Ruby Red (or Rhubarb) chard has thin, red stalks and slightly stronger flavors. Regardless of kind, look for crisp, vibrant green leaves with no yellow or brown marks. Avoid leaves with small holes. After a mild rinse, store chard in moistened paper towels in a plastic bag (with a few pinholes to allow air to circulate) in the refrigerator for two or three days.

The leaves and stalks are both edible. In addition to enhancing soup and smoothie recipes, chard makes an excellent side dish. Simply saute sliced chard (leaves and stems) with a little olive oil and minced garlic; season with salt and pepper.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Tbsp EVOO
  • 1½ cups onion, chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2½ tsp ground cumin
  • 10 cups vegetable broth
  • ⅔ cup pearl barley
  • 1 14.5oz. can diced tomatoes
  • ⅔ cup dried lentils
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped Swiss Chard (about ½ large bunch)
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and carrots and sauce until onions are golden brown, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and stir 1 minute. Mix in cumin, stir 30 seconds.
  3. Add vegetable broth and barley, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes.
  4. Stir in tomatoes with juice and lentils. Cover and simmer until barley and lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.
  5. Add chard to soup, cover and simmer until chard is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in dill.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Thin with more broth, if desired.
EntreesAlicia Uhl