Fall is my favorite time of year. Love the crisp air and lovely colors of the leaves. The farmer's markets have been featuring the beautiful leaves and colorful stems of Swiss chard. I've seen stems of green, yellow, orange--and my favorite, a bright, cherry red. The taste of the leaf is mild, more like spinach than mustard, and the stems stay bright when you cook them. 
     Here are two recipes featuring red-stemmed Swiss chard. Both use lots of sautéed onion which slightly sweetens the dish, but otherwise they are very different.

Chard with Black-Eyed Peas (vegan)

Chard Te Lobia Daal

Yield: 8 servings

Swiss chard, especially the red-stemmed kind, is a gorgeous vegetable whose leaves have a mild taste close to spinach. Do not confuse it with red-stemmed rhubarb whose leaves are toxic.

2 cups dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and drained

¼ cup canola oil

2 medium onions, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2-inch piece ginger, minced

1½ teaspoons ground turmeric

1 teaspoon whole or ground cumin seeds

1½ teaspoons ground coriander seeds

2 teaspoons garam masala (divided)

1-3 tablespoons tomato paste (optional)

1½ teaspoons salt, or to taste

2 long green chile peppers, seeded and sliced

1 large bunch red-stemmed Swiss chard

In a large saucepan, heat the oil and sauté the onions until golden. Add the garlic and ginger and lightly brown. Add the spices (turmeric through garam masala), reserving ½ teaspoon garam masala for garnish. Stir in the tomato paste, if using and then add the black-eyed peas, 2 cups water, and salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Trim the tips of the stems of the chard and then cut the stems into ½ “ pieces. Add the chile peppers and chard stems to the beans, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Roll and then slice the chard leaves into ribbons. stir into the beans. Continue cooking and stirring until the leaves are cooked, about 10 minutes. Taste for salt. Sprinkle with the ½ teaspoon of garam masala before serving.

Swiss Chard with Apples and Fennel Seed

Saeb Te Chard Subze

Yield: 6-8 servings

Red-stemmed Swiss chard is very attractive in this delish dish. Pairs well with succulent, full-flavored mains. Hard-fleshed non-commercial apples work best here, but Granny Smiths would do. Soak the chard in water to dislodge any sand and rinse thoroughly. Add a squeeze of lemon juice if the apples are too sweet for your taste.

6-8 sour apples, cored, peeled and cut into 2” pieces

1 large bunch Swiss chard

3 tablespoons canola oil

2 medium yellow onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons fennel seed (optional)

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 tablespoons grated ginger

1 tablespoon ghee or butter (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the apple chunks in the microwave for 4-5 minutes. Set aside. Trim the inedible ends of the chard stems and discard, but cut the stems into 1-inch pieces. Set aside. Roll the leaves and slice into ribbons. Set aside.

Heat a large wok and saute the onions in the oil until transparent. Add the garlic and the fennel seed and saute until golden and fragrant. Stir in the turmeric and ginger and continue sauteing for another minute. Add the chard stems, cover and cook for two minutes. Add the leaves and saute until wilted, then add the apple chunks. Add a teaspoon of salt and pepper. Stir, then cover for three minutes. Stir again and taste for seasonings. Apples and chard stems and leaves should be cooked, but not mushy.