Poor Swiss Chard. I bet it feels like the girl who had a lock on the school captaincy, right up until the final year when in blows a willowy creature with a winning smile, tumbling curls and a killer high-jump from overseas.

Ever since The Ascendancy of Kale, who remembers how solid and reliable Swiss Chard was before it? It was there, filling out your spinach and feta pies, making nice with ricotta in a layer of vegetarian lasagne and mucking in with bacon grease in makeshift collard greens.

There is some continuing kale mania in Sydney. Every cafe worth its pink Murray River Salt Flakes will have some derivation of it on the breakfast menu; either cold pressed in juice with ginger and apple, or sauteed with coconut oil and quinoa and an egg or two for a version of ‘Breakfast with Gwyneth’ (yours, for the bargain price of $20 at Bread and Circus). The demand is so high for its twirling tendrils that at Harris Farm markets in Manly yesterday I saw an entire trolley of it being wheeled out at 12.30 pm, to replenish dwindling stock.

But let’s not forget old friends, or the solid work that’s done by runner ups in the popularity stakes. Someone has to organise the raffle for the school dance. So I’m returning to Swiss Chard. I’m attentively cleaving the stalks from the leaves- they’re quite different beasts. The stems, when sliced in a transverse and sauteed have a mild and pleasing bitter bite that comes alive when mixed with olive oil and garlic- and they retain some of their gentle texture- unlike the woodiness of a kale stem, these reside somewhere in between celery, fennel and nashi pear when lightly cooked. And the leaves melt down into silken softness. Cooking them in two separate batches allows you to honour the best of both parts.

Add some cheerleaders in the form of shaved parmesan, just-ripe pear and some lightly tanned pine nuts and it’s a winning slow-carb side.  I like to serve it warm, but not piping hot, as a side dish for roast chicken, with a good dollop of Dijon mustard and a glass of pink wine as support.

Here’s to the second runners up. May they be celebrated for all the good they still bring.

(*Written, by the 1993 Vice Captain of Neutral Bay Primary School)

 Swiss Chard with Parmesan, Pear and Pine Nuts

P1130955

Serves 2 as a side, generously

Shopping/foraging

400 g Swiss Chard, rinsed and drained
3 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut into slivers
1/2 just-ripe pear, cut into slivers
40 g pine nuts, toasted
30 g parmesan, shaved
Salt and pepper to taste

Here’s how we roll

1) Separate the stems from the leaves of your Swiss Chard. Cut your stems into lengths of 3-4 cm and set aside. Cut your leaves into ribbons, about 2-3 cm in width.

2) Add 2 tbsp olf the olive oil and half the garlic into a heavy bottomed pan. Sautee for 2 minutes over a medium heat until the garlic has softened, then add the stems and sautee for 8 minutes, until they still retain a little bite, but are largely submissive. Remove from the pan.

3) Add the remaining olive oil and garlic into the pan over a medium heat. Sautee for a minute, then add the leaves. Sautee for one – two minutes, until the leaves gently wilt. Then return the stems to the pan and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

4) Combine the garlic and Swiss chard with the pine nuts, shaved parmesan and pear. Serve immediately.