A couple years ago I met Deniz and Alex. They were planning their wedding and asked me to cook for part of the party. I hate cooking for weddings, but I really like this couple, so I said yes. They came over for a tasting.
What Deniz and Alex didn't know, and still don't, until now, is that my oven wasn't working. At all. I cooked everything for the tasting on a tiny charcoal grill before they got there. It made all the difference. Each dish was gently touched with sweet wood smoke and many of the dishes that came out of that day have become standards at the school. Including this one.
Swiss chard holds onto a surprising amount of smoke when it is cooked over charcoal. To prevent it from falling through the grate of the grill I tie the bunches together with kitchen string and place the whole leaves over the coals. The outer leaves get charred (pardon the pun) and the inner leaves of the bunch steam into a silky texture. Then, when it’s done, I cut the leaves into bite-sized pieces and serve them with the last of the cherry tomatoes from the garden. Busted oven, charcoal grill, happy couple, and a new classic dish. Happy anniversary to our friends Deniz and Alex. -IK
Smoky Swiss Chard with Blistered Cherry Tomatoes
Serves 4 to 6
1 large bunch Swiss chard
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pint ripe cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Preheat a charcoal grill.
Tie the stems of the chard together with kitchen string to form a bunch, then brush the leaves with about 1/2 of the oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill the chard, covered and turning occasionally, over indirect heat, until the outer leaves are crispy and the inner leaves are tender, about 12 minutes.
While the chard is cooking place the tomatoes, the remaining oil, the vinegar, and a large pinch each of salt and pepper in a cast iron skillet and place over direct heat on the grill. Cook the tomatoes until they are blistered and tender, about 15 minutes.
Cut the chard into bite-sized pieces and toss with the tomatoes and any juices in the skillet. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then serve.