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Warm Eggplant and Rainbow Chard Salad

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I recently received my first local and organic produce “mystery box” delivery, and I was delighted to see a gorgeous bundle of rainbow chard inside. It was so pretty I didn’t know whether I was supposed to eat it or stick it in a vase and use it to decorate my table. I decided to eat it of course. Now I don’t have a lot of experience with some of the more “exotic” greens, but I do know that chard does have a bit of bitterness to it, but it is one of the most nutrient-rich greens you can eat so I knew I was going to find a way to incorporate it into my diet.

Health benefits of chard:

Chard is extremely high in phytonutrients and it has been recently found that the leaves contain at least 13 different polyphenol antioxidants, which we know help combat free radicals in the body, thus reducing inflammation and strengthening the body’s immune system. One of the flavanoid phytonutrients specific to chard also releases an enzyme that helps control blood sugar.

 The pretty colors found in the stems and veins of chard aren’t just for show either. Like beets, many of the betalain pigments in chard have been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support.

When we regularly feed the body with properly prepared nutrient-rich foods like chard, the health benefits that the body receives internally are often also seen externally on the skin. Foods that naturally detoxify the digestive tract and feed the skin and body what it needs to function optimally will always help to improve the skin from the inside out. 

I had tried the ruby chard before with the red stems and glossy thick green leaves raw, and found that I could eat it raw if I mixed it in with some other greens like romaine or spinach; and I also tried dehydrating it into chips like I do with kale, but found that I didn’t enjoy that preparation either. So for the rainbow chard, I decided I would try cooking it, being mindful to keep it as close to its raw state as possible to maintain the integrity of the enzymes and other nutrients.

I also received a beautiful eggplant in my mystery box, so I thought why not? Let’s make a meal around those two ingredients.

Health benefits of eggplant:

Like all plant other foods, eggplant contains phytonutrients which help give the body what it needs to function optimally. It is in the same family of vegetables as tomatoes and peppers, and is a very versatile ingredient that works well with many different preparations and flavor profiles. What is unique about eggplant is that the skin contains a powerful antioxidant called nasunin, which aside from scavenging free radicals, has also been shown to protect the lipids in the cell membranes of brain cells. I think we all could use as much brain cell protection as we can get, especially as we age.

Eggplant also contains chlorogenic acid, which has demonstrated anti-cancer, antimicrobial, anti-LDL (bad cholesterol), and antiviral benefits.

What you need for this dish:
  • One bunch of organic rainbow chard (or other variety depending on availability)
  • About a cup of diced organic eggplant (1/2” dice)
  • One good sized clove of organic garlic, minced (adjust to taste)
  • One tablespoon of organic extra virgin olive oil
  • About ¼ cup of organic vegetable stock (I used Imagine’s No-Chicken Stock)
  • Juice from ½ of a good sized organic lemon (or ¼ cup of freshly juiced organic lemon juice)
  • A teaspoon (or a squirt or swirl…adjust to taste) of organic honey (local is always preferred), maple syrup, coconut nectar or other natural sugar alternative (I do not recommend stevia in this dish because the bitter aftertaste may be too much with the bitterness of the chard and eggplant). Keep in mind that when I say sugar alternative I mean sweeteners from nature that do not come in pastel-colored packets. There is nothing natural or nutritious about aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, or even “raw” sugar.
  • Salt (Celtic sea salt or pink Himalayan salt is preferred) or dash of low-sodium tamari, and pepper to taste

Start heating your pan over a medium flame while you dice your eggplant and mince your garlic. Add the olive oil and wait until you start seeing “waves” or ripples in it and start sautéing the eggplant. It will absorb a lot of the oil, which is normal.

While the eggplant is sautéing, remove the stems from the chard and save them for juicing or blending into green smoothies. Either slice or tear the chard leaves into a manageable size and wash them.

Once your eggplant has turned golden, add your minced garlic and start sautéing that (I wait to add the garlic so it doesn’t burn) until it becomes fragrant. Add your veggie stock and until it simmers, then add in your rainbow chard. Use tongs and toss it just until the chard starts to soften…it should not take more than a minute or two since the steam from the broth will help cook it.

Once it starts to soften, remove it from the heat and add in your lemon juice and honey (or other natural sweetener). Toss together and taste it. See if you think it needs a little salt and pepper and add a little if you think you need to.

I absolutely love this dish because it is delicious, pretty to look at, comforting because it is warm but still has a fresh texture, and really tickles the taste buds with the hint of sweet and sour, bitter, and salty flavors. And let’s not forget how healthy it is. Give this a try and have fun with it!

*Raw rainbow chard image from Your Easy Garden

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About Rachael Pontillo