Do you like anchovies?
I remember having a temper tantrum as a little kid because my mom ordered a half cheese, half anchovy pizza from our local Papa Gino’s. Even though the anchovies were contained to one side of the pie, I was sure that their essence had permeated the entire thing, and I refused the take even one bite.
These days I’m not going to throw myself on the floor kicking and screaming if you put anchovies in my food, but I have to admit I find them…challenging. I’m never going to be the kind of person who eats those oily little suckers straight from the jar (but if you are, more power to you!).
A few years back, though, I discovered that I love, love, love anchovy paste. It provides all the funky, salty, umami flavors of anchovies, without having to actually eat the fish themselves. I keep a tube of anchovy paste in my fridge, and I’m obsessed with squeezing a little bit into salad dressings and tomato-based sauces.
And, evidently, tomato-sauced vegetable dishes.
The wonderful thing about this recipe for Swiss chard puttanesca, which I am excerpting from The Big Book of Sides by Rick Rodgers, is that you can adjust the anchovy-ness to suit your taste. Go bold (four whole anchovies), medium (1/2-1 teaspoon of anchovy paste), or mild (leave it out all together and let the olives do all the work). You could even make this recipe vegan by substituting a dab of miso.
This is an incredibly flavorful, savory side dish that pairs well with simply roasted meat or fish. I think it would also be great heaped on top of polenta. It’s easy enough for a weeknight, but it’s also worthy of any holiday table.
It’s an especially great choice for Thanksgiving because, unlike green bean casseroles or roasted Brussels sprouts, it’s made entirely on the stovetop. If you’ve got a 20-pound turkey in your oven, plus pies to bake in time for dessert, that’s a beautiful thing.
Swiss Chard Puttanesca
Hearty Swiss chard is a great match for the bold flavors of tomato, anchovy, olive, and garlic in the dish. It's easy enough for a weeknight but elegant enough to hold its own on any holiday table.
- 1 pound Swiss chard
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 4 anchovy fillets packed in oil or 1/2-1 teaspoon anchovy paste, finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 can diced tomatoes 14-ounce, drained
- 1/3 cup coarsely chopped pitted kalamata olives
- Kosher salt
Wash the chard well in a large bowl or sink filled with water. Lift the chard out of the water, give it a good shake to remove excess water, and transfer it to a cutting board. Coarsely chop the stems and slice the leaves crosswise into ribbons, keeping the stems and leaves in separate piles.
Heat the oil and garlic together in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring often, just until the garlic begins to soften, about 1 minute. Add the anchovies (or anchovy paste) and red pepper flakes and let them sizzle for a few seconds. Stir in the chard stems, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the stems are beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. In 2 or 3 batches, stir in the chard leaves, letting each batch wilt before adding more. Stir in the tomatoes and olives and cook until heated through. Season with salt and serve hot.