Meatless Monday: Goat Cheese and Swiss Chard Casserole

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When I was in elementary school, there was no President’s Day. There was Lincoln’s Birthday and Washington’s Birthday. As is the case with most holidays, these days served one basic purpose for me as a child: no school. Somewhere along the way, these two days morphed into one federal (not national holiday) called President’s Day. Apparently, this is a phenomenon observed only by some area’s of the country. I’ll let Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post explain:

In the early 1950s, there was a movement led by a coalition of travel organizations to create three-day weekends by moving the celebration of some holidays to Mondays. One of the suggestions was to create a Presidents’ Day between Washington’s birthday and Lincoln’s birthday, which was a holiday in some states. A few states tried the new arrangement, but it was not universally adopted across the country. 

The National Holiday Act of 1971 passed by Congress created three-day weekends for federal employees by moving the celebration of some holidays to Mondays, although states did not have to honor them.

So, today, though the federal holiday is marked on the third Monday in February, there is no agreed-upon name, no universal agreement on who is being celebrated, and the use of the apostrophe in the name is varied: Sometimes it isn’t used at all (as in Presidents Day), sometimes it is placed between the last two letters (President’s Day) and sometimes it is after the last letter  (Presidents’ Day).

So, what we’re talking about his a bogus holiday that was brought on by the tourism industry. Great.

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Why exactly am I complaining about this? Well, I stopped by the bakery near my house to grab a loaf of Italian bread. It was closed for the holiday. I don’t know why an Italian bakery observes the holiday, but that’s what the sign said. (Yeah, I really did complain for five paragraphs because I couldn’t get a loaf of bread.)

A good crusty piece of bread will help sop up the resulting tomato-chard liquid that is released while baking. While I’m hesitant to complain about anything that The Kitchn posts, I would say that this dish needs a full cup (if not more) of goat cheese to bind everything. I also went with a handful of Pecorino Romano in addition to the Parmigiano-Reggiano to top things off. You really can’t get enough cheese here.

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WHAT WORKED: The olive bar at Wegmans. Their green olive tapenade has a really strong flavor and includes capers, making for one less ingredient to purchase.

WHAT DIDN’T: Swiss chard is an awesome veggie, but the stems can be really tough. The Kitchn says eight minutes on the stovetop before going in the oven. I let it go 12 to 14 and they still required a butter knife to cut through.

WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: She was mum on dinner, which means she either didn’t like it or was really wrapped up in telling me about her President’s Day at home with The Kid.

WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: Very likely.

Goat Cheese and Swiss Chard Casserole
Adapted from The Kitchn

  • Large head Swiss chard (Note: I used red, but any color will do here)
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 large red onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 28 oz. can whole tomatoes (Note: I used San Marzano because, well, why not)
  • 1/2 pound shell pasta (Note: Any small shape will do here)
  • 1 cup goat cheese crumbles
  • 14 oz. can dark kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tbsp. olive tapenade
  • 3 tbsp. capers
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Regianno
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chop the chard into fork-sized chunks and rinse it thoroughly in a colander. Drain as much water as you can without wringing the greens.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Bring a pot of water to boil and salt it.

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Turn a large burner to medium and heat oil in a large heavy skillet or Dutch oven. When the oil shimmers, add the onions and cook until just tender, about 4 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic, stirring in. Stir in the tomatoes, followed by the Swiss chard. Cook for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the stems can be easily pierced with a fork. Use a plate to trap the tomatoes and chard, and drain the tomato juice. (Jared’s note: The Kitchn has you draining the tomatoes before adding them to the chard. I found that using the tomato juice to help wilt and cook the chard was effective, which is why I kept it.)

In the meantime, cook your pasta and drain. You should be able to time this out so you can drain the pasta just before you pull the chard off the stovetop.

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Remove the pan with the chard from your burner. Stir in the goat cheese, beans, tapenade, capers and about half of the Parmigiano-Regianno. Add the drained pasta, season with salt and pepper, and fold together.

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Transfer to a 2- to 3- quart casserole dish and bake until cheese is melted and pasta on the edge of the dish begins to brown, about 18 to 20 minutes.

 

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