Braised Ruby Chard with Crispy Garam Masala Chickpeas

I am writing this during that awkward time between Christmas and New Year’s, when waistbands tend to become a bit more snug than usual, there are more cookies than carrots on the kitchen counter, and vegetables of the dark leafy green variety are often neglected by even the more ardent kale-o-phile.
Which is unfortunate, because dark leafies are a most efficacious and reliable antidote to holiday carb and sugar indulgences. Rather than taking an all or nothing approach, I say enjoy sweet snacks and festive desserts in moderation, and simply remember to add in some leafy green love at every meal — both raw and cooked to take full advantage of their abundant vitamins and minerals — and prove that balance is in fact possible even during this most festive time of the year. A low-sugar green juice in the morning, big salad for lunch with apples or pears, nuts, and some cheese, sautéed escarole, kale, chard, or collards with dinner. Maybe all of the above if you want to really go crazy.

When I returned to the city from Christmas travels I immediately visited my favorite local market and stocked up on all the dark leafies my crisper drawer could hold. Chard is a house favorite, especially the beautiful ruby red variety with its crimson stalks and red-veined leaves. Braised until tender and velvety, chard has just enough bite to become a bright backdrop to skillet-crisped chickpeas spiked with sweet and spicy garam masala and smoky maple syrup. A perfect combination for a nutritious plant-based holiday side, a light, between-holidays lunch or dinner, or a satisfying and health-boosting January 1 reset to get your new year off to a great start.

Braised Ruby Chard with Crispy Garam Masala Chickpeas
Serves 4

Braised ruby chard:
olive oil
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 large bunch ruby, Swiss or rainbow chard, washed

kosher salt 
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet or saucepan. Add shallot and garlic and cook over medium heat until softened and lightly golden, 5 to 8 minutes. Add chard a handful at a time, turning with tongs to wilt leaves before adding another handful. When all chard has been added to the pan, stir in a pinch of salt and add 1/4 cup water. Cover pan and reduce heat to low. Cook until chard is tender, 8 to 10 minutes. 

Crispy garam masala chickpeas:
2 cups freshly cooked chickpeas (or 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon garam masala

2 tablespoons maple syrup
kosher salt

Chopped toasted walnuts, as garnish (optional)

Place chickpeas on a kitchen towel or paper towel to remove excess moisture. Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet (I like to use cast-iron for this) over medium-high heat. Add chickpeas and cook until starting to turn golden, about 5 minutes.

Add garam masala and a pinch of salt and cook until spices are fragrant, about 2 minutes more. Add maple syrup and, stirring constantly, cook until liquid has boiled off and chickpeas are crispy, another 2 minutes or so. Set aside.

To serve, transfer chard to individual plates or a serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil and top with crispy chickpeas and toasted walnuts.

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