I created this recipe originally for my book, Fresh From the Farm, and I still love it just as it is written. Recently, though, I did prepare it without the ham for a vegetarian meal, and it was plenty tasty. It occurred to me afterwards that you could also keep it vegetarian, but add some of the umami you’d get from the ham, by adding sautéed shallots or even sautéed shiitakes (which are also good with peas) to the mix.

Chard is a very earthy tasting vegetable, so the maple-balsamic-lemon sauce is key here as it will smooth out the flavors. Make this in the winter with frozen peas and in the late spring or early summer with fresh peas (and garden chard, if you have it!). My favorite chard is Bright Lights or one of the other rainbow varieties. The flavors of each color are actually very slightly different, with the red stems being most beet-like (surprise!).

Combine this with Sunny Chickpeas with Yogurt-Tahini Sauce and Green Rice to make an exciting Buddha bowl.

Susie Middleton

Serves 3 to 4

  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 bunch (12 to 14 ounces) Swiss chard, preferably Bright Lights
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces (or a little more—about 3 slices) thinly sliced honey ham (I like Applegate Farms), cut into thin 3/4-inch pieces (or an equal amount of salami)
  • 2 teaspoons minced, peeled fresh ginger

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, the balsamic vinegar, and the lemon juice.

2. If the peas are fresh, put them in a small bowl with a tablespoon or two of water and microwave, covered, for 1 minute or until just tender. Drain. If they are frozen, simply let them defrost.

3. Pull or cut away the stems from the chard leaves. Rinse and dry the stems, slice them thinly crosswise, and reserve. Cut or rip the leaves into large (2- to 3-inch pieces) and wash and dry them well. 

4. Heat the olive oil in a large (11- to 12-inch) nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the chard stems and a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the stems are slightly shrunken, about five minutes. (You will hear them crackle as the water begins to evaporate.) Add the ham and 1/2 tablespoon butter and cook, stirring, until both the chard stems and the ham pieces are shrunken and beginning to brown lightly, about another 4 minutes. Add the fresh ginger, stir, and cook just until fragrant, a few seconds. Add all of the chard leaves and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt.

5. Using tongs, gently toss and fold the chard until just wilted and well-mixed with the other ingredients, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the peas and stir well.

6. Scrape the maple mixture into the pan, stir, and remove from the heat. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter and toss and stir until it is melted. Taste for salt. Transfer to a serving platter or plates and eat hot or warm.