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The best tips for cooking chard soup include carefully choosing greens and other ingredients, proper storage and preparation, and paying attention to cooking times. Chard is a type of produce and goes by a variety of names. Organic bunches typically offer the best quality, and you can ensure a quality soup by looking for crisp, moist, and healthy looking leaves and stems. For soup, chard is best prepared by tearing or slicing the bunch into bite-size pieces. Adding slower-cooking ingredients first or preparing them separately beforehand prevents overcooked vegetables, including the chard.
Like any dish, the best chard soup begins with choosing the freshest ingredients. Chard is typically located near other produce greens like spinach and kale. It comes in several varieties including Swiss and rainbow chard and may also be referred to as leaf or spinach beet, depending on the region. Organic bunches are generally better quality, since they have higher nutritional value and are free of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. They also may taste different than conventionally grown chard, and rare or specialty varieties at the local farmer's market often have subtle differences in flavor.
When choosing a bunch for chard soup, cooks should look for crisp and damp leaves with a vibrant green hue. Yellowing leaves should be avoided as well as rubbery stems or plants with holes in the foliage. Bunches should be purchased right before making the chard soup for the best flavor and highest nutritional value. Chard should be stored in a plastic bag that allows some airflow and placed in a vegetable crisper. Following these guidelines for all produce used in chard soup gives it the freshest flavor and textures.
The chard should be cut or torn into manageable pieces for cooking and eating. If the stems are thicker than 1 inch (about 2.6 cm) in diameter, they should be removed from the leaves to cook separately. Each stem and leaf can be torn from the bottom node or the entire bunch sliced as desired. Returning the leaves to the refrigerator or setting the bowl in an ice bath keeps them crisp while the other ingredients are prepared.
To avoid mushy chard soup and achieve balanced flavor, slower cooking ingredients should be added first. If meat, legumes, or slow-cooking grains will be included, they should be added well before quick cooking vegetables and the chard. They can also be cooked separately and the finished product and its stock can be added to a large stew pot filled with the raw, prepped ingredients and simmered for 15 to 20 minutes. Chard should always be added during the last five minutes of cooking to avoid limp, soggy texture.
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