Until recently, red- or white-stemmed chard was mostly what you found in markets, but the beautiful Bright Lights variety is now easier to come by. The colors don’t make for a huge flavor difference, but do know that those neon-colored stems will stain your cutting board and other ingredients with which they’re cooked. The best Swiss chard is found in cold-weather months; look for fresh, glossy bunches. A voluminous 1-pound bunch might look as if it could feed your whole neighborhood, but it will shrink when cooked to feed about four as a side dish.
Chard turns silky when blanched or simmered; it’s delicious in stews and gratins. For a simple side dish, slice the leaves into ribbons, dice the stems, and braise both together with olive oil, chopped garlic, a pinch of chili powder, and a little chicken stock, until the stems are tender, about twenty minutes. Or give chard a richer treatment with Creamy Parmesan Swiss Chard Gratin.