Fill a sink with cold water and wash the Swiss chard to remove any grit. Transfer to paper towels and let dry for a couple of minutes (it's fine if a little water clings to the leaves).
Remove the thick part of each stem by cutting a V-shaped notch partway into the leaf. Split each leaf in half lengthwise by slicing down the center rib. Stack the halved leaves (in batches if necessary) and cut them in half crosswise to get 4- to 6-inch pieces.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Working in batches, pile the Swiss chard into the pan, turning and tossing gently until the leaves begin to wilt and turn glossy. Add a new batch of leaves as the previous batch wilts and makes room for more.
When all the Swiss chard is wilted, sprinkle in the garlic and a little salt and toss well. Lower the heat to medium low, cover, and cook for 4 minutes. Remove the lid, raise the heat to high, add the red pepper flakes, and continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes so that much of the liquid evaporates; the leaves should be tender but not overly soft. Serve immediately.
Sautéed Swiss Chard with Gremolata: In a small bowl, combine 2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest (from about 1 lemon), 1 small clove finely chopped garlic, and 2 Tbs. minced fresh parsley. Sauté the chard as directed in the basic recipe. When the chard is tender, toss with the gremolata and serve immediately.
Sautéed Swiss Chard with Slivered Almonds & Browned Butter: In a small sauté pan, melt 2 Tbs. unsalted butter over medium heat. Add 1/3 cup slivered almonds, reduce the heat to medium low, and cook, stirring often, until the nuts are golden and the milk solids in the butter turn a nutty brown. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice. Keep warm. Sauté the chard as directed in the basic recipe, replacing the garlic with 2 Tbs. finely chopped shallots. Sprinkle the almonds and butter over the finished chard and serve immediately.
Sautéed Swiss Chard with Anchovies, Parmesan and Breadcrumbs: Sauté the chard as directed in the basic recipe. Add 6 drained, minced anchovy fillets and 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano at the end and toss. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup fresh, toasted breadcrumbs and serve immediately.
Asian-Style Swiss Chard with Ginger & Peanuts: Sauté the chard as directed in the basic recipe, but add 1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger, 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into very thin strips, and 1 tsp. granulated sugar along with the garlic. At the end, sprinkle with 1/4 cup coarsely chopped unsalted roasted peanuts and serve immediately.
Sautéed Swiss Chard with Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Feta:
In a small bowl, combine 6 oil-packed sun-dried tomato halves, drained and cut into thin strips, 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese and 1/2 tsp. lightly chopped fresh thyme. Sauté the chard as directed in the basic recipe. Add the feta mixture at the end, toss, and serve immediately.
nutrition information (per serving):
Photo: Scott Phillips