It's not that it's an extravagant recipe; the beauty is that it isn't. It's easy to make and delicious to eat. And it came from the kind of kitchen inspiration I aspire to. Occasionally, my fooling around will turn out a dish that goes into my regular rotation--see the early summer orzo (nearly in season again!) or my accidental eggplant Parmesan--but it's something I'd like to do more. Deb describes this as a recipe she invented based on what was in her refrigerator, though it's also based on her creamed spinach recipe. And the method is not unrelated to the cream of spinach soup I've been making for more than 20 years.
Basically, you wilt some chard (or spinach), saute some green onions and then make a roux. Add the chard to the roux, and the roux to the pasta, and you have dinner. What I love about this recipe--beyond its ease and deliciousness--is its flexibility. I've made it 3 times now, and each time, I've used a different combination of onions and garlic. When there were new green onions at the farmers market, I used those. When I only had a few left and wanted to make the pasta again, I added a couple of leeks I had in the fridge. Yesterday, I had to use supermarket leeks and scallions, but I had a bunch of green garlic from the farmers market, so I added some of that. The first 2 times, I used supermarket chard, and yesterday, I used the first chard of the season from the farmers market. Each combo has been equally tasty.
You can also be flexible with the dairy and make this as decadent or lean as you'd like. I cut the butter and flour in Deb's recipe down a bit (she used 3 tablespoons each, I used 1-2 tablespoons), but you could use the full amount without weighing the dish down. I've mostly used 2% milk, but you could go down to 1% or up to whole milk or half and half or even cream. The recipe is adaptable enough for any of this, so you don't have to stress about what you do or don't have at that moment in the fridge. As long as you have some kind of greens, some kind of green onions and some kind of dairy product, you're good to go.
And perhaps I'll give myself a summer challenge of cooking more based on what's available in the house (because of what struck me at the farmers market or because of what's ripe in the garden) rather than buying things specifically for a certain recipe. But in the meantime, I'm happy to take advantage of Deb's experimenting--I haven't yet been disappointed with the results.
Pasta with Creamed Chard and Spring Onions
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 1-pound bunch Swiss chard, thick stems removed and leaves sliced into ribbons
4-5 spring onions, leeks or green garlic, or some combination thereof, ends trimmed, white and some green parts sliced into thin coins
1 - 2 tablespoons butter
1 - 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups milk
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more to taste
approx. 1/2 pound pasta--I like something on the shorter and chunkier side with this
Salt and pepper
Wash the chard and place it in a large pot over high heat. Cook, covered, with just the water clinging to leaves, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 6 minutes.
Press or squeeze out the excess liquid. (I do this in a strainer with a spoon, though once it's cool enough, I also squeeze it by hand.)
Wipe out the large pot so you can use it again. Heat milk or cream--You can do this on the stove, but I usually just put the milk in a Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave for a few minutes. While it's heating, cook onion and garlic, if using, in butter in your wiped-out large pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about six minutes. Whisk in flour and cook roux, whisking, about three minutes. Add warm milk or cream in a slow stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps, and simmer, whisking, until thickened, three to four minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup Parmesan. Stir in chard, then salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring, until heated through.