There I am, without inspiration. Waiting for the magic to happen. After quite a long hiatus, I wanted to become back at blog writing. But what recipe? What story? I had no idea. Only a vague plan to make Grilled Cheese with Fermented Chard Stalks for lunch later that day.
So I did what I always do (then, and then for instance). I open a blank page and start typing. Describe how I sit here. On a cold metal chair at a long black community table in a coffee shop. Across from me, friend 1 is staring at her screen and at my left friend 2 is opening hers. We’re surrounded by comics, Peter Gabriel is blaring through the speakers and the girl behind the counter is taking it easy with only us three as customers.
Friend 2 looks up and laughs at my puzzled face. “No fun recipes you tried recently?”, she asks. Our conversation wanders off to the farmers market that’s around the corner. Maybe go there to get some inspiration, she suggests. I nod, that was exactly my plan after our writing session. Not of much help right now.
We talk about her favorite produce stall, and how the grower sometimes brings in unusual veggies. Just before our conversation slows down, she asks me what to do with kohlrabi. She’s growing a few purple ones in her backyard. My best tip: eat them raw. I mean, you can roast or stir-fry them. Glaze like turnips, but I love their crunchy, slightly bitter flavor best when eating them raw. You can eat the leaves too, I add.
There it is. That clue, that spark of inspiration for this blog post I was looking for!
At my cooking classes last week, I asked the participants not to throw out the stalks of the chard we were using to fill savory buckwheat pancakes. I overheard a few times participants asking each other what my plan was with them. Well, here’s the answer: I fermented them and had planned to make Grilled Cheese with Fermented Chard Stalks for today’s lunch.
Fermenting is a simple technique to save ingredients a bit longer without a refrigerator. It’s different from pickling where all bacteria are smothered in sugar and vinegar, in fermenting you use the good bacteria to flavor your ingredients. Think sauerkraut and kimchi. But for the first time it’s great to try a cheap ingredient that doesn’t require much work. Left-over chard stalks, for instance.
Grilled Cheese with Fermented Chard Stalks
The first time I read about adding fermented veggies to a grilled cheese I only could wonder why someone would add something to an already perfect dish. But I couldn’t let the idea pass and one day I added wisp of sauerkraut to my grilled cheese. I never looked back. I still love my grilled cheese without it, but as often I make them with. Today it’s Grilled Cheese with Fermented Chard Stalks.
1 T sea salt (I used Himalayan salt)
2 cups bottle or filtered water
stalks from 2-3 bunches of chard or beets *
few twigs of fresh dill (optional)
2 slices of your favorite bread
your favorite cheese, being Dutch mine is Gouda
1-2 T butter
* Actually, I used part beet stalks, hence the lovely beet illustration with this blog post.
Dissolve the salt in 1 cup of boiled water and mix in the rest of the water. Let cool down completely.
Clean your tools (measuring cup, stirring spoon, 1 pint mason jar wide-mouth, lid) by steep them in boiling water and let dry in an oven of 220 F | 100 C.
Clean the stalks. Wash them and cut them in desired size: long stalks for snacking or small pieces to sprinkle over a salad, it’s up to you. Make sure the stalks are 1 inch shorter than the height of the jar. Remove the dill leaves from the twigs.
Fill the jar with the dill and stack with the chard stalks. Pour over the salted water and fill the jar completely, shaking the jar a bit to get rid of air bubbles. Close the jar tightly, either with or without a fermentation lid (I use Kraut Source).
Let ferment, out of direct sunlight on room temperature for a few days. Just taste daily and put the jar in the fridge when you like the flavor. If you don’t use a fermentation lid, make sure to let remove gas every daily by twisting open the lid and closing it immediately. When done after 3-5 days, keep the fermented stalks in your fridge and eat within 2 months.
Make the grilled cheese. Put cheese on the bread, and to taste some of the finely chopped fermented chard stalks. Melt the butter over medium heat and cook the grilled cheese over low to medium heat until the bread is crunchy on the outside and the cheese is completely melted.
Tip: Want to learn more about fermenting? My favorite resource is Cultures for Health.