Meze is the Mediterranean tradition of a meal made of several small plates. To make a nice meze, you can make a couple of items from scratch and fill out the spread with warm pita bread, quick marinated feta, good olives, store-bought hummus or prepared tahina, and raw vegetables.
Today’s dish of room-temperature chard flavored with garlic and dukkah (which I’ll explain in a moment) would be a great addition to your meze. It demonstrates a basic method for cooking greens so that they retain a bit of texture and color but are tender and enjoyable. You could use different greens (mustard greens, spinach, even dandelion greens if you enjoy their bitter punch) or different spices, and you could certainly add a squeeze of lemon if you’d like a splash of acidity.
Now about dukkah. It is a spice mixture (often containing nuts) that originated in Egypt. Check your brand if you need nut-free or gluten-free. You can find it at World Spice Merchants, just behind the Pike Place Market on Western Ave., or at Trader Joe’s. If you don’t have access to it at a local spice store, simply make an equal-parts mixture of ground sesame seeds, coriander seeds, cumin and thyme, and season it to taste with black pepper and sea salt.
Swiss Chard with Garlic and Yogurt
Vegetarian and gluten-free; vegan if you omit the yogurt or use a soy yogurt
1 small bunch of Swiss chard
1 clove minced garlic
Extra-virgin olive oil
Maldon salt or other flaky sea salt
1/2 cup thick Greek-style yogurt
1 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds
Thoroughly wash the chard in at least 2 changes of water; more if you suspect any grit remains. Pull the leaves off of the stems. Discard the toughest part of the stems and chop the remaining stems into 1″ lengths.
Fill a large bowl with ice water. Put the leaves and stems in a loosely covered, microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 3 minutes or until the leaves are well wilted and tender but not turning gray. Immediately transfer the chard to the ice water and toss to cool quickly (this will preserve the color). Drain the chard and squeeze it dry in a clean dishtowel.
Put the chard in a bowl and toss with the garlic, a good glug of extra-virgin olive oil, at least a couple of teaspoons of dukkah, and salt to taste. Taste and adjust seasoning — you may want more garlic, oil, dukkah or salt to get the flavors really popping.
When you are ready to serve, mound the chard on a plate, and sprinkle with a few more flakes of salt. Spoon the yogurt next to the chard and sprinkle it with the toasted sesame seeds.
Serves about 2 as a side dish (depending on size of your bunch of chard), easily multiplied.