Years ago, I won a copy of Root-to-Stalk Cooking in an online raffle. As soon as it arrived in the mail, I plonked down on the couch with a pile of Post-It notes and bookmarked every recipe I was dying to try. Then I tucked the book away on my shelf of cookbooks and promptly forgot it existed. A couple weeks ago I pulled it down, pages still studded with little pink flags. This is the first of those recipes I’ve tried, and it’s good. Really good.
The secret here is chard stems–those beautiful, vivaciously-colored stalks that you should never, ever throw away. I love them pickled; I love them in soups and stews. And, if you blanch them until soft and tender, they make a fabulous hummus-like dip.
Yes, I said hummus. Turns out, cooked chard stems make an admirable–dare I say superior?–replacement for the ubiquitous chickpea. They blend up even smoother and softer than canned chickpeas, with no fibrous skins to get in the way. And their subtle beet-y sweetness is a perfect balance for the usual hummus suspects: nutty-bitter tahini, tangy lemon, and buttery olive oil. It’s delicious, thrifty as hell, and a great low-FODMAP alternative to traditional hummus.
One thing I didn’t expect: if you make this dip with red chard stalks, it turns out pink. Like, tutu pink. Millennial pink. I found this delightful, but it did lead to several party guests asking why there was a bowl of strawberry yogurt next to the chips. Fortunately, chard comes in a wonderful variety of colors. If you prefer a more neutral-colored dip, choose white chard stems, or a mix of white, yellow, and green. (I’d avoid full-on rainbow chard, which seems like it would turn an unappetizing shade of brown.)
Chard Stem “Hummus” (makes about 1 cup)
Note: Since originally posting this recipe, I’ve started adding a handful of scallion tops to my hummus. I find it’s a nice way to add back some of that raw allium bite that would normally come from garlic. Definitely stick to white or pale-colored chard if you’re doing this, because green scallions + red chard = unappetizing brown.
Stems from 1 lb chard (about 2 bunches), trimmed and chopped
Green tops from 4 scallions, chopped (optional)
1/4 cup olive oil or garlic-infused oil
1/4 cup tahini, plus more to taste
2 tbsp lemon juice (about 1 lemon’s worth), plus more to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water generously, then add chard stems and boil for 18-20 minutes. Drain thoroughly.
Transfer the cooked chard to a food processor or blender. Add scallion tops (if using), oil, tahini, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and blend until smooth. Let the hummus cool to room temperature, then taste and adjust the amount of tahini, lemon juice, salt, and/or pepper as desired.
Transfer the hummus to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (or overnight) to let the flavors meld. It will keep, tightly covered, in the fridge for up to 3 days. Take the hummus out of the fridge an hour or two before serving, to let it come to room temperature.