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Wilted Chard with Benne and Pecan Streusel

Crystal-crisp benne seeds and sweet chopped pecans liven up a bowl of chard. They’d liven up any number of vegetables.

4 side dish portions


About 30 minutes


Everyone’s eating them nicely, but wilted greens still taste like punishment. Exceptions? Few and far between. A shallow bowl of  olive oil–braised baby collards at Blackberry Farm takes ascendency in our palate memory. The hot buttered spinach with sweet sliced garlic and a dash of lemon at Sant Ambroeus is reliably tasty. Yet it is the large, spiky leaves of kale—undercooked, unseasoned, dragging bits of their ragged stems, and offered without apology in a steam table at Whole Foods—that we encounter more often. And yes, we tong those up into our go boxes and wince as the leaves rake our throats. Punishment.

Really, though, unless greens are raw, they should be cooked, in our opinion, not simply shown the heat. They should be bathed in fat and seasoned like somebody cares. Imagine chard leaves fainting on a fork, dizzy with garlic and dressed in a crunchy, buttery streusel of toasted African benne seeds and slivers of pecans. The bright tonic properties of the greens and the rich, meaty seed-nut mix achieve an unexpected elegance. Even if you’re even just “meh” about chard, you will love this preparation.

Cooking Remarks

It’s important to wash the chard in three changes of water, transferring the greens to a colander between baths. The water in the final bath should be clear of grit and insects.

equipment mise en place

For this recipe, you will need a digital kitchen scale, a small skillet, a large Dutch oven, a pair of tongs, and a serving bowl. 

    • ¼
      cup coarsely chopped pecans
    • 3
      tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 2
      tablespoons minced garlic
    • 3 or 4
      bunches (about 4 pounds) Swiss chard, stemmed, washed, and dried (about 1½ pounds prepared leaves)
    • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 2
      teaspoons high-quality red wine vinegar
    • 2
      tablespoons unsalted European-style butter

    Turn the pecans into a small skillet and toast over medium-low heat, tossing constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the benne seeds and continue to toast, tossing constantly, until both the nuts and the seeds begin to color and are fragrant, about 3 minutes longer. Turn them into a small bowl and set aside.


    In a large Dutch oven, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant but not colored, about 10 seconds. Add the chard leaves and mop them around in the oil and garlic with a pair of tongs until well coated. Cover and steam, occasionally tossing the chard with the tongs, until uniformly wilted and tender, about 10 minutes. Uncover the pot; if there is abundant pot liquor, increase the heat to high and reduce the pot liquor to a glaze, constantly tossing the chard. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and the vinegar and toss well. Taste the chard and correct the seasoning, and then transfer it to a warmed serving bowl.


    In the same skillet used to toast the pecans and benne, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the pecans and benne and sauté, stirring constantly, until crisp and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, and then drizzle the butter and distribute the streusel evenly over the chard. Serve very hot.