Recipe for swiss chard capuns in fall

It’s over. Really over. The hot, hot summer of 2012 has ended. There is a freeze warning for tonight. We took in the hoses, turned off the taps. We covered the lettuce, arugula, and collards with a thin white cloth. We put rocks down to hold the plastic on our hooped row covers, hoping to fight off the coming winter.

I won’t be here for the first cold, or for our second Halloween, with the St. Louis jokes. I’m off to Finland where they expect cold and rain.

We brought in the lemon tree and the lime tree, harvesting about 30 limes first. We potted sage, basil, oregano, and parsley and brought them in too. I cut the stevia, lemon grass, and mint and brought them in to dry. We left the tomatoes outside. I’ll pick the green ones tomorrow. There are no red ones. Winter is coming and I am in denial.

We cooked an early spring dish from Graubünden, Switzerland’s easternmost canton, using the recipe Claudius got from his mother. It was absolutely delicious. I guess the chard like the cool weather.

Start a pot of water boiling with two bouillon cubes. I used a big wok.

Mix together 200 grams flour, 2 eggs, 100 ml milk, and a teaspoon of salt. This international recipe will have all kinds of units. Basically, make a thick dumpling dough, stirable, but not runny. I would have added a bit of nutmeg, but it isn’t traditional.

Once the water is boiling, put in about 20 whole chard leaves. Mine were the red kind.

Chop a shallot, and about half a cup each of chives, parsley, and basil. I used half an onion instead of the chives and shallot, but I took parsley and basil from the garden. Mix these into the dumpling batter. It should sit a total of at least half an hour so the flour granules can expand.

Also into the dumpling batter should go some Landjaeger sausage, a hard sausage, cut very small, into pieces the size of two rice grains. We didn’t have any, so I skipped this.

Cook up a third of a pound of bacon, cut small. I used a little more since I had no sausage. If you don’t eat meat this is easily skipped, or replaced with some carmelized onions.

Grate a half pound of Gruyere cheese. I used an American version from Trader Joe’s. The real thing would have been better.

Push the cooking chard down into the broth so you have somewhere to put the dumplings. Spoon them into the chard water and let them cook about 10 minutes. I had to ladle some broth over them.

When the dumplings have cooked, drain the whole business. Maybe next time I’ll keep this delicious broth, but this time I drained it. I put the dumplings and chard back in the wok. Then I put the cooked bacon and the grated cheese on top. Dave and I ate entirely too much of this delicious dish.  But then, winter is coming.

If you look it up on line, you will find that most people make capuns in a fussy way where they wrap the chard around the dumplings or something like that. The way Claudius taught me is much better.

I think this falls in the category of peasant food, natural, delicious, unpretentious, an end of this, an end of that, some flour, a way to have a tiny bit of meat feed many. It is my favorite kind of food. Mexican rice and beans qualify. So does Italian pappa di pomodoro, a way to use up old bread. It is something good for winter. Enjoy!


About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
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