1 pound Swiss chard stems
1 quart water -- see below
1 bay leaf
2 slices onion
2 sprigs thyme
1 lemon -- juice of
Salt and freshly milled pepper -- to taste
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 small onion -- finely diced
2 tablespoons basil leaves -- torn small
plus extra basil for garnish
1 pinch saffron threads
2 seed tomatoes -- finely diced
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Water - prepare by simmering with 1 bay leaf, 2 onion slices, 2 thyme sprigs, juice of 1 lemon. Preheat the broiler on low. Trim the chard stems, then cut into 2 to 3 inch lengths, on the diagonal.
Drop them into the simmering water, add 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook until tender but still just a little resistant to the knife, about 12 minutes. Scoop them out, reserving the cooking liquid.
Heat the oil in a 10 inch skillet with the onion, basil, and saffron threads. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften and the saffron begins to yield its color, about 5 minutes. Add the blanched chard stems, season with salt and pepper, then add a cup of the reserved cooking water. Simmer, covered, until the stems are fully tender, about 7 minutes. Remove the lid, add the tomatoes, and cook until the remaining liquid has reduce to a syrupy consistency.
Transfer the cooked chard stems to a small gratin dish. Scatter the cheese over the top then slide under the broiler until the cheese is lightly browned in places. Garnish with a few more torn basil leaves, then serve.
Makes 4 servings.