Swiss Chard Leaves Stuffed with Rice, Chickpeas and Tomatoes


* 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 2 cups chopped red onion
* 1/2 cup short-grain white rice, soaked in very hot water for 10 minutes, rinsed, and drained
* 1/2 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight, peeled, and halved
* 3/4 cup (about 12) seeded and chopped cherry tomatoes
* 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
* 1/8 teaspoon near east or aleppo pepper or hot paprika
* 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1/8 teaspoon sweet paprika
* 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1 1/2 cups chopped flat-leaf parsley
* 3 tablespoons slivered mint leaves, preferably spearmint
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* 900 grams / 2 pounds swiss chard leaves
* 1 1/2 cups water
* 3 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
* Lemon wedges for garnish

In a 25 centimeter / 10 inch skillet, warm the oil, add the onion, cover, and cook 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft and golden. Remove from the heat. Tilt into a mixing bowl. Add the rice, chickpeas, tomatoes, salt, aleppo pepper, spices, parsley, mint, and sugar; mix well. Makes about 3 1/2 cups filling.

Rinse and drain the swiss chard leaves. Remove the stalks from the greens and reserve a few for later. Dip the leaves into simmering water until pliable, about 10 seconds, and refresh in a basin of cold water. Drain, then gently press out excess moisture. Place the leaves, shiny side down and a few at a time, on a work surface. If the leaves are very large, halve them lengthwise, removing the center rib. Trim each leaf to make an approximate 12.5 centimeter / 5 inch square (the ribs should be horizontal, not vertical, for easier rolling).

Place a heaping teaspoon of filling below the rib of each leaf. Fold over the filling and roll up to make a firm, thin cigarette shape. If necessary, squeeze gently in the palm of your hand to firm the roll up. Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling.

Line a 1 liter / 1 quart heavy saucepan with a few diced stalks. Place the stuffed leaves, open ends down, in tightly packed rows and criss-crossing layers. Weight them down with a plate just large enough to fit inside the saucepan.

Pour the water down the inside of the saucepan. Bring to a boil; boil hard for half a minute, cover with a tight-fitting lid, reduce the heat to low, and cook 40 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand 20 minutes before uncovering. Add the lemon juice to the pan juices and swirl to combine. Serve warm or cold, garnished with lemon wedges.