Lovers of all things beef will have few complaints when visiting Argentina, but those with an inclination toward vegetarian fare often gripe about the limited options available. While it’s nearly impossible to avoid the ubiquitous Argentine barbecue known as asado, diners who give veggies top billing can still enjoy meat-free dishes here, such as the buñuelos de acelga (swiss chard fritters) featured below.
Before I lived in Argentina, Swiss chard fell into the category of leafy green vegetables I had heard of but never sampled. I vaguely recall once seeing a wilted bunch of greens at the supermarket next to an enormous pile of the perennial favorite, spinach. However, here in Argentina – where Swiss chard enjoys widespread availability at markets and lower prices than spinach – chard takes center stage. Swiss chard can be used in any dish that calls for spinach, as it has a very similar flavor (although I find chard to be less bitter and more delicate than spinach).
Buñuelos or fritters form part of the cuisine of many different cultures. In Argentina, buñuelos may be savory or sweet. Savory buñuelos like the ones in the following recipe, which incorporate swiss chard, are usually included as part of lunch or dinner, while sweet buñuelos are often enjoyed with mate. Argentines also prepare a smaller version of these fritters known as bocadillos.
Feel free to substitute spinach for swiss chard in this recipe if it’s not available in your area.
Buñuelos de Acelga (Swiss Chard Fritters)
1 large bunch fresh swiss chard, lightly steamed, drained and chopped (roughly 1 packed cup of cooked swiss chard)
1 stalk green onion, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp. sugar
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup milk
1 ½ cup self-rising flour
1 tsp. baking powder
vegetable oil for frying
In a large bowl, mix the swiss chard, green onion, salt, pepper, nutmeg and sugar. Add the cheese, eggs, and milk, and stir to incorporate. Lastly, add the flour and baking powder. Mix well to form a thick batter (adjust thickness by adding more flour or milk, as needed). In a medium-sized pot, heat the vegetable oil (medium-medium high temperature). Avoid frying at a very high temperature; otherwise, the exterior of the fritter will brown before the interior is fully cooked. Using either a small cookie scoop or two spoons, drop the batter by tablespoonfuls into the hot oil. Fry until deep golden brown, flipping the buñuelos over to ensure even cooking. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.