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Mediterranean Cooking from the Garden with Linda Dalal Sawaya—How to make Lebanese vegan chard rolls!

posted on: Apr 20, 2016

red chard in my spring garden © linda dalal sawaya 2016

By: Linda Dalal Sawaya/Arab America Contributing Writer

Flourishing this week in the garden with our cherished spring rains, having overwintered with ease like Italian parsley, also a biennial—is chard. It’s an amazingly hardy plant that can be harvested now through summer and fall for Mediterranean recipes, where chard is native to the region; it delightfully thrives in the Pacific Northwest and is easy to grow.

Italians use it with pasta, of course; Egyptians call it colas and cook it with taro root and coriander in a broth; while in the Arabic I grew up with, it is called al-siliq or siliq, from which the Spanish word for chard, acelgas originates. Spaniards cook acelgas with beans, sausage, or potatoes; Mexican recipes include a sopa with macaroni and a braised version called acelgas guisadas. Tunisians combine chard into a delicious-sounding chickpea, tomato, and onion ragout called morshan, and the Iraqis call their version of this yahne. The French are famous for a rich tart including this nutritious green called tart aux blettes, with eggs, crème fraîche, and cheese. Asians from India to Japan have numerous ways of seasoning and preparing this versatile vitamin and phytonutrient-rich green leafy vegetable.

We Lebanese and other Arab countries use chard which is braised or sautéed with a classic dressing of garlic mashed into a paste with salt, lemon juice, and olive oil—fabulous on any steamed or sautéed greens including chard, spinach, kale, asparagus, artichokes, and beet greens. It is added to lentil soups at the last minute for flavor and nutrition. The ribs and stems trimmed from chard leaves to make rolls, are steamed or sautéed and are drizzled with tahini sauce.

If you’re not growing your own chard, our local farmer’s markets are abundant with these lush organic greens. Whether you use green, red, yellow, or rainbow chard in Mediterranean, Asian, or any inspired recipe, the options are endless. Chard is truly a versatile and beneficial fresh ingredient to keep on hand and in the garden for your international culinary adventures.

waraq siliq ready to serve! © Linda Dalal Sawaya 2016

WARAQ SILIQ (Stuffed Vegan Chard Rolls) recipe from Alice’s Kitchen: Traditional Lebanese Cooking

A recipe from Alice’s Kitchen featuring chard as a springtime substitute for summertime grape leaves in making stuffed rolls—vegan or lamb with rice. Here’s how to make the vegan version, called waraq siliq (meaning chard leaves) using lots of Italian parsley, spearmint, green onions, tomato, garbanzo beans, and rice rolled in a leaf and then cooked in a pot. Make more than you think you’ll need, as they’re fantastic the next day, either reheated, at room temperature, or cold. Sahtein! (Arabic for good health!). Enjoy!

vegetarian filling for chard rolls © Linda Dalal Sawaya 2016


20 or so chard leaves (red or green)


1 cup brown rice, soaked and rinsed

1 bunch green onions, or 1 Spanish or red onion

1 bunch Italian parsley, finely chopped

½ bunch spearmint, finely chopped

1 cup tomatoes, finely chopped (use organic canned since it’s not summer)

½ cup garbanzo beans, precooked or canned, drained and rinsed

1 t. salt

½ t. black pepper

¼ t. cayenne pepper

¼ cup lemon juice

⅛ cup olive oil, extra-virgin cold-pressed

lining the pot bottom with chard stems © Linda Dalal Sawaya 2016

For the pot

4 cloves garlic

⅓ cup lemon juice

2 ½ cups water

⅛ cup olive oil

Pick, rinse, and remove the central rib from chard leaves. Layer ribs, stems, and small leaves in the bottom of a large pot.

1. In a large bowl, add seasonings to rice and mix well; add lemon juice and olive oil. Mix in chopped vegetables and garbanzos; taste and adjust seasoning.

rolling chard leaves © Linda Dalal Sawaya 2016

2. Place a leave with the rib side down on a clean surface and add stuffing mixture along the bottom edge leaving room on the sides to fold leave in holding the mix.

3. Roll each leaf with stuffing up tightly, like a carpet, and place on top of the ribs, tucking them close to each other in the pot forming rows. Each layer is perpendicular to the layer below it; continue stacking the pot until all the filling is used up.

stuffed and rolled chard © Linda Dalal Sawaya 2016

4. Nestle whole garlic cloves in between them and pour water, lemon juice, and olive oils over them. Press a plate on top of the rolls, top side down, to hold them together during cooking.

pot of chard rolls ready to cook © Linda Dalal Sawaya 2016

5. Cook over high heat until boiling, then simmer until rice is done, approximately 45 minutes for brown rice. Let stand in pot for 15 minutes before serving as a main dish or appetizer.

cooked waraq siliq © Linda Dalal Sawaya 2016

Note: My garden’s chard leaves are huge, so the rolls are fairly large, much larger than grape leaves. If the leaf is small, two leaves can be overlapped to widen so as to cover the gap where the rib was removed.

serving waraq siliq © Linda Dalal Sawaya 2016

detail waraq siliq © Linda Dalal Sawaya 2016

—Linda Dalal Sawaya, daughter of two Lebanese immigrants, is a Portland, Oregon artist, cook, photographer, Master Gardener, and author of Alice’s Kitchen: Traditional Lebanese Cooking

story and all photos © Linda Dalal Sawaya 2016

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