Why? It's healthy, bold, flavorful, toothsome, easy, and inexpensive. Its main ingredients are just interchangeable enough to ring small variations on; it never ever gets boring. And, oh yes: It is quicker than quick. Put the water on to boil for the pasta, begin the sautÃ©, and everything's done at the same time. Choose a pasta type that's not too delicate. Go with dried, not fresh; eschew angel hair, thin spaghetti, orzo, or tiny stars. Instead, choose any good semolina or whole wheat pasta of medium size: fusilli, ziti, fettuccine, or shells.
Vegans can omit the cheese in this (perhaps substituting nutritional yeast) and still have a fine dish.
2. Meanwhile, set a large, heavy skillet (ideally cast iron) over medium-high heat. Place the chiles in the skillet and toast, stirring them or giving the pan a shake occasionally, until they darken slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. (You might want to turn on an exhaust vent, if you have one, or throw open the windows; the air gets pretty pungent and cough-producing.)
3. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and then, almost immediately, the still-wet greens. Stir. There will be a big sizzle and the greens will quickly start wilting down, deepening in color. Immediately, just as soon as the greens have been stirred into the chile and olive oil, pop a tight-fitting lid over the skillet. Lower the heat just a bit and let the greens steam in their own liquid for 3 to 4 minutes.
4. Lift the lid and stir in the garlic. Cook for a few minutes more, just to take the edge of rawness off the garlic (don't let it brown), stirring to distribute everything. Then turn off the heat, squeeze half the lemon over the greens (squeeze through a strainer, to trap the seeds), and add the beans. Stir some more to heat the beans through (the pan will still be plenty hot). Add coarse sea salt and pepper to taste.
5. When you pasta is done (which might be about now, or midway through lemoning the greens), drain it well. Pile it, steaming hot, onto serving plates and divide the greens and beans over each portion. You can try to pick out the chiles if you like, or warn diners that they are there (if you're using red-stemmed chard, it's quite hard to spot those chiles, so, I repeat, warn those who like their food tamer). Drizzle each portion with a bit of the remaining olive oil. Cut the remaining lemon half into wedges, and pass them along with the Parmesan at the table.
From Bean by Bean: A Cookbook by Crescent Dragonwagon (Workman Publishing, 2012). Copyright © 2012 by Crescent Dragonwagon. All rights reserved. Used with permission of Workman Publishing.
Sandor Katz lives to ferment; it’s his life’s work. The author of The Art of Fermentation shares how to make kombucha at home.