Fortunately, this time of year, there's a ton of farmer's markets where you can just grab one or two ingredients in a minute, then go home and make dinner.
Swiss chard is in season right now, and can be used in a ton of dishes. Taste-wise, it's somewhere between spinach and collard greens, and has a slightly bitter taste. With their red, orange, and yellow stalks, they also look great. It's also packed with vitamins, and cooks quickly. In fact, you can make this dish in the time it takes to boil the water for the pasta.
I was lucky enough to get a bunch of chard grown by my friend Rich, who, along with his wonderful wife Bree, are growing hops and reviving his family farm in Lockport, NY. You can read all about their adventures at Old Farm, New Life. It's also pretty cheap: You can usually buy a large bunch for about $3-$4, which should last you 2 meals.
What else does this recipe require? Not much.
What You'll Need:
2-3 cloves of garlic
1/4 pound of pasta
Red Pepper flakes (optional)
Parmesan cheese (optional, but recommended)
You'll also need one large pot to boil water, and a fairly large pan. It also helps to have a pair of tongs and a ladle.
First off, fill a large pot with water, toss in enough salt to fill your cupped hand--about 2 tablespoons--and start heating it up.
While the water is heating up, lay about 8 to 10 swiss chard leaves on top of each other, and chop them into strips about 1/4 of an inch thick. Then, put them in a colander, and run some water over them to remove any dirt.
Next, slice the garlic cloves thinly. I love garlic, so I used three cloves, but you could probably get away with two.
Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the pan over medium heat, and add the garlic and a pinch of salt. If you like your dishes spicy (as I do), toss in some red pepper flakes too.
When the garlic starts to turn brown (this should take about 2-3 minutes), add in the swiss chard. It's going to completely fill the pan, but will wilt down a lot as it cooks. Here's where having a pair of tongs will help, so you can toss them around in the pan.
After about 5 minutes, the swiss chard should be fairly wilted, and look like this. If you notice, my chard had fairly thin stalks; if you buy some that has thicker stalks, it make take a few minutes more for them to cook.
By this time, your pasta water should be boiling. Take a handful of pasta (about 1/4 of a pound, or a little less) and put it in the water. I used angel hair pasta for this, so it spent a grand total of one minute in the boiling water. If you use a thicker pasta--and you're certainly entitled to--it'll take a few minutes more.
Next comes the trickiest, but most essential part: Wait until the pasta is just a liiiittttllee too crunchy, and transfer it from the boiling water to the pan. (Tongs are really helpful here). Then, add a ladleful of pasta water to the pan. The idea is that, as the pasta finishes absorbing water, it's also going to absorb some of the flavors of the garlic and swiss chard, too.
Be sure to mix the pasta in with all the other stuff in the pan, and let it cook for another minute or so, until most of the liquid is gone. It should look something like this. You're almost done!
Using the tongs, scoop up some of the pasta onto a plate, grate some parmesan cheese of the top, and serve. Enjoy!