This any-time salad—winter or spring, lunch or dinner, casual or elegant—is a flavor-packed delight. Quick-cooking the beans yourself (no soaking required) is vital for the simplest flavor and texture. They dress during a zippy vinaigrette and laced with thin shavings of Parmesan cheese (a lot of it!), red bell pepper, and just enough crunchy kale. Best served slightly warm or at temperature.
TIP A: There are special tools for preparing lemon curls, but I think the easiest way requires just a carrot peeler and sharp knife. First, use the carrot peeler to remove long, thin sections of rind from the lemon. Work top-to-bottom/stem-to-stem around the lemon and apply gentle pressure so as to remove just the rind, not a significant amount of the white pith beneath the rind. Then stack your rind segments and run a knife through them vertically or horizontally to create narrow curls or shards. You could also simply zest the lemon with a Microplane® or citrus zester; however, these bits will not be as visible in the finished dish.
1 small ciabatta loaf (4-5 ounces, preferable day-old), roughly torn into 3/4-inch pieces or smaller
3 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. dry white wine (something you would also drink)
2 large garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
thin, outer rind of 1 lemon, sliced into thin curls or shards (see TIP A)
1/8-1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (to taste)
8-10 c. torn Swiss chard leaves, stems removed (from about 8-10 large leaves)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
One: Toast Ciabatta Pieces:
Preheat your oven to 400°. Spread the torn ciabatta pieces across a small rimmed baking sheet and put on the middle rack of your oven. Bake until crisp and golden (about 10-12 minutes). Rotate the baking sheet and toss the bread pieces as needed to achieve even color. When done, set aside to cool.
Two: Fry the Garlic, Lemon & Red Pepper Flakes:
In a large high-sided Dutch oven or soup pot, warm the olive oil and white wine over medium heat. Add the sliced garlic and let cook about 2 minutes until slightly translucent. Then add the lemon rind and red pepper flakes and let cook and sizzle (stirring frequently) for another 2 minutes or until the mixture becomes very fragrant. Once the garlic begins to develop a bit of color immediately pull the pot off the heat.
Three: Turn Off Heat and Add the Croutons & Swiss Chard:
Off the heat (but while the oil-wine mixture is still very hot), add the ciabatta croutons and stir to coat. Then add the Swiss chard and gently toss to fully coat the leaves (they should becom vibrant and glossy, not wilted). Transfer the entire contents of the pot to a serving dish. Arrange the croutons around the top and bottom. Serve warm.