3/4 pound Swiss chard (1 small bunch)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 pound (1 1/8 cups) white beans, washed and picked over
1 bay leaf
1 Parmesan rind (optional but recommended)
1 cup rice
Freshly ground pepper
A few drops of fresh lemon juice (optional)
1. Stem the Swiss chard, and wash both the stems and the leaves in at least two changes of water until thoroughly clean. Dice the stems if they’re wide, and set aside. Stack the leaves and cut in wide ribbons or chop coarsely. Set aside separately from the stems.
2. Heat the oil in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, and add the onion and diced chard stems. Cook, stirring often, until the onion softens, about five minutes. Then add half the garlic, and stir together for 30 seconds to a minute until fragrant. Add the beans, bay leaf, Parmesan rind (tie the bay leaf and rind together with a kitchen string to make retrieval easier) and 2 quarts water. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce the heat and simmer one hour. Add the remaining garlic and salt to taste, and simmer for another 30 minutes to an hour until the beans are tender.
3. Add the rice and pepper, and simmer 15 minutes until the rice is tender. Stir in the chard leaves, and simmer another five to 10 minutes until the chard is tender but still bright. The mixture should be soupy but thick. Season to taste with salt and fresh black pepper and squeeze on some fresh lemon juice—2 to 3 teaspoons.