Monday, December 27, 2010

Beans 'n Greens, Caribbean Style

The black bean stands so well on its own -- bold and earthy. I don't use black beans enough and tend to forget just how much I love them. This is evidenced by the 6 cans I have in my pantry! I'm always reminded of my favorite Cuban restaurant back in Florida where they served up black beans thick and creamy, devilishly rich. Rich? A bean can be rich?

Ever since this summer I've been hooked on this recipe for kale with bacon and coconut milk. It is fabulous just as it is but thought I'd make a vegetarian alternative to add to the beans 'n greens saga. Crisp kale, creamy beans are made rich with coconut milk and just a hint of chile powder that makes for a lovely sauce. I'm sure this recipe would be great with the bacon (because what isn't improved with bacon?) but is quite tasty without it.

Kale with Black Beans and Coconut Milk
adapted from Steamy Kitchen

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 bunch kale, stems removed
a small onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 can coconut milk
1-2 tsp chile powder (or to taste)

Cook the onions and garlic in a large pot until just tender. Toss in the kale and stir around for a minute. Pour in the coconut milk and stir to combine. Add the chile powder, beans, and season with salt. Cover and let simmer until kale is tender, about 10 minutes. Serve over rice, with some sweet bread, or warm tortillas.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Beans 'n Greens

After all this time I'd say my diet has changed a little bit. After reading a lot of Mark Bittman, mulling the pros and cons in my head, and considering my own health, I have decided to become a pseudo-vegetarian. Now I say 'pseudo' because I'm not cutting out meat entirely but I am limiting it in my diet to only a couple times per week or only when I'm out to dinner and vegetarian options are limited. It's a win-win -- good for me and good for the environment as Bittman would argue in his book Food Matters.

I understand the vegetarian diet isn't for everyone, and the raw food or vegan diet is for even less. There is a huge commitment to make to live this way, and for foodies it can be even more difficult. If you are the type of person who can do it, then good for you. I cannot live entirely without meat however, but have felt better since limiting it in my diet. It has also been fun to get creative with a whole different way of cooking. Jazzin' up those veggies and whole grains has not been as challenging as I thought. In reality, I don't really miss meat or crave it throughout the week. A meat-free diet can be just as filling and satisfying.

The biggest addition to my diet has been various beans and various greens. I've been honing in on my favorite combinations of beans and greens but excited to try more as certain greens start in season and as I start to incorporate unfamiliar beans into my pantry. A weeknight standby has become great northern beans, escarole, and tomato sauce -- a dish I first had at our neighborhood Italian joint that was so luscious and creamy I had to try to make it at home.

What's your favorite beans 'n greens preparation?

Beans and Escarole with Spicy Tomato Sauce

1 head of escarole, cleaned and chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 can of great northern beans, rinsed and drained well
1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
28 oz can of your favorite tomato sauce (or homemade)
red pepper flake, to taste
Parmesan cheese

Heat the tomato sauce in a small saucepan, adding red pepper flake and any other seasoning to taste. In a large skillet, heat a few tablespoons of oil then add the garlic. Cook until fragrant, then add the escarole. After 2 or 3 minutes, when the escarole starts too cook down, gently stir in the beans so not to break them. Cook another minute or 2 adding more oil if it gets too dry. Finally ladle in the tomato sauce and turn the heat down to low. Let it sit for a couple more minutes to let the flavors come together. Season with salt and pepper. Top with grated cheese and serve with warm, crusty bread.