Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Smothered Beans with Leeks and Collard Greens

Vegan food is often derided as expensive, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Sure, there are fancy, pre-made items on the market, and I am guilty of loving many of them, including Gardein, Yves Veggie deli slices, Daiya cheese, and Tofurky sausages.  But there's simply no better bang for your buck than the bulk section of your supermarket, and just about everything you'll find there (with the exception of non-vegan granola or snack mixes perhaps) is vegan.

Beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts, seeds, rices... Not only are the items sold in bulk packed with nutrition, but they are cheap, will keep dried in the pantry for ages, and require only hands-free prep time (soaking, in most cases) to pull together a recipe.

Tonight's recipe uses two kinds of dried beans from the bulk section - Great Northern and pinto.  Read on for the rest of this hearty recipe.

  • 1 cup dried Great Northern beans
  • 1/4 cup dried pinto beans
  • 1 quart water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups thinly sliced leek
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano*
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, divided
  • 3 thinly sliced garlic cloves
  • 1 pound chopped collard greens
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) undrained and chopped can whole tomatoes**
1.Place the beans in a large saucepan and cover with water to 2 inches above the beans.  Cover and let stand for 8 hours.  Drain.

2. Return the beans to the pan and add 1 quart water.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.  Let cool.

3. Drain the beans through a colander over a bowl, reserving the cooking liquid.  Add enough extra water to the cooking liquid to equal 3 cups (about an extra 3/4 cup, at this point), and set aside.

4. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the leeks, oregano, 1 teaspoon salt, and garlic; saute for 5 minutes.  Reduce heat to low; cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  

Note: don't forget that the best way to clean leeks is to slice first, then rinse in a colander, since dirt can accumulate between the many layers of this aromatic. 

5. Transfer the leek mixture to a large bowl and add the collard greens, tossing to combine.

6. Arrange half of the leek mixture in the bottom of the pan.  Top with the beans, and cover with the remaining leek mixture.  Layering the beans in this way helps to evenly distribute the flavor.

7.  Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the black pepper.  Pour the reserved cooking liquid over the greens.  Cover and simmer over medium heat for 1 hour, stirring only once halfway through.  Uncover and add the tomatoes; simmer for a final 10 minutes.

Make this part of a fancy "rice and beans" pairing by adding a pilaf or risotto on the side.  Tonight I served with mushroom rice, and a beet salad.

Want ideas to mix and match some of my recipes from this past month?  Start the evening with an appetizer course of Lemon Soy Aioli, then serve alongside the Wild Mushroom-Barley "Risotto" with Sage.  Finish with Apple-Cranberry Walnut Crisp for dessert.  How's that for a cozy winter meal?

*Use 1 teaspoon dried oregano instead of fresh if you prefer.

**Add the undrained can of tomatoes to the pan, and then break the tomatoes into pieces directly in the pot; that's the easiest way to chop a can of whole tomatoes when the recipe calls for it undrained. I recommend a low-sodium variety, to keep down the overall sodium in the dish.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (about 3/4 cup), Calories 153 

Tasting Notes:
What flavor!  Deeply earthy beans, a stock that became so richly infused it was almost like "not beef" broth, and lush hints of tomato, leek and oregano.  The beans were perfectly tender, and the combination of the beans and crisp-tender collards was just right.  My only complaint is that this dish didn't quite know what it was.  A bowl of soup?  A heaping side dish of beans?  A main course?  I would drain off the excess liquid before serving next time, so the dish is less soup-y, but wouldn't make any changes in terms of flavor.


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