Stews

Super Taster: Greek Gigante Beans with Tomatoes & Pasta

Gigante Beans & Orrechiette

I have to start out this post by saying that my husband is a super taster. I am somewhat envious because he can detect subtle flavors in foods that I can’t. As a cook and a lover of food, the sense of smell and taste play a significant role when preparing and enjoying food. Anyway, Bruce and I took his Mom out to lunch a few weekends ago. I had it all scoped out to go to a Chinese restaurant in a cute little Main Street town in New Jersey. I checked out their website the day before and was excited about their extensive menu. There was something for everyone! When we showed up for lunch, the restaurant was closed and looked like it had gone out of business. We decided to take a stroll down the block to see if there was another place to eat. Pizza, coffee house, Mexican, more pizza, Thai food, another coffee house, Irish pub. On one corner was an unassuming Greek restaurant. We took a quick look at the menu and decided to give it a try. What I love about the Greek restaurants I’ve been in is the white and blue decor that makes you feel like you’re in the Mediterranean. It’s both invigorating and serene at the same time. I ordered a dish that was made with gigante beans, tomatoes and pasta. It was aromatically seasoned and absolutely delicious. I gave Bruce a taste and he mentioned that he detected some tarragon in the dish. I thought it might have some marjoram. I didn’t think that tarragon was an herb that’s commonly used in Greek cuisine, so I asked the waiter how the dish was seasoned. He said that that they use oregano and dill in this particular dish. Before I left the restaurant I was determined to make this recipe at home. I consulted a few recipes on the internet and one of them added ouzo to the sauce. Ouzo is an anise-flavored liqueur that’s made in Greece. The taste of tarragon reminds me of licorice. I’m sure that what Bruce thought was tarragon was, in fact, a splash of ouzo. The recipes I used as reference had these ingredients in common: gigante beans, tomatoes, onions, garlic and herbs. Since gigante beans are grown in Mediterranean countries I used large lima beans because they are easy to find in the US. As I mentioned, one of the recipes I found uses ouzo, but I opted to use anise seed. Many of the recipes called for chicken broth, so I used water “souped up” with one teaspoon of Better Than Boullion’s No Chicken soup base. The dish I had at the restaurant was made with “quartini” pasta, which means “little squares”. Since these are hard to find I used orrechiette (“little ears”) instead. I love, love, love this dish! The beans and pasta make for one substantial meal, yet the light sauce and delicate flavors make you want to come back for more. I went ahead and ordered authentic gigante beans and tried using crushed instead of diced tomatoes on my second attempt at this recipe. While the gigante beans tasted great, the crushed tomatoes made the dish too much like a heavy tomato sauce. If you do use gigante beans, you will need to increase the cooking time to about two to three hours. Whether you use lima or gigante beans, one taste and you’ll want to shout “Opa!” Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Gigante Beans with Tomatoes and Pasta

8 oz. dried gigante beans or dried lima beans

Olive oil (optional)
1 large onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups (or more) water or vegetable broth (1 teaspoon Better Than Bouillon No Chicken base)
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon anise seed or 2 Tablespoons ouzo liqueur
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
½ cup chopped fresh dill

8 oz. dry pasta, cooked according to package directions

Place beans in large bowl. Pour enough water over to cover beans by 3 inches; let soak overnight. Drain beans; set aside.

Heat a small amount of olive oil or water in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions and garlic and sauté until onions are golden brown, 6 to 7 minutes. Add beans, 4 cups chicken broth, tomatoes, vinegar, anise seed (or ouzo), oregano, and crushed red pepper to pot; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until beans are tender, adding more broth by cupfuls to keep beans submerged and stirring occasionally,(about one hour for lima beans or 2 to 3 hours for gigante beans) depending on freshness of beans. You will need to keep testing the beans about every 30 minutes and adding more water as needed. When beans are done, uncover and cook until tomato mixture thickens and liquid is slightly reduced. (If you want to serve the beans without pasta, simply reduce the sauce longer.) Season beans to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Place beans, pasta and dill into large serving bowl and toss gently.

DO AHEAD: beans can be made up to 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm beans before continuing, adding more chicken broth by 1/2 cupfuls if beans are dry.

 

29 Nov 2017

Bowled Over: Fennel, Farro & Fagioli

Fennel, Farro & Fagioli

Have you ever been “bowled over”? The term is synonymous with amazed or astonished. When I uploaded this photo of my Fennel, Farro & Fagioli it struck me how a dish of full of beans, fennel, farro and greens could have the ability to bowl me over. This recipe hits on so many aspects of a complete whole food, plant-based meal. It’s made with beans, greens, vegetables, whole grains and uses very little/no oil and salt. Who could ask for anything more? Bowl someone (or yourself) over today with a bowl of Fennel, Farro & Fagioli. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Fennel Farro e Fagioli
Makes 4 servings
1 small onion
1 small fennel bulb
1 carrot
1 celery stalk
4 garlic cloves
Olive oil (optional)
½ tsp. fennel seeds, ground
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 cups white or red beans (or two 15 oz. can)
½ cup uncooked farro
3 to 4 cups water
1 teaspoon Better Than Boullion vegetable or “No Chicken” base (optional)
a few handful of arugula or other greens
Cut onion, fennel, carrot and celery into pieces. Process in food processor until finely chopped. Add garlic and pulse a few times.
Coat bottom of large saucepot with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. (You could heat 2 tablespoons of water to omit the oil.) Add vegetables and cook until softened and lightly browned. Add ground fennel and red pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add tomato paste and stir to combine. Add farro, beans, water and bouillon. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 25 minutes. Add arugula during the last few minutes of cooking.

16 Feb 2017

Day One: Hoppin’ John Stew

Hoppin’ John Soup

What I love about the holidays are the traditions. It can be a beloved family recipe or a tradition from another region, country or culture. I especially like the southern tradition of making Hoppin’ John for New Years Day. This bean dish is typically made with black-eyed peas, bell peppers,onions, tomatoes and rice all cooked in one pot. Since I’ve already done the traditional recipe served over rice and Hoppin‘ John Burgers this year’s recipe is a Hoppin’ John Stew. What makes this recipe more “stew-like” than traditional Hoppin’ John is that it has more beans, vegetables and liquid and not so much rice. It can be made a day ahead and re-warmed in a slow-cooker. It’s the perfect solution for winding down on Day One after staying up late to ring in the New Year. Time to “ring in the new” with this Hoppin’ John Stew. Best wishes for a healthy and happy new year and thanks for being Vegi-curious.

 

Hoppin’ John Soup

1 lb. dry black-eyed peas
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 can (28 oz.) plum tomatoes, drained & chopped (or diced tomatoes, drained)
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 dried bay leaves
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
2 tablespoons brown sugar
10 to 12 cups water
1 cup uncooked brown rice

Soak black-eyed peas overnight and drain. (You can also quick soak the peas by covering them with water and boiling for two minutes. Let soak for 1 hour, then drain.) Cook in pressure cooker according to manufacturer’s directions. When pressure has gone down, open pressure cooker and drain the peas.

Heat a saucepot over medium-high heat. Add onions and bell pepper and cook until they begin to soften and brown, adding water 2 tablespoons at a time to prevent them from sticking. Add garlic and cook for one minute. Add tomatoes, thyme, bay leaves, cayenne pepper, liquid smoke and brown sugar and cook for another minute. Add water and cooked peas and bring to a boil. Add rice and reduce to simmer. Cook, uncovered, until black-eyed peas are tender and thick (about 45 minutes). Thin with more water as desired.

28 Dec 2016

Growing on Me: Red Lentil, Swiss Chard & Sweet Potato Stew

Red Lentil, Swiss Chard & Sweet Potato Stew

Red Lentil, Swiss Chard & Sweet Potato Stew

Sometimes I wonder why I do the things I do. For instance, I planted a row of Swiss chard again this year. As much as I want to love eating greens, I’ve never been a big fan unless they were swimming in a sea of olive oil. I guess I keep planting them in the hopes that they’ll start to grow on me, OR, that I’ll find a way to prepare them that will make me love them. I’ve been adding a handful of spinach to my Thai Curry Red Lentils. It’s been a nice addition, so I figured I’d try some chard with it. Since I have lots of chard, I gave it a bigger presence in the stew. I usually serve this stew over rice, but I wanted to introduce a different starch to the dish and added some potatoes. I replaced the Thai curry paste with cumin, chili powder, turmeric and cinnamon for more of an Indian influence. I can’t say enough about this stew. It’s colorful, creamy, savory, spicy and exotic. It’s hearty enough to eat on it’s own, but feel free to serve it with some rice so you can spread the love even further. If you like to garden, try planting this perpetual Swiss chard. It’s resistant to bolting so you can enjoy it all summer long and even into late fall. Even if you don’t grow your own Swiss chard, this stew is bound to grow on you. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Perpetual Swiss Chard

Perpetual Swiss Chard

Red Lentil, Swiss Chard & Sweet Potato Stew

1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons turmeric
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup dried red lentils
3 small sweet potatoes cut into 1″ chunks (about 4 cups)
12 oz. Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves cut crosswise into strips
1 cup lite coconut milk
Salt to taste
Cilantro for garnish
Cooked rice (optional)

Heat 2 tablespoons of water in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened and beginning to color. Stir in ginger, garlic and seasonings. Cook one minute, stirring constantly. Add broth, curry paste, lentils and potatoes. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 20 minutes until potatoes are cooked through and lentils are soft. Add chard and coconut milk and cook another five minutes. Serve over rice if desired.

03 Oct 2016

I’m in the Mood for Thai: Green Curry Noodle Bowl

Thai Green Curry Noodle Bowl

Thai Green Curry Noodle Bowl

When we’re in the mood for Thai food, Bruce and I like to dine at Soybean Asian Grille.  The last time we were there I ordered a Green Curry Noodle Bowl from their special menu. It had tofu, baby bok choy, bell peppers, green beans and noodles with a “curry-ish” sauce. I say “curry-ish” because the dish was flavored with green curry paste and just a hint of coconut milk. Thai curries are usually insanely hot and contain a lot of rich (i.e. high-fat) coconut milk. It was this dish that motivated me to get off my tukhus and make the no-salt-added green Thai curry paste that I wrote about last week. My curry noodle bowl is a simple stir-fry kicked up a notch with the addition of green curry paste and a bit of light coconut milk. You can use any Thai curry paste (red, green, Massaman), either store-bought or made from one of my no-salt-added recipes. Mix up a batch of curry paste today, then stir things up a bit tomorrow with a bowl of Thai Green Curry Noodles. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Green Thai Curry Noddle Bowl

1 large yellow onion, sliced
8 oz. green beans, trimmed & cut into 1-1/2” pieces
1 large bell pepper, cut into 1-1/2” strips
3 baby bok choy, sliced into 1” pieces (including leaves)
16 oz. extra firm tofu, cut into 1” pieces
3 to 4 tablespoons green Thai curry paste
½ can (about 1 cup) Thai coconut milk

Noodles (about 1 lb. dry) or rice (3 cups cooked) for serving

Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add a few tablespoons of water and onions. Saute until onions start to brown. Add green beans and more water if necessary and saute until they start to brown. Cover skillet and cook until beans start to soften, then add peppers and bok choy. Continue cooking until peppers and bok choy start to soften. Add tofu, curry paste and coconut milk and cook for a few minutes to allow sauce to thicken and get infused into the tofu.
Serve over choice of noodles or rice.

29 Sep 2016

Mangia! Grilled Eggplant Giambotta with Pignoli Parmesan

Eggplant Giambotta

Eggplant Giambotta

Giambotta is an Italian vegetable stew. My mother and grandmother used to make it with potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, onions and anything else they had on hand. I got the idea for my Grilled Eggplant Giambotta from a spicy hot Indian dish called Baingan Bhartha, which is made with grilled eggplant, tomatoes and a host of aromatics and served over rice. Italian spices are much more mellow than those used in Indian food so I often wondered if I could make this dish using Italian seasonings and still have the same level of spice that the Indian version has. I grilled the eggplants on the barbeque grill, then made a chunky sauce with plum tomatoes, onions and garlic. I seasoned it with ground fennel, crushed red pepper and a combination of dried thyme, oregano and marjoram and let it all cook down to a thick and saucy stew. Since we eat so much rice, I opted to serve the Giambotta on a bed of orzo and topped it off with a sprinkling of Pignoli Parmesan. You can skip the orzo and enjoy it with a few slices (or an entire loaf) of Italian bread. This Eggplant Giambotta is so full of goodness that you can “mangiare a proprio piacimento”, which means “eat to your heart’s content”. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Eggplant Giambotta with Pignoli Parmesan

8 plum tomatoes (or 1 can Italian plum tomatoes)
1 large eggplant (about 2 pounds)
1 large onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground in spice grinder
1 to 2 tablespoons dried oregano
1-1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

cooked pasta, such as orzo

Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Using a knife, score an “x” into the blossom end of the tomatoes. Place tomatoes in water long enough for skin to soften and peel away from the flesh of the tomatoes. Place in a colander and when cool enough to handle, remove skins. Place tomatoes in food processor and process until chunky.

Slice eggplants crosswise into 1” thick slices. Preheat outdoor grill on medium heat. (It’s not necessary to coat the grates with oil, but you may do so if you like.) Place eggplants on grill and cook until grill marks appear on both sides. Remove to cutting board and cut slices into quarters or sixths. Set aside.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute until they start to brown, adding water 2 tablespoons at a time to prevent sticking. Add garlic and ground fennel and cook another minute. Add remaining ingredients and cook tomatoes until start to thicken. Add eggplants and continue to cook until desired tenderness (about 10 minutes). Sprinkle top with Pignoli Parmesan. Remove from heat and serve over rice or pasta. Top with Pignoli Parmesan.

Pignoli Parmesan

¾ cup pignoli nuts
6 tablespoons nutritional yeast
½ teaspoon lactic acid or lemon juice

Place all ingredients in mini-chopper and process until grainy. Be careful not to over process into a butter.

15 Jul 2016

Old School Italian: ‘Scarole and Beans

Escarole & BeansWhat I remember most about spending time in the kitchen with my grandmother was that cooking just came so naturally to her. It was like those pots and pans were an extension of her arms and the ingredients that went into them were an outpouring of her love. I think she could have put together a meal with her eyes closed. While we all were meat eaters back in the day, many of her meals were what we warmly called “peasant food” because they consisted of inexpensive ingredients like beans and pasta. In her Italian dialect, she would say “come, sit, have some ‘scarole and beans”.  Her recipe was a simple melange of garlic, olive oil, cannelini beans and escarole. And there was always a loaf of Italian bread waiting to be dunked. It’s funny how something so simple could taste so good. We never followed a recipe — just a little bit of this and a lot of that. There are no mistakes to be made, just a tasty and nutritious meal. With regards to the olive oil: you can make it virtually fat-free (VFF) by lightly coating then wiping the bottom of the pot; or totally fat-free (TFF) by using water to saute the garlic. “Go. Make some ‘scarole and  beans.” And make it a Vegi-curious day!

Escarole and Beans

  • olive oil or water for browning garlic
  • a lot of garlic (6 cloves), chopped
  • 2 cans (3 cups) cannelini beans, drained
  • a big bunch of escarole (1 pound?), leaves torn in half
  • crushed red pepper to taste
  • salt & pepper to taste

Coat a large sauce pot with olive oil and wipe up excess. Saute garlic until lightly browned. Add beans and cook for about 5 minutes. Add a little water to prevent beans from sticking. Place escarole on top of beans, cover pot and cook on medium heat until escarole starts to wilt. Add crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper and continue cooking until escarole is completely cooked, adding more water if necessary.

 

07 Jan 2016

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