Sunday, January 9, 2011

Greens and beans! Oh, and pasta too.

Hello all. After quite a long and restful holiday break, I am back in my kitchen with a renewed culinary appetite. The new year is a time for new beginnings, and for many, a resolution to live a healthier lifestyle. While it is true that many resolutions can be half-hearted and short-lived, I believe any day that makes Americans re-think the way they eat is a good day, and should be embraced.

I decided to start this new year with a delightfully satisfying vegan meal. It is adapted from the Whole Foods recipe for Greens, Beans, and White Bean Ragu. I was looking for something to do with homemade vegetable stock, leftover white beans, and a mountain of kale. This recipe had just what I needed. I made some small changes - omitted the mushrooms (only because I didn't have any), substituted large lima beans for white beans, and changed the procedure just a bit.

Before we get to the goods, let me tell you why I love this recipe. I find it difficult to make a quick and tasty vegan pasta without using red sauce. I try often, but the bottom line is this: the ingredients that make Italian pasta incredible are butter, cheese and/or cream. So not vegan. All Italian dishes have one or more of these, making it all the more difficult to make a vegan pasta satisfying. This recipe makes use of two ingredients I love: nutritional yeast, and tamari/soy sauce. Nutritional yeast, for those who are not familiar with it, is a staple in the vegan pantry. A flaky, strange looking substance, it adds an almost cheesy flavor to whatever sauce you are making. Which, clearly, is awesome. The second important addition is soy sauce. Soy contains an important flavor profile: umami. Many food experts argue on the existence of this flavor, but whether or not they are correct, I beleive it adds something that helps to replace the savory component that meats and nutty cheeses such as parmigiano-reggiano bring to the table.

A note on the beans: cooked lima beans from scratch are much preferred in this recipe. When you cook them yourself, they come out bursting and incredibly creamy, which adds a nice texture component to the pasta. To cook the beans - pour the whole bag in a soup pot, cover liberally with water, soak overnight, drain the next day, then boil with a handful of salt until tender (about 1.5 hours).

Did I mention that this recipe is full of protein and greens? Score!

Linguini With Beans & Greens
Makes 4 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2/3 cup red wine
4 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
2 cups vegetable broth, homemade or store-bought
3 teaspoons tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
4 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 1/2 cups cooked lima beans, or 1 (15-ounce) can large lima beans rinsed and drained
1 pound (1 to 2 bunches) kale, stems removed and leaves thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
sea salt to taste

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in large high-sided skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook 7 to 8 minutes or until tender. Season with salt & pepper. Stir in wine, rosemary and thyme and cook about 2 minutes or until wine evaporates. Stir in broth and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together tamari, flour, nutritional yeast and 2 to 3 tablespoons of the hot broth to make a thick paste. Whisk paste into the simmering broth mixture, stirring constantly. Bring back to a simmer and cook 1 minute, whisking constantly. Stir in beans and greens, in batches if needed, cover and cook 5 minutes or until greens are wilted and heated through, stirring once. Ragu should be thick but pourable - add more broth if needed. Stir in black pepper and remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Taste for seasoning, add salt if needed. Serve over whole wheat pasta dressed lightly with olive oil.


  1. This looks delicious! Nutritional yeast has always scared me but you make a good case for it. What other recipes can you use it in?

  2. Yeah the name "nutritional yeast" doesn't sound very appetizing, but it really does a salty, cheesy element to vegan dishes. I use it in vegan mac & cheese - I have tried a couple versions. Vegan with a vengeance mac and cheese is pretty good! It's also great sprinkled on popcorn.