Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Bragging Rights of Beans

Okay so I am not a vegetarian. I eat meat every so often because it is delicious and I really try and listen to my body, which sometimes is drawn to the butcher’s counter at the grocery store. This doesn’t occur all too often, most of the time my shopping cart is loaded with fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and of course beans! I would say that beans are the primary source of protein in my diet. Lentils, white beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, and you all know that I love peanuts. (Did you know that peanuts are actually beans?) There are actually about 20 or so different types of legumes (aka beans) that we as humans consume; talk about adding variety to the diet! Beans are super cheap; perfect for my college budget, extremely versatile to cook with, and they nurture mother earth in that they have a lower carbon footprint than animal protein and they actually enrich the soil they grow in! On top of all that they are extremely good for you. They are loaded with folate, iron, and are one of the best vegetarian sources of protein out there. Legumes also contain high amounts of soluble fiber, which slows digestion time and binds toxins drawing them out of the body. Let’s face it we are living in a toxic world nowadays and could all use a little more beans in our diet.

Despite all the bragging rights of beans, they are kind of a pain in the you know what. If you buy them dry in bulk you must first soak them overnight and then cook them for hours on the stovetop before they are tender enough to eat. One of my cooking instructors at school says, “You can’t rush beans”. Cooking with dried beans requires a lot of planning and time, none of which we have in our lives right now!

Okay so what is the alternative? I am sure that you guessed it by now, canned beans. Canned beans can be mushy in texture, bland in taste, and high in sodium. I have, however, found one brand of canned beans that are far superior to all the rest, Eden Organics. Eden beans are firm yet soft, have a true beany flavor, and have just a slight hint of natural saltiness. There is no added sodium or preservatives; they are just straight up beans. Eden also adds another cool ingredient to its canned beans called kombu. Kombu is a nutrient rich sea vegetable that, when cooked with the beans, donates it’s minerals and reduces flatulence or as Julia Child would have said, the “root a toot toots”.

Here is a recipe for kale and white bean soup that can be made in 12 minutes flat using canned beans. I usually have everything on hand for this soup and serve it with whole grain bread so the meal contains a complete amino acid profile.

Hearty Italian Beans and Greens Soup

This recipe is inspired by a restaurant in North Buffalo where I grew up named Café Garangelos. They served it with crusty Italian bread and lots of love! Mangia!

½ medium yellow onion, diced

5 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon reserved

4 cloves of garlic chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 bunch of greens*

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup dried cannellini beans soaked overnight and cooked until tender

½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

Juice from 1 whole lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Grated Parmesan cheese for topping

Balsamic vinegar for topping

In a large stock pot sauté diced yellow onion in 4 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and salt. Remove fibrous stems from greens and chop into bite size pieces and then add to pot. Stir the greens in until they are well coated with oil and starting to wilt. Add broth and the beans and cover the pot.

Cook until the greens are tender and bright green and the broth and beans are heated through. The cooking time will vary with the greens used. Spinach will cook quickly, while kale will take a bit longer. Add lemon juice, red pepper and salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls, drizzle with remaining olive oil and top with cheese and a drizzle of vinegar.

Preparation time: 12 minutes

Makes 4 servings

* Any dark leafy green can be used such as spinach, kale, escarole, Swiss chard, collard, or mustard greens

Adapted by Sarah Seppa from an original recipe by Café Garangelos, Buffalo NY.


  1. Beans are awesome! There are so many different types but I'm lazy so I appreciate your plug for canned beans. They definitely don't get teh respect they deserve.

  2. Another plus to Eden canned foods is that they are BPA free. Not many are from what I understand.

  3. Wright Family,
    You are correct! They are BPA free, I actually meant to mention that and totally forgot so I am glad you brought it up. From what I understand they are the ONLY company that is! Yeah for Eden Organics and Yeah for Beans!! :)

  4. I've been thinking about Garangelo's lately and missing this dish!

  5. Yum! i love your shout-out to beans! i think that more non-vegaterians should incorporate them into their diet because they are delicious and healthy.

  6. Just made this delicious soup. Hans not only ate it(which is a huge win in my book) but announced every bean as he ate them.
    More recipes please!