Thursday, December 10, 2009

Beans are kind of like Meat

People think I am meat obsessed. They are right. But, that doesn't mean I can't enjoy a fine vegetarian meal. Just not everyday please. The problem is that while I will eat nearly anything with fins or feet, my wife doesn't. We eat a lot of chicken at home, and quite a bit of turkey too. But, for the most part, beef and pork aren't what's for dinner at our house.

Most days I can live with that, but sometimes I feel like if I have to eat one more chicken I might explode. It's gets old, even if you love chicken. So, I'm always struggling to find stuff to cook that can break up the monotony without having to make two separate meals. Enter kidney beans.

Kidney beans have significant amounts of protein, which is important both for big men in aprons as well as pregnant women (we have one of each in our house). And, of course, they have no cholesterol and are high in fiber, which regulates blood-sugar, keeps you full longer, and is just all around good for you. Oh, and by the way, they taste pretty damn good.

So, I throw tofu into the mix sometimes to get us away from poultry for a day, and occasionally I just make a vegetable pasta dish, but right now I'm really into trying to find more uses for kidney beans, since they seem to pack a lot of nutritional punch and can be used in some dishes where tofu isn't appropriate. In general, I find that tofu is great when it's done well, but it's very easy to do poorly and that just makes me want to eat the chef who served it. Total dinner guest faux pas.

So, I've already given you a pork and bean noodle dish. But I think this one is better, and it has no meat in it. It is inspired by Orangette's recent recipe for Tagliatelle alla Romagnola, which is essentially pasta, butter, Parmesan, and prosciutto. I was so excited that Orangette had posted something and I really wanted to try it out, but I needed to find something to replace the prosciutto. I also had some leeks that were getting to the "love 'em or leave 'em" phase of our relationship.

Anyway, this dish could be served hot, as I did serve it, or it could be chilled and eaten as a salad. Then again, at 39 degrees outside right now, chilled pasta might not be at the forefront of your priorities right now.

Kidney Beans and Ziti in Butter

1/2 lb. uncooked Ziti
5 Tsbp Butter (4 Tsbp to melt with the pasta, 1 Tsbp to saute the garlic and beans)
1 Tsbp fresh chopped basil
4 Cloves of fresh chopped garlic
1/2 cup of coarsely chopped Leeks
1 15oz. can of Kidney Beans
Grated Parmesan Cheese to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste

Boil a pot of water. You can chop your garlic, leeks, and basil as well as drain and rinse the beans during the time the water is heating up. When the water is near boiling, melt butter in a pan over medium heat. As soon as the butter is mostly melted, add the garlic. Be sure not to let the butter get too hot before adding the garlic, otherwise it will burn. Stir the garlic into the butter for about 1 minute. Add Leeks, stir and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the beans, stir gently and cook for about 5 minutes. By the time you've added the beans, your water should be boiling and ready for the ziti. The ziti is best served al dente, so give it about 6-7 minutes in rapidly boiling water, uncovered in the pot.

When the ziti is ready, drain thoroughly and return to the pot. Put the pot on low heat and add the mixture of beans, garlic, and leeks. Also add the chopped basil and 4 Tsbp of butter at this time. Stir the pot gently, making sure to coat all of the pasta with melting butter, while taking care not to crush the soft kidney beans. As soon as the butter is completely melted, it is ready to serve. Best to serve immediately, since this dish is light and doesn't retain heat the way a heavier dish might.

Add Parmesan if desired. I didn't, but it would be good either way. Resist the urge to add more vegetables or ingredients. The beauty of this recipe is its simplicity. It's nice to actually taste the beans and the leeks. They both have a lot of flavor to contribute that would be drowned out if you added too many other ingredients. Serves 4.

1 comment:

  1. Some of my favorite things to do with beans:

    Cassoulet - perfect for these cold gray days. Plus you get to sneak in good things like duck confit and garlic sausage and pork shoulder. I've made the fussy takes-3-days recipes but for me the quick ones started with a can of cannelli beans are just as good.

    Red beans and rice - fiery or mild, make it thick or make it soupy, it's all good. And you can have lots of ham and andouille and still pat yourself on the back for eating beans. Plus it's a good excuse to make cornbread.

    Black bean velvet soup - just black beans, onion, spices, stock, cook, puree, and serve with some sour cream swirled in.

    Tuscan bean salad - for summer, white beans, olive oil, vinegar, and then whatever you like or have growing in the garden.

    And just plain old bean soup - this is comfort food for me. Grandma and Mom made it pretty plain. Beans, onions, a few carrots, water or stock, maybe a ham hock. Cook until the beans are just breaking down and it's good and thick. Cornbread is an essential side. Yum, tastes like home!