Beans -n- Greens

In my eyes, Jack Bishop is a god of vegetarian cooking. For a long time, I've been slowly reducing the amount of meat in my diet, but it's been an evloutionary process. Finding good, interesting vegetarian cookbooks has been half the battle, not to mention a struggle.

Let me back up. I've only been cooking for about 7 years, and when I began, I did as I so often do when I approach a new subject that fascinates me, I learn as much as I possibly can about it. So I grabbed cookbooks, nutrition books, health books...whatever I could get my hands on from the local library and dove in. My first real test was roasting a chicken in my cruddy little apartment electric oven. Thankfully, I was successful (despite not really knowing to take the giblets out -- or that they were even IN there), and a love of cooking was born.

Anyway, as I said, it's been an evolution. I'm not a vegetarian, nor do I (at this point) intend to become one. I enjoy a nice steak or a dripping, jucy burger with the best of them, I just don't do it as often. I would say my meals are 70%+ vegetarian at this point. That said, I do have a husband to feed, and I don't want him thinking I'm feeding him a bunch of side dishes (which has in fact happened on more than one occasion). We both grew up in meat, starch and veg households (happily, I might add - I have nostalgia for that kind of eating), but with conventional wisdom on nutrition and the environment as well as the staggering energy and caloric inputs required to produce meat, my health and my conscience have lead me to change.

There's a lot of vegetarian cookbooks and recipes out there with seitan, tofu, TVP (textued vegetable protien)...well the list goes on. I happen to like most of these products, however I don't love cooking with them. Also, I'm leaning more towards single ingredient foods (say like...beets) versus 'manufactured' foods whenever I can. Whole foods are always better for you and you don't have to wonder what's in there.

Here comes Jack Bishop. It started with his book Vegetables Every Day (which was invaluable during my first year of subscribing to a CSA!! More on that another time.) and most recently has segued to A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen. His recipes are all about the vegetables and showcasing their fabulousness. I never feel like I'm eating side dishes or that I'm missing my protein with his recipes. I just feel like I'm having a great, flavorful meal. Last night, I used a recipe in A Year to launch my own version of 'Beans n Greens'.

I had some really lovely rainbow chard in the fridge and was headed to the store anyway, so I picked up a bunch of lacinto kale just to shake things up a bit and get a few different textures going in the greens. Everything else I needed I already had or was in the pantry. The greens I treated as you always do - clean them, remove the ribs and chop them roughly. (You can save the ribs to use in another recipe). I sliced two medium, yellow onions thinly and sauteed them for about 10 minutes in hot olive oil. I added several cloves of garlic (up to you how much you like!) and let them go until they became fragrant, then added the greens, some salt and pepper, then covered the pot to let the greens braise.

In the meantime, I took two cans of white beans and drained and rinsed them then plopped them into the food processor. I heated a cup of chicken broth (it's what I had and as I said I'm not a veg. You could use any broth or stock here and flavor it any way you want, keeping in mind you'll want to continue or at least compliment the flavor profile of the greens) then poured the hot broth in with the beans and blended them until very smooth. Next, a minced clove of garlic in hot oil for about a minute before pouring the beans in to warm them up. The greens had been in for 5 minutes now, so I turned off the heat.

Assembly was easy. A low, wide soup bowl made for the best aesthetic. I put a thick, steaming layer of the bean puree in, then mounded a pile of the hot, fragrant greens on top, and voila! The credit goes to Jack Bishop of course, but I put my own signature on the dish. That's what I'd encourage you do to as well. Use a recipe for your outline or inspiration, then add your own personal touch.

My husband liked it. A lot. There would be a photo, but we were too caught up in eating it.

Happy cooking.

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