Slow Braised Beans & Greens

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This is a classic Italian vegetable dish that is very inexpensive to prepare that originated from “cucina povera”. For this dish I bought a bag of dried chickpeas, a can of chopped imported tomatoes, and a bunch of Tuscan kale. To flavor the dish I added some diced onion, chopped hot red chili, and minced garlic along with some pancetta and created a large pot of tasty goodness.

This dish would be wonderful served as a side dish for grilled or roasted meat, or you can serve it like I did as a main course entree along with some crusty, Italian bread to sop up the tasty juices. Although I chose chickpeas as my beans of choice, dried pinto, Romano, or cannellini beans would also work. I prefer Tuscan kale, (also called Lacinato or black cabbage), although you could use your favorite greens such as spinach, mustard greens, curly endive, escarole, kale or broccoli rabe. We like our food to have a little spice, so I used a scant teaspoonful of hot red chili flakes, but feel free to use less, or skip them altogether if you prefer. To make this dish vegetarian, simply skip the addition of pancetta, and use vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth.

I truly adore hearty vegetable dishes such as this one which is both delicious and packed with nutritional value. Beans are a great plant based source of protein, and are rich in fiber, B vitamins, and minerals such as magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium and phosphorus. Kale has become a very popular vegetable in recent years and like other cruciferous vegetables, it is rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that are known to help boost the immune system and may lower one’s risk of developing cancer.

Buying Chickpeas – Look for beans that are intact and unbroken and try to buy from a source that has a good turnover. Very old beans will take longer to cook and often do not retain their shape as well as younger ones do.

Storing Chickpeas – Do not mix newly purchased beans with older ones and they may have different cooking times. Dried beans keep best stored in an air-tight container in a cool, dry place.

Cooking Chickpeas – Chickpeas take longer to cook than most other dried beans and do require pre-soaking. Place in a large bowl of water in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before cooking.

Read more about dried beans in my post Rediscovering Dried Legumes

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Buon Appetito!
Deborah Mele 2014

Slow Braised Beans & Greens

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 Cups (1 Pound Bag) Dried Chickpeas
  • 1/3 Cup Olive Oil, Divided
  • 1/2 Cup Diced Pancetta
  • 1 Medium Onion, Peeled & Diced
  • 5 Garlic Cloves, Peeled & Minced
  • 3+ Cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth
  • 1 (14 Ounce) Can Imported Chopped Tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons Dried Italian Seasonings
  • 1/2 to 1 Teaspoons Red Hot Chili Flakes (Optional)
  • 1 Bunch Tuscan Kale, Coarsely Chopped

Directions:

  1. Soak your chickpeas by placing them in a large bowl and covering them with cool water overnight.
  2. The next day, drain the chickpeas, then cover them generously with fresh water.
  3. Bring the beans to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the beans are just about tender, around 30 minutes.
  4. Drain the beans and set aside.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  6. In an oven-proof large casserole dish, heat half the olive oil over medium low heat and add the pancetta and onion.
  7. Cook, stirring often until the onion is translucent, about 15 minutes.
  8. Add the garlic and cook another 3 to 4 minutes.
  9. Add the chickpeas, broth, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and chili flakes to the casserole dish, then stir to mix well and place, covered in the oven for 1 hour.
  10. Include the chopped kale to the pot, stirring well to mix, then return the casserole dish to the oven for another 30 minutes adding a little extra broth if the mixture seems dry.
  11. To serve, drizzle the remaining oil over the bean mixture and serve warm or at room temperature.