Back-to-Basics Double Feature, Part 1: Pasta e Fagioli with Kale

16 Feb

So I’ve been having a rough few days in the kitchen.  It’s bound to happen when you try something new pretty much every night!  First the baked barbecue tofu was a touch too sweet.  Then I tried to make meatballs with Simply Lean as the base, and the texture was not right (no savory crust on the outside/fluffy meatball center.)  Then I tried a new recipe for vegan mac and cheese–or, as my boyfriend calls it, the Ark of the Covenant.  (I poured it over whole wheat rotini and it looked like brains, oh god.)  Note for future generations of vegans: There is such a thing as too much nutritional yeast.  You don’t want that ashy aftertaste.  (Which, no matter how good the sauce was on first bite–and it was pretty good!–never went away.)

But the thing about cooking is that you can’t give up on it, because you have to eat!  Every day!  Sometimes more than once.  And if you are going to eat vegan, and you’re coming home kind of late from the gym, it’s all you.  You better figure it out.

So I threw up my hands and went for a recipe from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Appetite for Reduction, which is great for a couple of reasons: 1) quick food 2) healthy food.  Okay.  I can handle making moderately fancy pasta.  So I did!

I was pretty delighted, because it turned out quite attractively!

Originally, the recipe was supposed to use spinach, but I suspected (correctly) that it would also work just fine with whatever other green I had on hand.  My only regret is not adding more kale.  (Attention vegan health people: Kale is a good source of calcium that is absorbed much more efficiently than equal quantities of the same mineral in cow’s milk!)  Plus it has vitamin A and lots of other good things.  Also, I genuinely like kale, mixed in with things or separately, and I really don’t like cooked/wilted spinach.  The leaves are too flat and slimy and whatever, and blue curled kale is much less bitter, I find.  I also used canned diced tomatoes instead of chopped plum tomatoes because I don’t have the patience and I do keep a bunch of cans of unsalted diced tomatoes on hand.  Plus there’s probably a touch more olive oil in mine than the original, but a little olive oil won’t kill you!

Plus, there’s beans for protein and nice whole grains, with just a touch of olive oil and garlic.  (Besides its health benefits, I actually really like the taste of whole grain rotini here!)

Pasta e Fagioli with Kale

Special equipment: Possibly a steamer for making greens; it keeps more of the nutrients than boiling

1-2 teaspoons of olive oil
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup of vegetable broth or white wine (I used vegetable broth because I keep forgetting to buy cooking wine–I could get wine, cook with it, and also drink a little with the same meal, but I still don’t seem to plan that well)
about 2 pounds of tomatoes, diced or chopped in some form or fashion (original called for 2 lbs of roughly chopped plum tomatoes, but diced regular ones from a can will give you something close enough; I also only had two 14.5 oz cans available, which is off by 3 oz, but fine)
1 15-oz can of navy beans, drained and rinsed (about 1.5 cups dried)
whole wheat pasta that is not spaghetti (I had some of the rotini left over, which worked out well.)
dash of coriander, garlic powder, and agave syrup (optional)
1-2 cups frozen kale or other green (you can use fresh; directions given for both.)

Set a pot of water to boil on the stove.  Preheat olive oil in a large skillet and mince garlic.  Saute for about a minute with salt and pepper, then add the tomatoes, wine/broth, and Italian seasoning.  Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil; once it comes to a boil, add the navy beans, then keep on medium-high, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes start to fall apart and the sauce reduces a bit.  (If you do have cooking wine, I would use it–I found that the sauce did not reduce as perfectly as I would’ve liked with broth.  It might just be me.  If you are using wine, keep the heat a little lower.)

While the sauce reduces and pasta cooks, bring about a cup of water to a boil in a saucepan and get your steamer assembled.  Once steam starts rising out of the steamer holes, toss the frozen greens onto the steamer and let them cook until de-thawed.  Set aside.  (If you have fresh greens, skip this step.)

The pasta and sauce should finish cooking at roughly the same time.  Drain the pasta.  In batches (again, I like to use a still-warm, emptied pot), mix the sauce and beans, the pasta, and the greens.  Keep stirring (with a pasta fork?  I don’t have one of these!  Stir with whatever, I guess) until the greens are completely wilted and soft.



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