To get well soon? Try our favorite bean and veg recipes

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In mid-December, I got a text from my mom: “This year I’m making peanut butter balls, pumpkin cookies with cream cheese frosting, ginger cookies, cranberry date bars and I wanted to try and come up with some eggnog cookies.”

There was a beat, then she sent a follow-up message.

“I don’t speak like dozens of everyone,” she wrote. “Just a small selection of things.” (Reader, there were dozens more of each). Meanwhile, her mom, my maternal grandmother, had already started her own batches for the holidays: chocolate fudge, peanut butter fudge, sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies, and probably some competing cranberry date bars and peanut butter balls.

If my father’s mother were still alive, she would have added something to the mix, especially with her pillowy chocolate chip cookies, which she placed on the baking sheet with such precise precision that they all looked startlingly uniform; My siblings and I used to joke fondly about how she rearranged the chocolate chips with tweezers so the end result would be identical.

That said, I come from a line of women who are baking for the holidays – I mean really baking. I’ve also made a habit of it and found my alley making miniature gingerbread cloud cakes, homemade cinnamon buns and assorted breads. If you’re curious, sometime ask me about the year I made 72 miniature babka knots in my studio kitchen as Christmas gifts.

Like many people, the holidays have been a time of sugar rushes and dips, and while I’m not one to equate food with guilt or shame, I politely but promptly unfollow anyone who posts how many jumping jacks or sit-ups I’d have to do to “work off” various holiday treats – the first of the year provides a time to rebalance my diet so it’s not 20% royal icing.

In January I’m leaning towards beans and veggies, so here are some of our favorite recipes and stories from the salon archives that really make these ingredients shine. This list first appeared in Salon Food’s weekly food newsletter, The Bite. Be sure to subscribe to special recipes, essays, and how-to guides that get delivered straight to your inbox each weekend.


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Kale-ing it this holiday season

Earlier this week I made a variation of Molly Baz’s Crispy Chicken Salad, which Mary Elizabeth Williams covered in her weekly Quick and Dirty column this summer. Typically, the recipe uses a Napa cabbage as a base, then builds flavor with salty Cotija cheese, radishes, cilantro, garlic, lime, shredded fried chicken — and a healthy bit of crunch from shredded cornnuts or fritos.

My version was to salvage a bunch of farmer’s market kale from the fridge and top it with goat cheese, a stray handful of peppery arugula, corn nuts, roast chicken, and some clementine segments and juice. While not entirely faithful to the original, this version was incredibly flavorful, filling, and served as a beautiful kitchen cleaning recipe that included lots of greens.

Use Molly and Mary Elizabeth’s recipe as a base for your winter salads, along with Maggie Hennessy’s guide to digging out of your next salad furrow (and her hearty lunch-worthy panzanella recipe).

Bean cakes, gratins and love letters

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Frances Moore Lappé’s “Diet for a Small Planet,” Mary Elizabeth Williams reimagined her fall beancake that—with its indulgent blend of corn, kidney beans, and shredded cheddar cheese—is truly non-seasonal. It’s a perfect dish for those chilly winter evenings when you want something not too heavy but still comforting.

Slightly more decadent is David Kinch’s Bean and Vegetable Gratin, which mixes a healthy amount of melty cheese with cannellini beans and shredded kale, all with a crunchy breadcrumb crust. Jackie Freeman’s Cauliflower and Lima Bean Gratin is a similar recipe — use it as a starting point depending on what you have in your own fridge and pantry.

While you wait for your pies and gratins to bake, take a moment to read Maggie Hennessy’s love letter to kidney beans, in which she “grows.”[es] poetic about that particular bean that is unimaginably overlooked in many homes.”

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