Beans, beans, the magical week

If I had any decent skills with a sewing machine, I would consider making teeny little capes for legumes to wear. Before anyone has me committed, I’ll explain: these guys are food superheroes.

It wasn’t until I took an introductory nutrition class that I fully appreciated them. In nearly every section of that class, legumes popped up as great sources of vital nutrients. Fiber and complex carbohydrates? Oh, heck yes. Economical, non-animal protein? One of the best sources. Iron? Yep. B vitamins? They’re in there. Potassium? Sure. Seriously, I could have written in “legumes” for every answer on my exams, and gotten 8 of 10 correct without even trying (not that I actually did that, she says to the people currently considering her grad school applications).

With that in mind, I wanted to feature some tasty ways to enjoy legumes and reap their nutritional benefits. This week’s bean-powered recipe list:

  • Pasta with fava beans and zucchini (recipe follows below)
  • Three-bean chili, from Eating Well (here) – a note that I find this requires a longer simmer (approx. 40 minutes) than directed in the original
  • Lentil barley burgers with spicy fruit salsa, from Cooking Light (here)
  • Curried lentils, sweet potatoes and chard, from Smitten Kitchen (here) – the recipe that introduced me to Deb’s fantasticness; it is in heavy rotation at our house
  • Baked beans and fruit on cinnamon raisin toast (recipe follows below)
  • Chocolate chickpea cake, from Serious Eats (here) – a recipe I haven’t tested yet, but it sounds good. If you make it, I’d love to hear your opinion of it!

Pasta with fava beans & zucchini

Coming up with a week’s list of legume-centric recipes was easy, but mostly where main dishes for lunch or dinner were concerned. I searched the recesses of my brain and my recipe binder for breakfast recipes, but returned empty-handed. So I asked teh internets, which told me: Johnny Cash did a song called “Beans for Breakfast”; beans on toast with some vinegar are a very British breakfast; and Americans love them some beans in a breakfast burrito.

I couldn’t find a direct use for the Johnny Cash trivia, but I did take some inspiration from the other two findings. Well, maybe anti-inspiration, because I decided I wanted to take a path that diverged from the egg-y burrito or huevos rancheros route. But I did like the beans-on-toast idea, and came up with a pretty simple recipe for baked beans and tree fruit (apple or pear) over cinnamon raisin toast.

Beans & apple on cinnamon raisin toast

The first attempt yielded a result that Tim & I liked, but didn’t love. A lot of factors contributed to its blandness: I had inadvertently purchased baked beans in a tomato sauce, which I rinsed off to leave only naked, bland beans; the apple I used (a Jazz) wasn’t tart enough; and the brown sugar didn’t really stand up to the other flavors.

Attempts two and three, however, were much tastier. I swapped in maple syrup for the brown sugar, and tried one batch with a Granny Smith and the other with an under-ripe pear. Each version had its own highlights – the apple mix was subtle and had more bean flavor, while the tangy pear made that version decidedly more fruity. If you want to see some of the trial-and-error process, there are more photos on flickr.

Switching gears back to dinner recipes, I also wanted to highlight the tastiness that is fava beans. We grew some in our garden this past season, but I’d never actually eaten them before. When they were ready to harvest, I found a couple recipes on Serious Eats and combined them into pasta with fava beans and zucchini. Given that it is seriously winter here in the Northeast, I didn’t have the luxury of freshly picked fava beans this time around. I tried it with canned beans instead, and the dish still yielded a pleasant mix of flavors and textures.

Ready to leap tall buildings in a single bound with our caped legume crusaders? Then here are some recipes:

Baked beans & fruit on cinnamon raisin toast (text file here)

This recipe can be made with either apples or pears – heck, maybe even a mix of the two. When made with apple, the fruit flavor is subtle and the beans more prominent. With a pear, it’s the opposite – the tangy fruit stands out more than the beans. I found the pears got soupier after cooking, so you may want to scale back on the water added to that version.

You can skip the maple syrup, cinnamon and nutmeg if you’re using baked beans with flavor already added (maple sugar, etc).

(4 servings, approx. 270 calories each)

1 16 oz can of vegetarian baked beans – in minimal sauce, and not mixed with tomatoes or tomato paste
1 large piece of fruit, diced into small pieces – either an apple (tart variety like Granny Smith), peeled and cored, or a large pear (slightly under-ripe) cored with the skin left on
1 Tbs maple syrup
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1/4-1/3 c water
4 slices of cinnamon-raisin bread, toasted

Combine beans, fruit, maple syrup, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a mixing bowl, and partially mash.

Put the mixture in a medium saucepan, add water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until the apples have softened.

Spread one quarter of the bean mixture over each of the cinnamon raisin toast slices.

Pasta with fava beans & zucchini (text file here)

This is a mash-up of two fava-bean recipes from Serious Eats (here, and here). If you’re using fresh fava  beans (which I prefer) check out the Serious Eats version for instructions on blanching and shelling. The version below uses canned beans and doesn’t require those steps from the original.

(4 servings, approx. 390 calories each)

4 cups uncooked whole-wheat pasta
2 cloves of garlic
1 can (approx 16 oz) of fava beans
1 large zucchini, sliced
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs butter
Salt & pepper to taste
4 Tbs grated romano or parmesan cheese

Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the pasta according to package directions. When done, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and sautee the garlic until fragrant and soft. Add the zucchini and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the fava beans and a splash of water and cook gently until the beans are tender, 3-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the butter to the skillet. Toss and cook until the butter has just melted (1 minute or so), then remove from heat. Add the drained pasta to the skillet and a little pasta water. Toss to combine, until a sauce has formed.

Remove the pasta to bowls, top with grated cheese and serve.


  1. websteras says:

    This breakfast beans thing has got me thinking… thanks for the idea. When Amy asks, I know exactly where I’ll direct her!

  2. Thank you for pointing me to this! I am anxious to use my fresh fava beans, and can’t wait to check out the other recipes too. You’re the best!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *