It’s a good thing that 2019 was declared “The Year Of the Bean”, because this love affair is coming in mighty handy in 2020. Beans were among the first items to fly off the shelf amidst the initial panic buying of the coronavirus, and for good reason. They are nutrient rich, full of fiber, filling, cheap, shelf stable and incredibly versatile in the kitchen.
While we may not have access to the beautiful heirloom beans that swarmed cooking accounts last year on social media, we can still do a lot with a few varieties of humble canned beans in our newly stocked pantries. And if you’ve got dried – all the better. Dried beans typically have a more appealing texture, flavor and are more economical than canned beans, and take barely more effort to prepare than heating up a pot of water.
White beans, like cannellini, tend to be a bit softer and milder in flavor than many other varieties. This simple recipe combines many pantry staples like tomato paste, dried chilies, smoked paprika, chicken broth and bay leaf with garlic, frozen shrimp, and a can of beans. The result? A simple and satisfying Spanish-style dish that is a great addition for a tapas menu or, with a vegetable side, as a whole meal. Don’t have shrimp on hand? Substitute with some brown rice or chopped hearty greens for a satisfying vegetarian variation.
The idea of this recipe is far more important than the ingredients. What type of produce do you have in your crisper? Chances are, you can use it for this soup. As long as you slice them thin so that they cook quickly, you can use any variety of spring vegetables to pair with any white bean (lima, great northern, or garbanzo all work) that you have on hand. Mix up some olive oil with whatever fresh herbs you have – basil, dill, cilantro, mint, and/or parsley are great options – to drizzle on top, and you have a bright and refreshing spring soup that’s perfect for an evening in. If you don’t have dried beans, simply omit the first step.
Another pantry friendly recipe, this dish provides a great solution for what to do with the dried out tortillas that you’ve neglected in the back of your refrigerator. Forget the avocado and queso fresco if you don’t have them; sour cream or plain full-fat yogurt are great substitutions to add a little cream and fat. No salsa? No problem. Use a can of tomatoes instead – just add some salt and spices to perk it up a bit (chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, chipotle powder or garlic powder all work well).
Beans are a great way to pack in the protein, and provide nice texture for a dish like curry. This simple recipe combines kidney beans (though garbanzo would work nicely), garlic, ginger, spices and tomatoes to bring a little taste of India to your home. Add any vegetables you have – potatoes or frozen peas are great – for some variety in flavor, color and texture. And be sure to make a double batch to freeze for later! Curries tend to taste even better with time.
Yes, you can absolutely satisfy your sweet tooth with a lowly can of beans. While we might not think of dessert when we think of canned beans, legumes are actually a great way to add some extra fiber, protein and texture to baked goods. (This gluten free black bean brownie recipe, for example, will solidify you as a believer.) This recipe calls for the typical ingredients stocked in a bakers’ pantry, and comes together in under a half hour.