Meatless Monday – White Bean & Kale Dip

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Kale is the current ‘It’ food. We have Kale Chips, Kale Smoothies, Sauteed Kale and Kale salads. I guarantee if you show up at a party bearing anything with Kale, you will be heralded as a hip Foodanista.  I don’t want to knock kale, because it really is a nutritional powerhouse definitely worthy of being the star of the latest food fad. It’s not called ‘The Queen of Greens’ for nothing!   “One cup of chopped kale contains 33 calories and 9% of the daily value of calcium, 206% of vitamin A, 134% of vitamin C, and a whopping 684% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. (www.webmd.com)

Combine kale with white beans which are high in minerals, fiber and protein and you’ve got a snack worthy of superman. White Bean and Kale Dip combines some of my favorite flavors, white beans (cannellini), kale, cayenne, cumin, lemon, tahini and pine nuts and has none of the fattening creams or cheeses (which I love but am trying to cut back on).  The creaminess in this dip comes from the white beans, pine nuts and a bit of olive oil, all healthy and nutritious.  More importantly, it is delicious! If you are looking for a yummy but healthy appetizer, then this is for you.  I served it with pita crackers but its also great with carrots and other raw veggies.  You can also spread it on toasted bread and add a sprig of arugula and tomato. Yum!

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There are a surprising number of recipes out there for White Bean and Kale Dip (or perhaps not so surprising given kale’s goddess status).  Variations include walnuts or cashews instead of pine nuts and spinach instead of kale.  I would recommend Lacinato (Dinosaur) Kale, which is sweeter and less tough(chewy) than the curly type, for this recipe since we are using it raw. If you include nuts, I would recommend running them through the food processor or blender to make a fine powder before adding the other ingredients. You could probably also use an almond or cashew butter if you have it  instead.  Otherwise, this dip only takes a few minutes to put together but it needs at least an hour to chill in the refrigerator to firm up. I actually thought it tasted better the next day.  So time to jump on the Kale Bandwagon if you haven’t done so already!

White Bean and Kale Dip

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1 can white cannellini beans,- drained and rinsed
1 cup kale, roughly chopped
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup pine nuts (optional)
2 Tbsp tahini
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbsn balsamic vinegar
2 tsp lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
Zest from ½ lemon
1 tsp cumin (optional)
 1/2 tsp black pepper
½ tsp cayenne (or more to taste)
Salt to taste
1/4 cup water, if needed

White Bean and Kale Dip

Directions:

  •  If you’re using nuts, process them into a fine powder in the food processor before adding the other ingredients.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth. Add water if needed to blend ingredients.
  • Pour into a serving dish and chill in fridge for 1 hour or more.  It will thicken quite a bit and the flavors will meld.
  • Serve with crackers or raw veggies.

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Wheatless Wednesday – Mushroom & Barley Soup with Cannelini Beans

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Is Barley the smarter but less popular sister? Back in Medieval times barley was widely consumed and was one of the first grains cultivated by humans. Barley beer was thought to be one of the first alcoholic drinks developed by Neolithic humans. (Yes, that long ago)  Barley later on was used as currency which makes me think it was pretty important back then. (Wikipedia)  Barley is a nutritional powerhouse.  According to the FDA, barley’s soluble fiber reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and can lower cholesterol. Barley also contains insoluble fiber, which reduces the risk of Type 2 diabetes and colon cancer. Barley is virtually fat-free, cholesterol-free and gluten free.  Who knew our ancestors were so smart?

Did you know that barley is the number 4 produced grain in the US (behind wheat, rice and corn)? It is grown in more than half of US states, so why is barley not thought of as a regular rice, potato, wheat option at our dinner table?    Where is it going?  According to the Barley Growers Association  over half of barley goes to feed animals sold for food, 44% is made into malt for beer and whisky, 3% is for seed and just 2% is food for humans.  I guess we are more likely to be drinking our barley than eating it.

I admit that I’m guilty.  I have never made anything with barley.  My son and creative chef, Eric, who knows I have a new-found quest to seek out wheat free options, suggested I make a version of his barley soup (and  I just happened to have a package of Black Barley in my pantry that I didn’t know what to do with). Now that California is finally getting our winter (read seven days in a row of much needed rain) the thought of a big pot of soup bubbling away in my kitchen sounds pretty appealing.  It warms up your house and your heart from the inside out.

Black barley is a whole grain that has been prized for generations in Ethiopia. It has a chewy texture and dark purplish black appearance. It can also take 3 or 4 hours to cook so be forwarned.  Pearl barley, which is the variety typically found in supermarkets, is processed to remove some of the outer bran layer, but unlike with processed rice which has lost most of it’s food value, barley retains significant amounts of fiber and nutrients because the fiber in barley is located throughout the entire kernel and not just in the outer layer. Pearl barley cooks in about 30 to 40 minutes. I have also heard that there is a fast cooking barley but I don’t know where you can get it.  Regardless of which kind you use, follow the cooking instructions on the package and then incorporate it into the recipe.  You can substitute any bean or legume for the cannellini beans which adds a little protein boost. I think Eric often uses lentils which sounds like a good combination.  Feel free to use beer instead of sherry for twice the barley power. Stay warm and dry…
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Mushroom and Barley Soup with Cannelini Beans

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 cup barley, black, pearled or quick cooking
1 cup cannellini beans, cooked
1 Tbsn olive oil
1 small or 1/2 large onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large carrot, chopped
1 small zucchini, chopped
10 ounces sliced mushrooms, any kind
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 quart vegetable broth
2 tbsp dry sherry
  • Rinse barley to remove any lingering dust or debris and cook according to directions, as different types of barley require varying cooking times.
  • Heat oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven. Cook onion, garlic and carrots on medium heat until softened
  • Add dried herbs, vegetable broth, beans, barley, sherry, zucchini and mushrooms and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

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