Slow-Baked Beans with Kale

Ah, the comfort of beans. What most mistake for a food to avoid due to their high carbohydrate levels are mistaken. Yes, beans do have a high amount of carbohydrates, however these are complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are not contributors to any sort of weight gain, instead providing the brain and muscles with a lot of good, stable energy supplies.

Beans also contain a wider variety of healthy nutrients than most foods. These include calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, magnesium, folate, and alpha-linolenic acid. These nutrients work together on several key areas of the body promoting total health. Beans also happen to be good sources of complete proteins, which is rare in plants. Plants, while having many different nutrients, often lack complete proteins of any kind.

In this case, beans baked slowly for several hours develop a wonderful, creamy texture, while the liquid they cook in, which thickens to a syrup, acquires a delicious caramelized flavor. The addition of kale practically melts in this casserole, going from bitter to sweet. I love using lima beans in this dish because they’re so big and their texture is so luxurious. Then there is the amazing benefits of kale in this wonderful dish. Kale can provide you with some special cholesterol-lowering benefits when cooked. The fiber-related components in kale do a better job of binding together with bile acids in your digestive tract when they’ve been cooked. When this binding process takes place, it’s easier for bile acids to be excreted, and the result is a lowering of your cholesterol levels. Raw kale still has cholesterol-lowering ability – just not as much.Kale also is now recognized as providing comprehensive support for the body’s detoxification system. New research has shown that the ITCs made from kale’s glucosinolates can help regulate detox at a genetic level.

Ingredients:

1 bunch organic kale, stemmed and washed in two changes of water

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium organic onion, chopped

1 organic carrot, chopped

1 rib of organic celery, chopped

4 organic garlic cloves, minced

1 2/3 cups organic white beans (3/4 pound) or dried organic lima beans, picked over and soaked for at least four hours and drained

1 6-ounce organic can tomato paste, dissolved in 1 cup water

3 cups additional water

A bouquet garni consisting of 4 parsley sprigs, 2 thyme sprigs and a bay leaf

1 teaspoon herbes de Provence

Salt and a generous amount of freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup bread crumbs

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt generously and add the kale. Blanch for two minutes, then transfer to a bowl of ice water. Drain, squeeze out water and cut into ribbons. Set aside. (I blanch the kale to extract some of the bitterness, but you can skip this step if you wish).

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat in a large ovenproof casserole. Add the onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender, about five minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute. Add the dissolved tomato paste, and bring to a simmer.

3. Add the drained beans, the remaining water, the bouquet garni and salt and pepper. Stir in the kale, bring to a simmer, cover and place in the oven. Bake three hours until the beans are tender and creamy. Taste and adjust salt.

4. Mix together the remaining olive oil and the bread crumbs. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the beans, and continue to bake another 30 minutes to an hour until the bread crumbs are lightly browned. Remove from the heat and serve; or allow to cool slightly and serve.

Yield: Serves six.

Advance preparation: You can make this recipe through Step 3 and store it in the refrigerator up to four days ahead of serving. Top with the bread crumbs, and reheat in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes until the beans are bubbling and the bread crumbs lightly browned.

Nutritional information per serving (six servings): 370 calories; 8 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat); 0 milligrams cholesterol; 58 grams carbohydrates; 12 grams dietary fiber; 191 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 19 grams protein

Original recipe found at the New York Times via Martha Rose Shulman.

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