Let’s let kale’s meteoric rise in popularity be an inspiration to get more greens onto our plates. Since kale got a talented publicist about 10 years ago, more and more of us have been taking advantage of the delicious and healthy benefits of greens. And, like so many other beloved food pairings—
such as peanut butter and jelly, lemon and honey, ginger and garlic—
greens make their best moves with their favorite dance partner: beans.
Ancient and contemporary Mediterranean cuisine is loaded with a wide spectrum of nutritious and delicious combinations of this dynamic duo. Beans, paired not just with kale, but also with spinach, mustard greens, broccoli rabe, and a wide variety of wild greens that flourish along the roadsides and hills throughout the Mediterranean, have a long tradition in the pots and pans of kitchens from Morocco to Mallorca to Turkey and everywhere in between.
Bountiful, inexpensive, and filling, beans and greens are part and parcel of just about every cuisine in the world, yet it seems the Mediterranean nations have really taken advantage of these two ingredients with hearty, high-protein, one-pot dishes rich in vitamins and minerals.
Dark green leafy vegetables are great sources of nutrition, from salad greens, Swiss chard, and escarole, to kale, spinach, and collard greens. Put them together with beans—
whether chickpeas, black beans, white beans, or any other—
and vitamins and antioxidants abound, made even more appealing by low calories, a low glycemic load—
and low cost.
You may have grown up being familiar only with the name beans, but increasingly today you’ll also hear the words “legumes” and “pulses” used for many of the same foods. Legumes are a large botanical family, including beans, lentils, peas, peanuts, carob, soy, and even alfalfa and clover. Pulses are dried edible beans including chickpeas, lentils, and kidney beans. Many, but not all, legumes, when dried, are considered pulses. Now you know how these terms overlap.
Easy ways to get greens and beans on your table:
- Quick saute: No need to measure; simply heat some olive oil and soften some onion and garlic (maybe a pinch of chili flakes), wilt a few handfuls of spinach or chard, and finish with rinsed canned beans.
- Finish a soup or stew: Add the chopped larger, tough leaves from collard greens and your favorite rinsed canned beans in the last 10 minutes of cooking.
- Salad days: For some new tastes and textures, mix things up from your usual bowl of lettuce and vegetables with some arugula or cannellini beans.
The possible ways to combine beans and greens are endless, but here are a few recipes to get you started.
Click on a title or photo below to go to the recipes.