Using the old bean

IMG_2778I’m certainly a carnivore (and seafood-a-vore) – no threat of veganism here. But like many, I’m trying to include more meatless dishes in my menus for the sake of health and checkbook. I have a couple of problems, though. Cheese is out as a protein source due to The Hub’s dairy allergy. And he dislikes most beans.

So, what am I doing with a cookbook called “The Great Vegan Bean Book”? I’m always in search of good dairy substitutes, and I hoped to find some dishes to add to the occasional-meatless rotation that did not always involve tofu. I have a love-hate relationship with the bean curd.

If you love beans of all kinds, this second cookbook by Durham writer Kathy Hester, published by Fair Winds Press,  will fill your bowl abundantly. Even if you’re working with a limited repertoire, as I am, there’s plenty to like. She begins with useful information on selecting and preparing beans of all sorts, then launches into recipes from breakfast and snacks to dessert. Most recipes include gluten-free, oil-free and soy-free adaptations.

I went looking for recipes using the four Hub-tolerant beans: black beans, chickpeas, lentils, green beans. There are several, including Pineapple Rum Beans over Coconut Lime Sweet Potatoes (using black beans) and Chickpea and Vegetable Lo Mein. The Creamy Chickpea and Rice Casserole intrigued me because casseroles have been off the menu – they’re usually laden with dairy products.

The casserole was easy to make and filling, with the creaminess of the faux sour cream. Hester’s aromatic poultry seasoning mix used in the dish would be good with, yes, actual poultry. I cheated a little – since vegan wasn’t my goal, I used chicken broth instead of water.

The only caution I would make about using this book is to be aware of can and package sizes given. I didn’t notice that the package of silken tofu specified for the sour cream substitute was a different size from the common brand in the supermarket I frequent, causing my sour cream to be not as thick as desired.

Here’s the recipe, which I would definitely make again.

Creamy Chickpea and Rice Casserole

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 small onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups chopped mushrooms

1 cup diced carrots

1 cup chopped green beans or green peas (fresh or frozen)

1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas or 1 (15-ounce) can, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon DIY Poultry Seasoning (recipe follows)

1 cup long-grain brown rice

2 1/2 cups water

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1/2 cup vegan yogurt or Extra-Thick Silken Tofu Sour Cream (recipe follows)

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven or oven-safe pot. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes more.

Add the carrots, green beans, chickpeas, poultry seasoning, brown rice and water. Mix well, cover with an oven-safe lid, transfer to the oven and bake for 1 hour.

Remove from the oven, add the nutritional yeast and yogurt or sour cream, and mix well. Taste and add salt and pepper and more poultry seasoning, if needed.

DIY Poultry Seasoning

2 tablespoons ground sage

2 tablespoons thyme

1 tablespoon marjoram

2 teaspoons celery seed

Mix everything together and store in an airtight container.

Extra-Thick Tofu Sour Cream

1 (12.3-ounce) package silken tofu

1-3 tablespoons water

Juice of 1 lemon

Add the tofu, 1 tablespoon water and the lemon juice to a food processor of blender and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides as you go. Add the remaining 1 to 2 tablespoons water if you need to thin the mixture or if you have a less powerful blender.