Gentle Readers, now that you’ve been through your pantries and rediscovered the location of your stash of beans and rice, it’s time to cook. Today’s meal features three food groups we eat on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, just in different forms. So this is neither the first nor the last time you’ll hear from me on beans, greens, and cornbread.
If you are new to The Practical Cook, or have not memorized my life story, I was born and raised in the southern part of the United States to a family of farmers and life-long cooks, vegetable growers, canners, and bakers. I’ve been in the kitchen since before I could see the top of the stove, and I’ve been eating meatless Sunday night meals since way before it was either cool or in a Chipotle app (though I suppose it is “meatless Monday” that is on trend).
But I digress. Why beans, greens, and cornbread? It’s high in nutrition, it’s easy to make in batches to feed a crowd, and there’s something in it for everyone at my table. My youngest, who we often refer to sarcastically as Dr. Atkins, loves bread like no other human I know. So when greens and beans are too boring/spicy/whatever for her, she can fill up on cornbread.
My eldest has loved legumes since she had her first chickpea as a child (and that was probably in her first 10 foods eaten), so anything involving beans she’ll eat. For Christmas, in her stocking, she got chow chow. For those unfamiliar, it’s a pickled relish that usually has cabbage, peppers, and some onion that you use as a condiment on beans. It can be spicy, sweet, or more vinegary, but it keeps the plainest bean dish interesting.
All three of us love greens, the leafier and the darker the better. Collards, mustard greens, arugula, kohlrabi greens, rainbow chard—the weirder and more bitter it is, the more we are going to eat of it.
This meal is affordable, flexible for what you have in your pantry, and a great way to use up leftovers or make good use out of shelf-stable food.
On the Table
Beans and Rice (I use my Instant Pot Faux Jambalaya Recipe with a couple of edits: I’ve quit using the spice packets in the beans, I add a healthy teaspoon of salt to the cooking water, I lower the cooking time a couple of minutes so I don’t overcook the small beans, and I doubled the tomato sauce because I stock the larger cans of no-salt tomato sauce.)
Corn bread: I have both plain cornmeal and self-rising on hand. For self-rising, my preference is to add some sugar and salt to make the flavor pop, and always choose melted butter over oil. (If you want THE resource for cornbread, for you or as a fabulous holiday gift, get The Cornbread Gospels [yes, I worked for the company in a past life, and swear by this cookbook]). I eat mine with molasses instead of honey and I’ll happily fight you on this topic.
Creamed kale: Now this is where we go off script. I had cream leftover from making yogurt in the InstantPot (yes, we can discuss that another time). I had two bags of kale that were overcrowding my fridge. If there’s creamed spinach, there must be creamed kale, right? Spoiler alert: my eldest called this restaurant quality and she isn’t given to exaggeration. We were both very impressed with ourselves (she researched recipes while I was prepping, a joint effort).
Creamed Kale Recipe
To prepare, I read two recipes (this one from Bobby Flay and this one) and then ignored them both. Okay, not ignored, but took some technique from and liberties with. Cooking is not baking, adapt at will to your tastes and what you have on hand. This is not the time to only make recipes that you have every ingredient for, this is the time to make do.
Tip: I’ve recently taken the habit of taking the half of an onion that is inevitably left from some recipe and chopping it right then and putting it in a zipper bag in the freezer. You’ll thank me and your past self later. I used some onion from frozen from this new habit. I also keep nutmeg whole on hand because I make carrot cakes and greens and it’s great in both and stays fresher longer. Use a Microplane grater to grate and yes order one if you don’t have it because it’s awesome. But also you can leave it out and just grind a little more black pepper or add some red pepper flakes. Don’t sweat the technique.
around 1/4 cup chopped onions
1 bag of kale (Tuscan, fluffy, whatever Trader Joe’s or your store has in a bag in the salad aisle)
salt and pepper
some fresh grinds of nutmeg
1/2 cup of cream or so
- Heat a large non-stick skillet (use one that has a lid that fits, you’ll need to cover it later) over medium-high heat, then add about a tablespoon each of olive oil and butter. Melt the butter and when it’s hot add the onion and lower to medium. Cook the onion until it’s softened, a couple of minutes.
- Add the bag of kale, season with salt and pepper, stir well so you mix the oil/butter/onion mixture into the kale, then put a lid on it. Let this cook, covered, stirring a time or two, until the kale is significantly wilted and actually fits into your pan, a few minutes.
- Add a few grinds of nutmeg (maybe adds up to 1/4 teaspoon) and your cream. Stir. If you like creamier kale or have a really big bag, add more cream. Make sure all the kale has been bathed in delicious cream, cover it back up, and let it cook for several minutes, checking on it and stirring occasionally.
- When the kale is cooked to your preferred tenderness, and the cream is reduced, taste for seasoning, adjust, and serve.
Coming up next: Vegetable Stock from Scratch and Scraps