My friend, NYT bestselling food writer Kathleen Flinn was visiting me recently. As she and I sat and chatted, she picked up a cookbook that I had proudly displayed on my coffee table. “This looks like such a terrific book! I should order one for my mother. She would love it,” Kathleen remarked as she flipped the pages of The Great Vegan Bean book. Can I tell you.. I was glowing! I have nothing to do with this book except that the author, Kathy Hester, is one of the star students of my food writing class. I love Kathy and her work, her enthusiasm, her innate ability to find positivity in everything and her perseverance and focus. And, yes, when two food writers are drooling over a book, you know it has to be good!
I asked Kathy to tell me about her book, the recipes and, of course, her love of beans. So here you go and do yourself a favor – order The Great Vegan Bean Book – you will not regret it.
My love affair with beans
My love affair with beans began the summer I turned 18. I really didn’t much like beans before then, but honestly I didn’t really give them a chance. In my family’s house we had pintos cooked up with a thick slab of fatback topped with pungent raw onions and freshly sliced hot peppers. They weren’t as kid-friendly as white beans tucked into a thick Belgian vanilla waffle.
The book may have vegan in its title but you certainly don’t have to be vegan or vegetarian to enjoy recipes like White Bean Pecan Pate, Beluga Lentil Borscht or a White Bean Niçoise Salad. Plus you’ll get kudos from your doctor for adding all that fiber, minerals and vitamins into your diet.
Once you’ve gotten the bean habit ingrained, you’ll find yourself going rogue and trying beans where beans supposedly don’t belong. If you’re like me odd recipes like lemon coconut chickpea muffins, red bean filled mini muffins, sloppy Buffalo kidney beans and even double chocolate devil’s food cookies made with black beans will swirl around your brain until you give them a try. Even after I wrote The Great Vegan Bean Book I can’t seem to stop developing new bean recipes or quit ordering more heirloom beans.
If you are a jaded bean eater all you need is one trip to Rancho Gordo’s site to find enough heirloom beans to keep you busy. My current favorites are Mother Stallard Beans, a football shaped bean that makes the perfect broth, and any of their runner beans. The runner beans come in purple, black or scarlet and each one is fairly large and a perfect focal point for a dish with its toothsome heartiness that holds together well in soups and stews.
The one thing I found most people overlooked when using dried beans was looking through the beans for little rocks or other things you don’t want to cook up in your pot of beans. After you do that make sure to give them a rinse to remove any dirt. After all beans should equal dinner, not a trip to the dentist!
Most of the recipes in The Great Vegan Bean Book call for precooked beans. This allows the recipes to be accessible even on the busiest unplanned days. Beans can be cooked in large batches and frozen in can-sized portions of 1 1 2/ cups so you always have some ready to use. I also include gluten-free, soy-free and oil-free options whenever possible.
Thai Coconut Tongue of Fire Soup
soy-free | gluten-free | oil-free
From ‘The Great Vegan Bean Book” by Kathy Hester (Reprinted With Permission From Fair Winds Press)
The tongue of fire in the title refers to a variety of heirloom beans with that name,which have a meaty mouthfeel and an undertone of spice in them. They are firm like kidney beans, which you can use in their place if you can’t find the exotic ones.
2 cups (470 ml) water
1 can (14 ounces, or 400 ml) light coconut milk
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemongrass paste or
3 pieces lemongrass, smashed with the flat side of a knife (or substitute 1 teaspoon other lemony herbs such as verbena or lemon balm, or 1 teaspoon lemon zest)
1 teaspoon galangal root paste or grated ginger
1 teaspoon kaffir lime leaves (optional)
Two 1-inch-long (2.5-cm) slices ginger
12 fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced or minced
1 ½ cups (375 g) cooked Tongue of Fire or kidney beans or 1 can (15 ounces, or
420 g), rinsed and drained
1 cup (164 g) corn kernels
½ teaspoon salt
½ red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
Zest of ½ lime
¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons minced cilantro, plus more for serving
Lime wedges, for serving
Put the water, coconut milk, garlic, lemon grass paste, galangal root paste, kaffir lime leaves, ginger, mushrooms, beans, corn, and salt into a large saucepan or small stockpot. Cook uncovered over medium heat for 15 minutes so the flavors can infuse into the broth.
Add the red pepper, lime zest, and cayenne and cook until the veggies are tender but still firm, about 15 more minutes. Add the cilantro and taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.
Serve with the lime wedges and extra cilantro.
Yield: 4 servings
Per 1 ½-cup serving: 187.8 calories; 5.0 g
total fat; 3.8 g saturated fat; 6.7 g protein;
28.2 g carbohydrate; 6.9 g dietary fiber;
0 mg cholesterol.
Total Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Serving Suggestions & Variations
• I’ve found jarred galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and lemon grass in my local grocery, so if you live in or near a city you may be able to find these exotic ingredients there. If they aren’t in a nearby store you can also get them online.
• If you can’t find the kaffir lime leaves, they can be
Fancy Bean Substitutes: Scarlet Runner Beans, Sangre de Toro