It might be surprising to admit that I’ve only just recently acquired Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I can’t explain the delay–I initially thought there was too much overlap with his non-veggie book, but was quickly disabused of that notion. I then decided I had enough vegetable-themed cookbooks. Maybe, but there’s always room for a Mark Bittman! After both Kathryn and Andrea told me the had it and liked it, and seeing it on display at my local bookstore, I finally caved–and I’m loving it!
I’m not a vegetarian, but am quite happy to eat vegetarian dishes (especially if they have cheese). However, whenever I do try make something entirely plant-based, it always comes off a bit like a side dish to me. Cheese and eggs often solve that problem, but there has to be more to it than just throwing in goat cheese or making an omelet, right? Beans are obviously a great source of protein, but beans and rice, chili–there’s not the “side dish” issue here but they can wear out their welcome.
You know what I’m going to say next–my newest cookbook has a lot of great solutions I”m looking forward to trying. Last night I made one of the variations for Provencal Potatoes and Beans. And it was great: the combination of beans and potatoes is hearty enough, and well-rounded enough to stand as a main course. The potatoes are meltingly soft and velvet thanks to the way they are cooked, and this delicious texture surprised me not only the day I made it but the following day eating my leftovers. For me, as I didn’t use stock but rather water, the use of pimenton de la vera was also key to ensure the dish was complex and satisfying enough to stand on its own. (I was reminded that I needed to make better use of my pimenton after Amy’s post here, and am happy to report that as Mark Bittman appears to be a fan, I’ll be getting plenty of opportunity). It is uncanny to me how pimenton seems to be Spain in a jar. And suprising to me that it took so long for me to figure that one out.
I am calling this a weeknight dish even though if you add it all up, it takes a lot of time. If your beans are already cooked, it’s about 1h 45m start to finish. However, once you get the dish assembled (the most time-consuming bit of which is peeling the potatoes) you stick it in the oven and can almost forget about it. So you can do all that other weeknight stuff that is waiting for you. Perhaps that’s not such an appealing prospect, but sitting down in January to an earthy, simple, satisfying meal certainly is!
Provencal Potatoes and Beans with Spanish Paprika (Adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian)
- 3 cups cooked white beans (I used Mayacoba from Rancho Gordo, which are not technically white beans)
- 1t dried thyme (or 2t fresh)
- 1T pimenton de la vera / Spanish smoked paprika
- 3 medium russet potatoes (or other baking potato, I used 8 small red roasting potatoes)
- 1c stock (preferable) or water
- 3T butter
- salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 325F. Mix half the thyme and most of the pimenton into the beans and spread in a baking dish. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the surface. Peel the potatoes and slice thinly–if using larger potatoes, slice into half-moons, if using smaller potatoes, just slice. Arrange these on top of the bean mixture and pour in the stock. Dot with butter; sprinkle on the remaining thyme and pimenton; season with salt and pepper. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes, then remove the foil and bake 45 minutes more, until nicely browned and crisp on top.