Sometimes, especially on weeknights in the summer I have specific cravings for lighter, healthy meals (usually to undo all the bad stuff I ate that day—pretty sure that’s how that works) but I don’t have the time or the energy to think of what to make that will actually be filling. As a general rule, I don’t believe in eating salads for dinner, so I’m usually relegated to throwing together whatever’s in my cabinets and fridge, and won’t take forever to cook. This recipe was born from one of those nights, and I’ve made it over and over again since. It includes cannellini beans braised in broth with garlic, shallots, spinach and kale with some spices. Not only is this meal vegetarian, which makes it lighter, but it’s incredibly flavorful, and requires there’s very little prep and effort.
Why you should make cannellini beans and greens with lemony couscous
As I mentioned above, this recipe is light, but thanks to the protein in the beans and couscous, and fiber from the spinach and kale, it can also be a very filling meal. On top of that, it’s an incredibly flavorful and flexible recipe that can be done in about 20 minutes, including prep time, depending on how you prepare it (more on that below). It is also vegan!
As we’re nearing the end of quarantine, I can only imagine you’re trying to figure out what to do with all cans of beans you stockpiled at the beginning of all of this when you expected to be cooking a lot, but instead just ordered out every night………………No? ….Just me?
Pro Tips/Things to Know About This Recipe:
For beans, I use canned because they are already pretty tender right out of the can and who has time to be soaking beans to cook on a weeknight? Answer: not me. Like I mentioned above, this recipe is incredibly flexible, so you can swap Cannellini beans for Great Northern beans or Navy beans.
I like to use kale and spinach in this recipe for the difference in colors and textures, but if you only have one or the other, you can just use what you have on hand. You could also use another leafy green instead, like chard.
I have made this recipe with vegetable broth, chicken broth, and when I’ve had neither, with just aquafaba (the leftover water from the beans) and water. I often cook them in a combination of broth and aquafaba. Cooking the beans in a broth adds additional flavor that you may not get from the other ingredients, however, aquafaba provides additional protein that a veggie broth, for example, may not.
Herbs & Seasonings
This recipe calls for smoked paprika, a pinch of nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste, that said, this recipe leaves a lot of room to experiment with other seasonings. For example, I’ve added some cayenne, chili powder or red pepper flakes if I was in the mood for some heat. You can also add garlic or onion powder in as additional aromatics as desired.
I use thyme in the beans when I have it on hand as well, but when I don’t I substitute 2 bay leaves, which also tastes great!
For this dish I like couscous because it’s got a high protein content and the chewy consistency along with the soft beans just really works for me. However, these beans can definitely be served standalone, or with a different starch such as brown rice, orzo or quinoa. Again, just use whatever you have on hand.
One word of caution is that if you do not include a starch, or make another starch that you do not want to make lemony, I highly recommend that you add lemon juice to the beans themselves. This adds a tangy bite to the beans, which I would deem essential for this recipe to shine to its fullest potential.
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 5 large cloves of garlic (minced)
- ½ large Shallot—about ¼ cup— (minced)
- 5 sprigs of thyme
- 2 15.5 ounce cans of Cannellini beans (drained and separated from Aquafaba—if not using to braise, discard)
- 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika (more as desired)
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1 ½ cups of liquid (veggie broth, aquafaba and water, chicken broth)
- 2 cups rough chopped fresh, uncooked kale (packed)
- 2 cups rough chopped fresh, uncooked spinach (packed)
- Grated parmesan, Asiago or Romano for topping (optional)
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 cup israeli couscous
- 1 ¼ cup water or broth (chicken or vegetable)
- 1 juice from lemon
- Salt to taste
- Cook garlic and shallots. Place a large skillet pan over low-medium heat, add olive oil to warm for about 30 seconds. Add garlic and shallot to olive oil about 1 minute. Allow to cook with garlic and shallot for about 30 seconds, or until garlic and shallots are softened.
- Add cannellini beans. Add all Cannellini beans, stir with aromatics. Add paprika, nutmeg, salt, pepper and any additional spices. Stir to combine.
- Add liquid (aquafaba and water, veggie broth or chicken broth), and gently stir to combine. Cover with lid, turn to low heat, allow to simmer.
- Cook couscous. While beans cook, begin on couscous. Place a small pot over medium-low heat, add olive oil, then couscous. Toast couscous over heat, stirring every 1 minute to 30 seconds to avoid burning grains at the bottom of the pan. Once couscous is toasted (most grains should have deeper brown color—but none should be burned), add liquid and cook according to instructions on packaging.
- Check in on beans, stir from bottom to avoid burning. Once beans have absorbed flavors of liquid and seasonings, and liquid has reduced by half, add kale 1 cup at a time to beans, stirring to cook and reduce volume of greens. Once all kale has been added and reduced, add spinach. Cover to cook for 2-3 more minutes. Beans are completed once most liquid has been evaporated from pan, and greens are cooked. Once finished keep covered, turn off burner and remove from heat.
- Complete couscous. Once couscous has finished cooking, add lemon juice and salt, stir briefly to combine and taste. Adjust flavors as needed.
- Serve. Once completed serve beans over couscous, and top with cheese (optional).
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 464Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 15mgSodium: 563mgCarbohydrates: 58gFiber: 11gSugar: 2gProtein: 23g
Nutrition information is a rough estimate.