Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Dandelion Greens and Cannellini Beans Over Whole Wheat Pasta

The simple meals are often the best!
James has been doing most of the grocery shopping lately, which I love, but sometimes yields interesting results. Like last week, when we had spinach on the wunderlist (love that app!), but he came home with an unfamiliar green that I knew was not spinach. Leave it to Whole Foods and their lack of packaging (which I also love!) to confuse my fiance!

I thought the bunch of mystery greens was dandelion and a quick Google Images search confirmed that we indeed had to figure out what to do with that bitter dark green. Dandelion is insanely good for you. It helps cleanse and acts as a diuretic. If you're ever retaining water, skip the water pill and eat some dandelion greens instead! The thing is, I've eaten them before and I've never LOVED them because well, they can be really bitter if not done right.

I checked the indexes of my go-to cookbooks and found a few recipes, but none that wowed me, so I combined a few ideas and came up with this adaptation of many beans and greens recipes and is similar to my favorite escarole and beans. It's simple and reminds me of how my grandma prepares greens the traditional Italian way - simply sauteed
with garlic and olive oil.

2 tb extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 bunch dandelion greens, rinsed and chopped into bite-sized bits (other bitter greens work great in this recipe, too)
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and strained (navy beans or chick peas work, too)
1 c whole grain pasta (I used sprouted whole wheat, but any whole grain pasta will work. If you don't eat pasta, you can substitute brown rice rice, quinoa, barley, etc!)
1 c low sodium veggie broth (optional - I love a little liquid in dishes like this, but leave it out if you prefer a more traditional approach to pasta. you could add even more broth and some onion, celery, etc and turn this dish into a soup!)
handfull of chopped parsley
sea salt and red pepper flakes to taste
Parmesan cheese to taste (optional)

Boil a pot of water with some sea salt. Blanch the greens by submerging them in the boiling water for no more than 2-3 minutes. Then fish them out with a slotted spoon and rinse under cold water. Cook the pasta in the same water (time saver!). While the pasta cooks, saute the garlic gently (if it starts to brown, you can remove the garlic from the oil with a slotted spoon and over medium heat. Add the greens, red pepper flakes, and beans and heat through. Add the parsley, fold in, and turn of the heat (if you cook the parsley for more than a minute, it will start to lose both flavor and nutritional value). Strain the pasta, reserving 2 cups of the liquid in case you want to moisten the dish up a bit (or for leftovers). If using cheese, add straight to the hot pasta. Then, combine all the ingredients and, as my grandma would say, MANGIA!

A note about wheat: Wheat doesn't agree with everyone. Whether you're celiac/gluten intolerant or not, pay attention to the way your body responds to refined grains. After reading the best-selling book Wheat Belly late last year, I avoided wheat for a while and noticed a marked improvement in my digestive functioning. I thought it was the wheat, but recently started reintroducing it in a variety of forms to see what worked and what didn't. I also got a food sensitivity test done by my integrative physician, which indicated that I was highly sensitive to yeast, but not at all to wheat or gluten. Since then, I've felt better about a little pasta here and there! But everyone's different! If pasta makes you feel like crap (or if you find it as addictive as crack), swap it out for a whole grain here like brown rice (or brown rice pasta).