Need a quick, cheap dinner to throw on the table that will also use up those frozen veggies you stocked up on last March? Look no further. I’ve got your back with these simple, budget-friendly greens and beans, an adaptation of a traditional Italian recipe that is quick, simple, and sure to please.
When Mr. Kettle and Kale and I were young, in love, and very stupid (uh-oh, have any of these changed? Jury is out), we lived in California with scarcely two nickels to rub together. We cut out any and all excess, living on next two nothing in a mold-riddled school subsidized apartment. The best and worst of times.
In tightening our belts I became a couponing queen, bouncing around between three different grocery stores to get the best deals on our weekly staples. I’d pull out the exact amount of cash we’d need to eat for the week and meticulously do the math to make sure we’d get three square meals a day. Like most of my inspiration, this is another one from my momma.
“Mom, we have a really tight grocery budget this week. What can I make?”
“You ever have greens and beans?”
Thus began a poor girl’s love affair with greens and beans, the cheap but filling protein-packed soup that warms your tummy on crisp, fall days like this without lightening your wallet.
What are Greens and Beans?
Traditionally, this dish is made with escarole and beans (hence the traditional Italian name, Escarole Frijole), but escarole is weirdly hard to find in my neck of the woods. As a result, I inevitably wind up substituting with kale, spinach, or whatever leafy green is the most abundant (and cost-effective) at the time I want to throw this together.
(The bastardized pronunciation in my household sounds something like: es-kuh-ROLL-ee-fruh-JOE-lee. One word. And it’s called this whether we put escarole in it or not because that’s just…what it is)
Honestly, I use whatever greens I have in my freezer.
Yes, you heard that correctly. You can make this with freezer greens. Do you still have quarantine-panic-induced frozen greens filling up your freezer? Don’t know what to do with them? Look no further. With just a bag of frozen spinach and a few additional ingredients, bing, bang, boom! You have dinner. All you need is:
- Frozen spinach
- Vegetable broth
- Fresh onion
- Fresh garlic
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Canned white beans (I use cannellini beans. Always.)
- Nutritional yeast (if you want that extra cheesy flavor!)
And of course, you’ll want to serve this with a crusty loaf of bread to round out the meal. I prefer to go with thick slices of homemade sourdough.
Want to learn how to make your own sourdough starter so you can serve your own fresh bread? Check out my walkthrough guide!
There are some recipes out there, like this one, that use bacon to impart a fatty, savory flavor, but I do not think that is necessary. If you want a little be of that extra fatty mouthfeel, feel free to add a little be of extra oil or other plant-based fat when cooking the vegetables.
Greens and Beans
- Large cast iron or stock pot
- 1 10 oz. bags frozen spinach defrosted, moisture wrung out
- 2 tablespoons olive oil extra virgin
- ½ whole yellow onion, medium-sized medium diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 15 oz. can cannellini beans rinsed and drained
- salt and pepper to taste
- 32 ounces vegetable broth (~ 4 cups)
- ⅓ cup nutritional yeast
- 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes optional
- Prep step: Defrost Greens. Defrost your frozen spinach in the microwave, according to the package instructions. Allow to cool, then wring out most of the excess in the spinach moisture with a clean dishtowel. What little moisture remains can cook-off on the stove, so do not feel like you need to strive for perfectly dry spinach.
- In a large pot over medium-low heat, warm the olive oil. Once warm, add the onions and sauté until onion is translucent.
- Once onions begin to become translucent, add garlic and sauté until fragrant, around one to two additional minutes. Stir consistently, being careful not to let the garlic burn.
- Season onions and garlic with salt and pepper, to taste
- Add defrosted spinach to the pot and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, allowing additional moisture from the frozen spinach to evaporate.
- Add vegetable broth, drained and rinsed cannellini beans, and nutritional yeast.
- Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat, allowing the mixture to simmer for twelve minutes.
- Adjust seasoning as needed and remove soup from the heat.
- Serve warm, with a pinch of red pepper flakes and an extra drizzle of olive oil, if desired.
I hope this recipe can warm you up, body and spirit, as we approach the colder months. Try and and tag Kettle and Kale on Pinterest and Instagram to let me know how it goes for you!