I love the ways simple foods pair so well together. Take beans and greens - humble, simple food enjoyed throughout the world. I love the way creamy white beans pair beautifully with the briny, mineral notes of kale and garlic. This White Bean and Kale Gratin makes a simple side dish, but is substantial enough to serve as a main course when paired with a light salad dressed with olive oil and vinegar.
Cooking with dry beans requires a little extra planning, as they benefit from soaking overnight in warm water which helps to make them easier to digest and quicker to cook. I save time in the kitchen by soaking a pound of dry beans or more, boiling them until tender and then freezing them for later use. You could also substitute canned beans in this recipe for dry beans if you're in a pinch.
White Bean and Kale Gratin
For the Beans and Greens
- Scoop the beans into a mixing bowl with a tight-fitting lid, cover with warm water by two inches and stir in the baking soda. Allow the beans to soak at least twelve and up to eighteen hours. Drain them and rinse them well.
- Dump the beans into a stock pot with a heavy bottom, cover them with water, and bring them to a boil over high heat. Immediately reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the beans until tender and cooked through, about ninety minutes. Drain.
- Heat the oven to 400 F.
- While the beans simmer, warm two tablespoons olive oil in a oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Drop in the the garlic and red chile flakes, allowing the garlic to sizzle in the olive oil until it releases its fragrance, about two minutes. Turn down the heat to medium, and stir in the kale, sauteing it continuously until slightly wilted, about two more minutes. Stir in the broth, and let kale cook in the hot broth until wilted and tender. Stir in the beans and a teaspoon of salt. Turn off the heat.
- Warm a tablespoon of olive oil in a separate skillet, and then stir in the breadcrumbs, onion and garlic powders and half teaspoon sea salt. Toast the seasoned breadcrumbs, stirring continuously to prevent scorching, until amber brown.
- Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the beans and kale, and then top the breadcrumbs with Parmesan cheese. Transfer to the oven and bake for fifteen to twenty minutes, or until the crust becomes crispy. Serve warm.
Soak Your Beans for Better Nutrition
Beans benefit from soaking in hot water which makes them easier to digest and quicker to cook; even more, it makes their minerals more bioavailable and more easily absorbed. Soaking beans helps them to release raffinose, a type of carbohydrate that can cause digestive upset and gas.
Soaking also activates enzymes held within beans that deactivate food phytate, a natural component of beans that binds up minerals and prevents their full absorption. When you soak your beans, all those minerals that were previously bound by food phytate become a much more readily absorbed by your body - making beans all that much more nutritious.