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Produce: Your Perfect Pantry Partner

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I was rummaging through my pantry cupboards the other day and realized I had stocked up on way too many types of dry beans! Kidney, garbanzo, four types of lentils, Sunset Runners, pinto, vaquero, white beans, King City Pinks…well, you get the idea.

This got me thinking about doing a soup (or salad) of the week dinner plan for the last weeks of winter. This would not only be hearty and yummy - it would reduce my pantry supply and also help out with the grocery budget for the month. I perused my usual recipes and found they just weren't landing until I remembered to focus on what got me here in the first place: beans and my love of Melissa’s organic produce. That’s when an old favorite I adapted came to mind: Alison Roman’s Spicy White Bean Stew with Broccoli Rabe.

Spicy White Bean Stew with Broccoli Rabe
Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients
1 large bunch (or 2 small bunches) broccoli rabe or kale, thick stems separated from the leaves
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 organic medium red or yellow onion, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons harissa or tomato paste
Red-pepper flakes (optional)
3 (15-ounce) cans large white beans, such as cannellini, butter or Great Northern, drained and rinsed (I used dry beans, see cooking instructions)
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 preserved lemon, thinly sliced, or 1 lemon, halved, for squeezing
2 ounces feta or other salty cheese, such as queso fresco or pecorino, crumbled
1 cup organic parsley or cilantro, leaves and tender stems
Fried or medium-boiled eggs, for serving (optional)

Directions

If using dry beans:
Soak the beans. Rinse the dried beans in water and put them in a large bowl. Cover with at least four times their volume of water and leave to soak overnight. Drain and rinse the beans and put them into a pot with a heavy lid. Add just enough cold water to cover them. Add the rosemary, garlic, and a drizzle of olive oil. Bring the beans to a boil, then cover and simmer them gently for 20 to 30 minutes or until the beans are tender but not mushy. The cooking time will depend on the size and age of the beans; smaller and newer beans will require a shorter cooking time, so check on them after 20 minutes.

Tear broccoli rabe or kale leaves into bite-size pieces and set aside. Chop the stems into about ¼-inch pieces; set aside.

Heat ¼ cup olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic and onion, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and sizzled at the edges, 4 to 6 minutes.

Add harissa (or tomato paste and a pinch of red pepper flakes), and stir to coat in the oil. Cook until the harissa is a nice brick red color, the sugars start to caramelize and the oil turns a nice vibrant fiery orange color, about 2 minutes.

Add beans and season with salt and pepper. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, crush a few beans to release their creamy interior.

Add the broth and reserved stems, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook until you’ve reached your desired consistency (less time for a brothier soup, more time for a thicker stew), 15 to 20 minutes.

Add broccoli rabe or kale leaves and preserved lemon or lemon juice, and stir to wilt the greens. Season with salt, pepper and more red-pepper flakes if you want it spicier.

Serve with feta and parsley, and with eggs, if you like.
This would start my soup/salad month off perfectly! But what's next? Well, that's where Melissa's chefs and writers came to the rescue.

Cheryl Forberg’s La Minestra Soup would be a great use of my red beans. It has a delicious, hearty mix of organic fennel, onion, carrots and garlic to complement the beans and other ingredients.
Chef Tom Fraker’s Cabbage Bean Salad Tacos would use up a nice mix of my bean stock and be a nice change in my soup routine. (Plus, who doesn’t love tacos?)
Chef Heidi Allison's Spicy Masoor Dal would make a wonderful main course with some warmed Naan and steamed organic broccoli, or perhaps this refreshing Winter Green Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette by Chef Christina Pirello.

While Lyle Lovett sings, “Keep it your pantry,” I’m spending my month opening it up and cooking up some dishes that are hard to resist! What inspiration is hiding in your pantry this winter?
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