Jun 18, 201510:18 AM
Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene
Since I was a student in the late 80s, I have been interested in cooking good food on a budget. That used to mean, in part, cooking less-popular cuts of meat, but these days you try pricing oxtail or chicken wings and see if you can call them “cheap.”
So it’s a lot of beans these days, which are still relatively inexpensive for the amount of protein they provide. If you really want to stretch things, you add a little meat, some greens, and stew everything together so you have a dish you can serve over rice, pasta or another starch.
One recipe I’ve been making a great deal the last few weeks has been a combination of garbanzos, greens and tomatoes. The basic dish is vegan, though I’ve added a little sausage, and when I have chicken stock on hand I use that too. I wouldn’t say those additions make it better, so much as different.
I’ve stuck to garbanzos, because I like the way they hold their shape even after long cooking, but just about any legume will do. In terms of the greens, I’ve made it with collards, mustard and turnip greens, three different varieties of kale, beet tops and, in a pinch, frozen spinach.
I’ve also used canned beans and tomatoes, because I think those are perfectly acceptable products and because I’m saving my fresh tomatoes for dishes in which they’ll be the stars of the show – as opposed to a supporting player.
This is a weeknight recipe, to be sure, even if you jazz it up a little. The whole thing can be done in 30 minutes, depending on what greens you choose, though it’ll taste like it’s been simmering for hours.
Garbanzo, Greens and Tomato stew
1 can Garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch greens, thick stems removed and sliced crossways
1 can diced tomatoes
½ cup water or stock
1-2 garlic cloves, chopped
½ medium onion, chopped
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tbs. fresh parsley leaves, chopped (and/or oregano, mint, rosemary, etc.)
2 tbs. olive oil
Put the olive oil in a heavy pot on medium heat; when it starts to shimmer, add the onion and a minute later, the garlic. When they become soft and start to brown, add the greens and stir, seasoning with salt. After a couple of minutes, lower the heat and add the tomatoes with their liquid and the wine or stock. Stir again then cover and cook on low heat for 10 minutes or so (longer for tougher greens like collards). Stir again and add the parsley (or any other herbs) and the garbanzo beans, then return to low heat and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Finish by seasoning with salt and lemon juice, fresh pepper and a little additional extra virgin olive oil.
If you like, you can add some diced sausage to the first step, before you add the onion and garlic. Similarly, you could add diced bell pepper and celery to the vegetables, and spices like cumin, coriander and smoked paprika work really well.
The basic recipe above is enough to feed two hungry adults and a relatively hungry 3 year-old. When I have more mouths to feed, I double or triple it; the dish only improves after a day in the fridge, so making too much is never an issue.
I’d be happy to hear any variations on the “cheap eats” theme, vegan or otherwise.