One goal of mine with this blog is to show all of you how cooking real food from scratch is not only better for you, but easy. It does require a little bit of forethought, but once you get into the mindset of thinking a day or two ahead of time, it almost makes life easier! You know what you’re having for dinner tomorrow night because you have the beans soaking tonight, for example. It takes the guessing game of “what the heck am I going to make for dinner” out of it and ensures that you will eat something good for you. Today I’m going to show you one of the easiest and adaptable meals that you can make, Beans with Bacon and Kale.
This dish is somewhere between a soup and a stew, and you can add more or less stock to make it go either way. You can also use sausage instead of the bacon, or even tempeh bacon if you want to make it vegetarian or vegan. The greens can be anything dark and hardy such as chard, collards, beet greens, spinach or even turnip greens (I love turnip greens in stews!). And you can use virtually any variety of beans here, even lentils or split peas would work well.
How to Make Beans with Bacon and Kale
First you need to soak your beans the night before (lentils or split peas only need to soak for a couple of hours).
I used one pound (about 3 cups) of Vermont Cranberry Beans that I got in my CSA veggie box (from Barking Moon Farm here in Ashland). Cover with several inches of water the night before. Yes, yes, I know that it’s been proven that you don’t need to soak your beans as far as cooking times go. But, it does help reduce the amount of anti-nutrients, so I still do it. Plus, like I said before, if you know you have beans soaking on your counter you’re less likely to get take out!
When it’s time to make dinner, strain and rinse your beans well. Here are the rest of the ingredients you will need.
About a half pound of bacon, a big bunch of kale, onion and garlic. One thing you’re going to realize about me is that I’m not big on amounts in recipes. I hope that doesn’t intimidate anyone, because I really see cooking as an art. I feel like you need to do what’s right for you and your family. Does it really matter if you use a 1/4 pound or a full pound of bacon in this stew? No. It just depends on how bacon-y you want it. Get my drift?
Anyways, you’re also going to need some stock, I used approximately 2 quarts of homemade chicken stock. Use any kind of stock you want, veggie is totally fine for you vegetarians out there.
Ok, now let’s get into it. I like to use a cast iron dutch oven for this, but any semi-big stock pot will work. First you’re going to roughly chop up your bacon and get that going in your pot. If you’re going veggie you’ll want to saute your tempeh bacon in some olive oil.
After the bacon starts to render some fat you’ll want to add one roughly chopped onion and saute.
While your bacon and onions are cooking go ahead and roughly chop your greens. You don’t have to be too particular about it because they will cook down a good bit, but you want to chop them into semi-bite-sized pieces.
When the onion starts to soften a little add a good amount of garlic (3-6 cloves). Have I mentioned that I like to use A LOT of garlic? I don’t trust people who don’t like garlic…
Cook that for a little bit, but DO NOT BURN THE GARLIC. This is very important, probably the only real rule I have in this recipe (and every forthcoming recipe). So many recipes have you add the garlic at the beginning and I’m just not down with that! By the time you start adding everything else your garlic is burned! Adding garlic after you’ve sauteed the rest of your veggies is one of the biggest cooking secrets I’ve learned to this day. Just sayin.
Once the garlic is softened (but not burned) add your stock.
Bring that to a good simmer, then add your greens.
Stir in your greens, then bring it all back to a simmer.
Turn the heat to low and cover.
Simmer for 1-2 hours, or whenever your beans are fully cooked. The smell in your house will be amazing right now!
Serve with a dollop of sour cream or greek yogurt. You can even top it with cheese if you’re feeling crazy! A little bit of chopped fresh herbs for some greenery, and maybe a chunk of homemade sourdough on the side, and you’ve got dinner!
Yes, this meal takes a little bit of forethought and time, but it is mostly hands off. You can get other things done while your Beans with Bacon and Kale are simmering away. And as long as your kids like beans they’re sure to like this, as anything with bacon is sure to please! The best part is knowing in your mind that you’re feeding your family with nourishing food that was made from scratch.
With the amounts used here this serves approx. 6-8 people, depending on how hungry you are.
Bacon and greens are a perfect match and make even the pickiest eaters enjoy eating their greens! Try serving it with turnip greens, radish greens, beet greens, spiced cranberry sauce and with roasted brussels sprouts.
Beans with Bacon and Kale
- Place the beans into a large bowl and pour enough water to cover them by about 2 inches. Soak the beans overnight.
- Strain and rinse the beans well.
- Heat a dutch oven over medium heat, then add the bacon. Cook 4-5 minutes, or until the fat starts to render. Add the diced onion, stir to coat in the bacon fat, and sautee until soft, about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and sautee another minute.
- Add the stock, and bring the liquid to a simmer. Then add the kale. Stir the greens into the stock, then bring the liquid back to a simmer.
- Turn the heat to low, then cover and simmer for 1-2 hours until your beans are fully cooked. Serve immediately with a dollop of sour cream or greek yogurt and some chopped herbs.