My favourite sources of plant-based proteins are, without doubts, beans and legumes. I’ve been eating them in abundance since I was a kid (usually in the form of soups) so they’ve never been things I’ve had to learn to like. Part of the reason why I prefer legumes over soy-based products such as tofu, for protein, is because they bring more variety of textures and flavours to the dinner table. Chillis, hearty stews, dips… there’s a whole world of possibilities with beans (and there are quite a lot different varieties to try). Besides, they’re minimally processed, something tofu isn’t.
Casseroles/stews and dips have been my favourite ways of eating beans. White beans work particularly well in veggie dips as they get really soft and smooth when blended. Plus, their taste isn’t particularly strong or dominant, so you can play around quite a bit and combine them with a lot of different ingredients (another favourite of mine is the white bean and miso combo). As far as the greens go, I used both spinach and Japanese greens in here. They were simply and quickly (no longer than 2 minutes) sautéed with garlic and olive oil and added atop of the toast for a bit of bitterness. You’ll probably end up with more bean dip than you’ll actually need for the toasts – the leftovers keep well in the fridge for a week and are really great smeared on savoury pancakes and/or as a filling for lettuce wrappers.
White Bean and Roasted Garlic Tartines with Wilted Greens
(makes 4 to 6 toasts)
for the white bean and roasted garlic dip:
1 large garlic head / 70 g, top sliced off
1 ½ cups cooked white beans (canned is fine)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
for the wilted greens:
250 g spinach or Japanese greens or, as I used, a mixture of both in equal parts
1 big garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pinch red pepper flakes
salt to taste
lots of freshly grated nutmeg
4 to 6 slices of a good, whole grain bread
Pre-heat the oven to 180º.
Grab a piece of aluminium foil (15 by 15 centimetres is more than enough) and add a drizzle of olive oil over it. Place the garlic head, cut side down, over the foil and add a pinch or two of salt. Wrap the foil around the garlic head and put it in the oven, in the middle rack. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the white beans, salt, dried thyme, black pepper, lemon juice and olive oil. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins and add them to the bowl. Process everything until very smooth.
In a cast iron pan over medium heat, add the garlic, olive oil and red pepper flakes and fry for no longer than 30 seconds. Add the greens and gently stir everything together so that the greens get evenly wilted. Cook the greens no longer than 2 minutes and, at the very last moment, add freshly grated nutmeg.
In a separate pan, toast the slices of bread.
Spread a layer of the bean mixture over the bread slices and add the greens on top. Drizzle a bit more olive oil over each toast, if desired, and eat immediately.
If you check this blog regularly, chances are you’ve probably noticed that I have a soft spot for veggie burgers. Out of the 62 recipes posted to date in here, 6 of them consist of some sort of patties – and being honest, I think there will be a lot more to come. What I mostly like about veggie burgers is that you can play around with ingredient and flavour combinations – mixing spices, nuts, whole grains, legumes and vegetables – and end up with a protein-packed component of a dish. When paired with a salad of sorts, they make quite a satisfying meal.
This burger in particular came out of the need to clean up the fridge: there was this neglected pepper in the bottom shelf that would go bad in a matter of days, halves of onions wrapped up in parchment paper for a supposed later use, a nearly empty large jar of olives… I could go on. I strongly encourage you to give these a try as they have a contrast of flavour and texture – soft and salty olives / crunchy and nutty seeds – that really seals the deal for me.
When it comes to serve them, this time around I thought of something different from “the classic” – in between two pieces of bread – and came up with the idea of wrapping the patties in thin slices of grilled eggplant. The eggplant adds extra moisture and a distinct smoky flavour that I’m particularly fond of. In case you want to up the patties’ (already high) protein content, an open-faced “sandwich” made with grilled Portobello mushrooms – just like this one – would be an excellent choice.
Black Bean and Red Pepper Burgers
(makes 6 patties)
2 large onions / 300g / 2 cups, finely chopped
1 medium sized red bell pepper / 220g / 1 cup, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly crushed in a mortar and pestle
1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds, lightly crushed in a mortar and pestle
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika (1/2 teaspoon if using regular paprika)
240 g / 1 ½ cups cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
60 g / ½ cup buckwheat flakes (you can substitute with rolled oats)
55 g / 1/3 cup green olives, coarsely chopped
40 g / 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1 big handful chopped coriander
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sunflower seeds and toast them for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they’re golden brown and smell fragrant.
In the same skillet you used for toasting the seeds, add the finely chopped garlic cloves, coriander and cumin seeds, smoked paprika and olive oil. Cook the spices and garlic over a medium-high flame for 1 minute.
Add the onions, pepper and salt to the skillet, give it a good stir, and turn the heat down to medium-low. Cover the skillet with a lid and let the mixture cook for about 15 minutes, or until the onion and pepper bits are soft and slightly caramelised. You should check the skillet every 5 minutes to avoid burning the mixture – if the latter seems dry, add up to 2 tablespoons of water each time you check it out.
Once the onion mixture has been cooked and cooled down, add half of it to the bowl of a food processor. Add the beans as well. Pulse a few times, or until you get a sticky but consistent paste.
Transfer the bean and onion mixture to a bowl. Add the buckwheat flakes and incorporate well using a wooden spoon. Add the chopped green olives, toasted sunflower seeds and coriander as well. Mix again. You’ll end up with a slightly moister mixture, but it should still be possible to make patties out of it. To make the job easier, wet your hands with cold water and shape the mixture into 6 burgers (or more, depending on the size you choose).
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil, over a medium flame, in a large skillet. Add the patties and cook them for 3-4 minutes on each side. Serve with your favourite condiments and fixings or as suggested above.
This is one of my favorite sandwiches. It calls for only a few ingredients, but they work so well together that you don’t need anything else. A crispy baguette is filled with caramelized onion (whose sweet flavor is brightened by the addition of balsamic vinegar), slightly grilled smoked tofu and a few sprigs of thyme. That’s it. This is actually a very straight-forward recipe, and I bet that if you serve it to non-vegetarian friends, they will certainly enjoy it. The smoked tofu I used in here is quite mild, and I recommend you to use a mildish one too, as to complement perfectly the flavor of the caramelized onion. I feel that smoked tofu, once cooked (particularly grilled), looses quite a lot of its flavor and can also get a bit dryish, so the key in here is to grill it just long enough to heat it through.
Smoked Tofu and Caramelized Onion Sandwich
(for one sandwich)
1 medium size baguette
100 grams smoked tofu, cut into 0,5 cm thick slabs
1 large (200 grams) onion, peeled and sliced into thin rings or strips
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablepsoon balsamic vinegar
a pinch of salt
a few thyme sprigs, for garnish
1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the onion rings and a pinch of salt and cook for 10/15 minutes, or until the onion has soften and browned a bit.
2. When the onion has browned, lower the heat to the minimum and add the balsamic vinegar. Stir and cook uncovered for additional 3 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced a bit and the onion is deeply caramelized.
3. At the same time the onion is cooking, heat a grilling pan over medium-high heat, add the tofu slabs, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes on each side. When done, transfer the tofu to a plate, but do not turn off the heat yet.
4. Cut the baguette in half lengthwise. Place the halves, cut side down, in the same grilling pan in which the tofu has cooked, and toast for 4 minutes, or until they’re golden brown and crisp around the edges.
5. Transfer the baguette slices to a plate and spread the cooked onion over one of the slices, followed by the tofu slabs, 2 or 3 sprigs of thyme, and the remaining slice. Serve immediately.