How to Cook for a 20-Person Veg Co-op and a Recipe for Slow-Cooked White Beans with Snap Peas & Caramelized Onions

As occurs every two weeks, this Monday I once again donned the Ferry House chef hat to provide a fabulous vegan meal for my 20 fellow co-op members. Planning the menu for my biweekly scheduled night of cooking proves consistently provocative of critical thought, as it requires serious contemplation of a recipe that normally serves 4-6 people to decipher whether or not it would suit itself well to a five-fold multiplication of ingredient amounts. Casseroles, bean & mixed veggie salads, grain pilafs, stews, curries, and veggie burger patties all lend themselves quite nicely to large-scale preparation, whereas recipes that require individual portion preparation—such as stuffed veggies, cabbage rolls, and sandwiches—as well as those which call for a large amount of ingredients that cook down to a small size—such as roasted veggies and sauteed greens—necessitate more preparation and/or resources than we Ferry cooks would prefer.

A Ferry chef must also consider ingredient availability when planning a House dinner. For example, the House grocery shoppers do not purchase fruit (other than our weekly bushel of farmers market apples), including avocados; certain bulk items such as canned coconut milk, specific dried bean varieties, tahini, or gluten-free flour may have run out before the delivery of the upcoming bulk order; and less familiar vegetables such as fennel, certain types of squash and root veggies, and herbs do not make it into the regular grocery rotation. Clearly, not every entry in my cookbooks or 43-page-long Word document of recipes to try—especially those featuring more specialized ingredients—proves well-suited to serving 20 rather budget-minded college students, so I find myself every other Sunday analytically sifting through my arsenal of recipes to unearth a perfect one for Ferry dinner.

This week, I decided that a version of the Kale and Slivered Brussels Sprout Soba Noodles from Sprouted Kitchen, as well as a cannelinni bean stew inspired by both Peter Berley’s White Beans with Sugar Snap Peas & Mint and his Savory Adzuki Beans, served as this Monday’s “perfect recipes.” Case in point: a 5-lb. bag of dried cannellini beans sat largely unused alongside a heap of brown rice noodles in the pantry while the refrigerator positively exploded with leafy greens and brussels. These recipes practically begged themselves to be made.

Plates laid out for dinner.

Plates laid out for dinner.

My changes to the original soba noodle recipe:

  • Used olive oil instead of sesame oil. Ferry did stock toasted sesame oil in the pantry for a brief period of time, but house members ultimately decided that we preferred olive oil instead.
  • Substituted apple cider vinegar for the rice vinegar. No rice vinegar in Ferry! Just your run-of-the-mill apple cider variety.
  • Replaced the soy sauce with Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, the soy-based seasoning of choice in Ferry.
  • Used cayenne pepper instead of red pepper flakes since the Ferry spice cabinet had just run out of the latter.
  • Substituted brown rice noodles for the soba noodles. The latter noodle variety cost significantly more than the former, plus many soba noodle brands contain gluten, which we try to avoid including in House dinners for those who must avoid it (i.e. me).

Man, did that industrial-sized pot of cooking water for the noodles take just about an eternity to boil, but the fresh-tasting and pleasingly toothsome dish that it helped to yield surely merited the wait.

A whole mess of brown rice noodles, kale, and brussels sprouts.

A whole mess of brown rice noodles, kale, and brussels sprouts.

As for the white bean dish, I somewhat combined two of the bean recipes in The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen to produce a delightful hybrid dish. Deriving the Asian-style ingredient list from the Savory Adzuki Beans and the snap pea-white bean mix from the White Beans with Sugar Snap Peas and Mint, I created a light, springtime bean stew rife with crisp-tender snap peas and caramelized onions that provided a lovely sweet contrast to the savory cannelinnis. The recipe requires little hands-on preparation, involving no more than throwing beans, minimally prepped veggies, and seasonings into a slow-cooker, and quickly sauteeing the onions and snap peas, yet yields quite yummy results.

Big ol' pot o' beans.

Big ol’ pot o’ beans.

Slow-Cooked White Beans with Snap Peas & Caramelized Onions—Nut Free, Low Sodium, Low Fat.

Makes about 6 cups.

Ingredients:

2 cups uncooked white beans (cannellini, Great Northern, etc.), soaked overnight and drained
1 medium onion, peeled and halved
4 cloves
6 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
1 4-inch piece of ginger, cut into big chunks
2 tbsp maple syrup or agave
1-inch piece kombu seaweed or 1 bay leaf
2 tbsp tamari, soy sauce, or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
1-2 tbsp coconut or olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
8 oz sugar snap peas, cut in half on the bias

Stick two cloves into the rounded side of each onion half. Place the cloved onions, soaked white beans, garlic cloves, ginger, maple syrup or agave, kombu or bay leaf, and enough water to cover the whole mixture in a slow-cooker. Set the slow-cooker to its highest setting and cook the beans until meltingly tender, about 2-5 hours. When tender, drain the beans and remove the onion halves, garlic cloves, and ginger chunks. Stir in the tamari, soy sauce, or Bragg’s.

In a medium saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add the sugar snap peas and cook until bright green and crisp-tender, about 3-5 minutes. Remove the saute from the heat and stir into the beans. Serve.

Until next time, Ali.

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