sopa tarasca + an ode to beans

Giant white beans zero waste

If you do one thing this weekend, soak and cook a big pot of beans.  Beans are a great and cheap source of protein, and can usually be found pretty easily in bulk.  Even if you have to buy them in plastic, they still provide a lot of meals and energy for that one plastic bag.  You can use them in so many ways and they can become the basis for all kinds of meals: add to curries, soups, blend them into a creamy soup with sautéed celery/carrot/onion/garlic + herbs/spices and stock, eat them in a lunchtime bowl, puree them into a dip for veggies or a spread for wraps/sammies, eat them over toast, saute them with greens, turn them into veggie burgers…the options are endless!

We love all kinds of beans and legumes here, but our favorites are chickpeas for their versatility, giant corona beans for their large size and substantial texture, cannellini beans for their creaminess, and pintos + black beans for their flavor.  Any kind of beans you have available are great!  I try to find local varieties if they’re available for a lower footprint.  Experiment with new to you types.  Make cooking fun!  Also amazing are red lentils, which don’t need any soaking and cook in about 15-20 minutes.  They have been my savior for many a quick weeknight meal.

I have a giant container of local pintos I’m trying to work my way through, so this week that’s what I’m cooking.  Cooking beans from scratch is so much more flavorful and delicious than canned beans if you have the time.  I quite enjoy the ritual of soaking the beans, straining them, choosing the flavorings to add, and cooking them. It’s rewarding in some way.  Canned beans are wonderful assets too for when you forget to soak or you just need something easy and quick.

pinto beans zero waste

To cook beans, I soak 2 cups of them in plenty of water in a big bowl for 24 hours.  When they’re done soaking, I strain and rinse, then place them in a pot or a slow cooker with a chopped onion, smashed whole garlic cloves, and whole sprigs of fresh herbs.  You can also add things like whole peppercorns, dried chiles or broiled fresh chiles, smoked paprika, olive oil, or whatever you want!  I also add salt, about a 1/2 teaspoon for our tastes but you can omit or go more heavy handed.  I don’t believe the whole thing about adding salt making the beans tough.  I find that adding salt at the beginning seasons the beans all the way through.  One thing to note though is NOT to add tomatoes or other acidic ingredients until after the beans are soft.  The acid makes the beans not be able to cook properly and they will stay crunchy forever.  Cook 45 minutes- 2 hours, it really depends on how old the beans are and what variety.  Keep tasting for doneness and add more water as needed.  I store cooked beans either straight in the pot or in mason jars (in both cases, still in their cooking liquid).  If you eat the beans in an application like a grain salad etc where you will drain them first, try saving the cooking liquid- it makes a great flavorful base for soups.  Chickpea cooking liquid is a perfect base for vegan mayo, meringue, and I use it instead of oil in hummus to thin it out.  Cooked beans stored in their cooking liquid last 5-7 days in the fridge in my experience.

vegan pinto beans

Here’s some flavoring ideas, although in my opinion the best way is to experiment and go by your intuition- you can’t go wrong.

white beans (cannelini, great northern type varieties): garlic- I slice a whole head crosswise to expose all the cloves and throw it in like that + a generous sprig of fresh sage or rosemary, drizzle of EVOO and a teaspoon of whole black peppercorns + 1 dried whole chile, like chile de arbol or a teaspoon of chile flakes.  Here’s a whole meal plan I did devoted to turning a pot of white beans into a week of meals.

vegan Italian beans sage garlic Dutch oven

black beans:  3 smashed whole garlic cloves, 1 chopped onion, 1 dried chile of choice or canned chipotle pepper en adobo, and 1 big fresh sprig of oregano or epazote or 1 teaspoon dried mexican oregano.  This black bean soup is amazing, too.  We love black beans in tacos or bowls with sliced and baked or sautéed plantains + avo + a quick cabbage slaw, too.

Vegan bowl mojo verde Cuban kabocha squash

chickpeas:  I usually just cook chickpeas plain, as I like them to be a blank slate for hummus, curries etc.  I especially love this soup with chickpeas, and my lemon garlic hummus pasta with broiled peppers is a great way to use them too.  One of our favorite quick meals is this chickpea salad eaten either as a sammy or in tortillas or lettuce/collard wraps.  Sometimes I like to do a curried version with chopped apple, golden raisins, curry powder, and carrot.  This chickpea soup (caldo tlalpeño) is so tasty, too.

chickpea salad sandwich vegan

pinto beans: broil a whole jalapeño and a whole onion, halved, until charred in spots.  add it to the beans along with a few whole cloves of smashed garlic and a big fresh sprig of oregano or epazote, and a teaspoon of cumin.  Pintos are so good in burritos, tacos, enchiladas, blended into a soup.

With my pintos this weekend, I’ll first eat them probably my favorite way: just eaten in a bowl, straight from the pot, soupy and steamy with sliced fresh chile, chopped white onion, avocado, cilantro and radish.

Vegan sopa tarasca dairy free zero waste

Then with the leftovers, I’ll blend them into this creamy soup, spiked with smoky chiles and brightened with lime, a kind of sopa tarasca.  Here’s the recipe:

sopa tarasca 


4 Roma tomatoes

1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped

3 cloves garlic

1 large chipotle chile en adobo (more or less depending on your spice level) you can used dried, toasted + soaked anchos here too

1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)

2 cups cooked pinto beans

2 cups stock (make sure this is a strong and tasty stock as this can make or break the soup as it’s so few ingredients)

3/4 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

3/4 teaspoon of salt (but amount will depend on how salt your stock is)

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

toppings (pick as few or as many as you desire): avocado, quick pickled onions or radishes, cilantro, toasted pumpkin seeds, raw onion, hot sauce, lime wedges, crema (coco yogurt thinned with a little water + lime juice, zest, and salt) or cashew crema, baked or fried tortilla strips, chopped tomatoes, chopped jalapeños…’s the limit.  With blended soups like this toppings are everything!


broil the whole tomatoes under the over broiler or over an open flame or grill until charred on all sides- mine took about 8 minutes.  Make sure you rotate to get it evenly broiled.

Broiled tomatoes

Place tomatoes in blender with the chopped onion, garlic, and chipotle chile.  Blend till smooth.

Sopa tarasca vegan

Chipotle onion garlic tomato

Heat a pot with a tablespoon of olive oil in it (alternatively, heat without oil for an oil free soup) on high.  Pour in the blender mix (careful because it splatters, give it a good stir, reduce heat to med high and cook for about 3-4 minutes.  You can keep the lid partially covering it to minimize splatter.

Meanwhile, add the beans and stock to the blender (no need to wash in between).  Blend till smooth and add to the pot along with oregano, salt, pepper.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to medium low and let simmer 15 minutes.

Taste and add salt as needed.

Ladle into bowls and top with all your toppings and a heavy squeeze of lime.  Extend gratitude, smell, taste and enjoy!

a frugal meal plan after holiday excess

cucina povera zero waste frugal

After the holiday cooking, feasting, gift giving and general excess I’m craving simpler things, meals, minimalism and fresh starts.  This week I’m drawing inspiration from la cucina povera, literally “kitchen of the poor” in Italian.  It refers to a simple way of cooking that elevates and makes the most of simple and humble cooking.   We’ll start with a simple pot of beans, some oven roasted squash, and a pot of chewy farro and stretch and cajole them into a few different iterations.  I’m assuming you have olive oil, chili flakes, sugar/sweetener, salt, and pepper in your pantry.  Each recipe serves 4, and at the very end there’s a shopping list + the prices I paid for each item if you’re curious.  It came out to $54.68 total, or $10.93/dinner for 4 ($5.47/person) for all organic food.

farro cannelini white bean mason jar zero waste shopping

the meals + recipes:

winter pasta fagioli (bean+pasta soup):  chop up 1 large onion, 2 carrots, 2 stalks celery.  Heat up a few tablespoons olive oil in the bottom of a soup pot (or use water if you’re oil free).  Add the veggies and sauté until they are softened, approximately 10 minutes (if you have + like fennel seeds, add in a teaspoon or two) .  Chop up 4 cloves garlic and about a tablespoon of fresh sage and add that, cook for 1 minute.  Then add 1 cup chopped canned tomatoes, 4 cups veg stock (or water) + 1/4 pound of spaghetti broken into 2 inch lengths.  Cover and simmer on medium for 15 minutes, uncover, stir in 2 cups of the cooked white beans (scoop the beans with their cooking liquid too) and 1.5 cups roasted squash and let simmer 5 more minutes until everything is heated through.  If too thick, loosen with more of the bean cooking liquid.  Top with chopped parsley and serve with chili flakes and lemon wedges.

winter vegan butternut squash pasta fagioli

farro, white bean, red onion salad:  toss half the farro with 2 cups drained white beans, 1 small thinly sliced red onion, juice and zest from 1 lemon, and the rest of your bunch of parsley, chopped.  Sprinkle over the pomegranate seeds.  Drizzle with olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

farro salad vegan pomegranate avocado parsley onion

sausages with white beans in tomato sauce:  heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium.  Add in 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife.  Saute the garlic until golden (about 2 minutes).  Add in 4 vegan sausages and saute until browned, about 5 minutes (if you have + like fennel seeds, toss in a teaspoon or two as well).  Keep an eye on the garlic- remove and reserve it if its getting too dark.  Add in 1/2 cup bean cooking liquid, about 2 cups chopped canned tomatoes, and 2 large fresh whole sage sprigs.  Simmer 5 minutes, then add 1-1.5 cups beans and 1/2 cup water or stock.  Cover and simmer 15 minutes, then uncover and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened if desired.  Serve with some crusty toasted baguette rubbed with garlic (or rice would be good if you’re GF).  If you can’t find/make vegan sausages or just want a lighter meal, this would be so good with greens or cooked cubed potatoes wilted in in place of the sausage.

vegan Italian sausage white beans parsley garlic skillet

white bean salad with arugula, squash, farro:  adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler and heat it.  Halve and slice 1 red onion, toss with little oil, salt and pepper, place on a baking sheet and broil until edges are charred and onion is soft, 6-8 minutes (check often and toss halfway through cook time) Whisk juice + zest of one lemon with 2 teaspoons honey or maple syrup and 3 tablespoons olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Toss the rest of farro and the rest of beans with dressing, onions, 1 cup of the roasted butternut squash and about 6 cups baby arugula.  Sprinkle your reserved roasted squash seeds over and serve.

arugula squash dark red onion salad grain vegan bean

butternut risotto:   this recipe , but omit cheese and sub vegan butter or oil or omit entirely for the butter.  Sub veggie broth.  Add some chopped sage in with the onions and add the roasted butternut with the last addition of broth.

butternut risotto vegan parsley cast iron


meal prep:

white beans with garlic + sage: soak 3 cups white beans overnight (any type you like- great northern, cannellini, giant corona beans, or butter beans are all great here).  Drain beans, add 8 cups water, 2 tablespoons olive oil (optional), 1 head garlic (unpeeled, cut in half crosswise), 1 large fresh sage sprig, 1/4 teaspoon whole peppercorns, 2 teaspoons salt.  Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and let simmer 1-1.5 hours (start checking at 1 hour, depends on how old/what size your beans are).  Compost the garlic, sage, peppercorns.  Season to taste with salt/pepper.  Store in the pot in the fridge.

vegan Italian beans sage garlic Dutch oven

roasted butternut squash:  Preheat oven to 400.  Peel the squash and cut in half lengthwise, then scoop out the seeds (reserve them).  Cut squash into 1/2 inch chunks.  Toss in a bowl with olive oil, salt, and pepper + place in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Rinse the seeds and remove any fleshy membranes.  In the same bowl you used for the squash, toss the seeds with olive oil, salt, and pepper and place in a different baking dish.  Roast both dishes in the oven, the seeds for 15 minutes or until crispy, and the squash 35-45 minutes or until totally soft, and caramelized on the bottoms.  Store in a sealed container in the fridge.



farro:  bring a pot of salted water to a boil (like you would for pasta).  When it boils, add the farro and cook until tender, then drain.  The exact time depends on the type of farro and how old it is, but at least 15 minutes.

farro vegan meal prep

pomegranate:  de-seed this guy and store in a sealed container in the fridge.

zero Waste shopping vegan meal plan

shopping list:

3 cups dry white beans (try to get these in the bulk section to avoid plastic if possible!) ($2.99)

crusty bread x 1 loaf ($4)

canned plum tomatoes (like san marzano) x 28 ounce can ($3)

garlic x 2 heads ($1)

sage x 1 large bunch, fresh ($3)

parsley x 1 bunch, fresh ($1.59)

8 cups veggie stock (best to use a concentrate like better than bouillon (glass jar) or my package free: veggie broth so you don’t end up with a bunch of cartons) ($4)

onion x 2 yellow + 2 red ($2.50)

celery x 1 bunch ($2.99)

carrots x 2 ($2.69)

lemon x 2 ($1)

pomegranate x 1 ($2)

butternut squash x 1 large (2.75 lbs for $3)

baby arugula x 6 cups or 1/2 lb ($2.99)

spaghetti x 1/4 pound (1 package of gf Jovial brown rice pasta for $4.49)

Italian style vegan sausages x 4 (I’m making my own but I priced store ones at $4.19)

2 cups farro or any other grain ($2)

1.5 cups short grain brown rice or arborio rice ($2.25)

white wine (cheap is fine) $5

white cannelini beans dried soaked