The most delicious sustainable eats
Cool Beans is a twice-weekly newsletter serving up the recipes, techniques, and hero ingredients that add up to a delectable plant- (and planet-) forward diet.
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A snack to crush your cravings
When it comes to feeling full, reach for the butter (beans)
By GABRIELLA VIGOREAUX
JUL 13, 2023
If a hunk of cheese and scoop of hummus were to duke it out in the Hunger Games, which would keep us fuller longer? Dairy’s got a big ol’ ration of the full-feeling macronutrients protein and fat, but legumes have something extra: fiber. Unlike with sugars, fats, and proteins, our bodies don’t have the enzymes to break down fiber, which sounds bad but actually makes our tummies happy. Fiber feeds the good bacteria in our guts, and the soluble variety (more on that later) can slow down digestion, so we’re less likely to suddenly swing from sated to hangry than if we just chowed down on some cheddar.
When making the switch to plant-heavy eating, spreading out fiber intake throughout the day can help crush cravings. The wallop of protein and fiber beans deliver has made them a mealtime staple, but at I-just-need-a-little-something o’clock, they can also help banish hunger pangs ‘til dinner. When it comes to choosing a legume canvas, I go butter beans (a.k.a., limas) because, as the name implies, they are naturally rich, buttery, and delicious.
Put out an APB on your stash of chips, because we’re making dip. Your friends are gonna want to try this stuff, so make sure you invite them to the party.
The review: A gratin so creamy it needs no dairy
Butter beans are big, with a smooth, creamy texture that clings to sauces and soaks up any flavor you pair them with—which is why we see them as the centerpiece of a lot of stews, curries, and ragouts. Plus, they have a good mix of soluble fiber (that’s the kind that soaks up water and slows your digestive roll) and insoluble fiber (that’s the kind that, uh, keeps things moving).
They’re the base of this Creamy Butter Bean Gratin from Ixta Belfrage, a recipe developer who co-wrote Flavour with chef and restauranteur Yotam Ottolenghi. That’s my go-to cookbook for vegetable recipes that look gorgeous but also hit the dang spot. While most gratins are simple side dishes, this one’s got real heft and keeps your tastebuds pinging with contrasting flavors and textures.
A one-pan craving killer. Credit: Gabrielle Vigoreaux
First, a pound of cherry tomatoes bathed in olive oil nestle snugly in a single layer in a pan and scorch at 475 degrees until they soften and slightly char. This is my absolute favorite way to eat tomatoes, because they get extra juicy and their natural umami flavor concentrates. While those little red gems roast, a “cumin béchamel” comes together.
The classic French version of this sauce combines butter, flour, and milk to add creaminess to dishes like gratins, quiches, and mac ‘n’ cheese. In Ixta world, it’s a quick blender blitz of silken tofu, miso paste, garlic, nutmeg, and “ten twists of the pepper mill.” Using tofu as a stand-in for dairy ups the filling factor in the overall dish. Soy is a giant in the veggie world because it’s a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine amino acids that humans can’t produce on their own.
A can of butter beans joins the roasted tomatoes, and the tofu béchamel gets spooned on top. While that works its way to brown, bubbly, and bound together in the oven, a salsa fresca of tomato, red onion, and chili mingle to create the bright garnish this dish demands.
That’s not to say the final product is heavy. The raw and roasted tomatoes provide a sweet acidity that cuts the richness. A bowl of this stuff is super satisfying on its own, but you could add a side salad, per Ixta’s suggestion, to round it out into a meal. I can confirm that leftovers taste amazing heated up on a hunk of toasted sourdough, and now I’m dreaming of other ways to scoop up these creamy beans on the regular, like in a dip perhaps…
The recipe: A dip that kicks hunger to the curb
Dips rule the snack world, but most of them don’t contain the right mix of macros to help us stay full and energized until our next meal—that is, far, far away from the candy drawer. This hummus alternative, made mostly of pantry staples, is a guaranteed three o’clock pick-me-up.
With a strong baseline of fiber and protein (about 7 grams each per serving) covered via butter beans, artichokes bring a big hit of inulin, a prebiotic fiber, to the party, further preventing a snack attack comeback. A double hit of quality fats from olive oil and tahini deliver the final leg of the feeling-full trifecta and keep those “feed me” hormones at bay.
A dip so creamy you might (maybe possibly) forgo French onion. Credit: Gabrielle Vigoreaux
Lemony Dill Butter Bean & Artichoke Dip
Makes approx. 2 1/2 cups
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About Cool Beans
Cool Beans is a newsletter that helps you save the world from your kitchen. We help you discover and make food that maximizes your satisfaction and minimizes your impact. This is not a vegan newsletter. Eating a plant-based diet is far gentler on the environment than mainlining bacon, but we get that it’s not realistic for everyone to ditch meat and dairy—and that there are animal products that don’t actively wreck the planet, too. We serve up the recipes, techniques, and hero ingredients that add up to a delectable plant- (and planet-) forward diet.
We don’t all have to go plant-based to make a huge dent in greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, if half the world limited itself to 57 grams of animal protein per day, that would add up to a 65-gigaton reduction in carbon by 2050. In the U.S., where the average person’s per-diem animal-protein intake is north of 75 grams, we produce one-tenth that every year.
Cool Beans is brought to you by one5c, a weekly climate-action newsletter that explores how tweaks to everyday life—how we commute, eat, shop, stay cool, or get loud—can add up to big, planet-saving change. one5c was founded in 2021 by Joe Brown, a veteran science and tech journalist who ditched corporate media to focus on the only story that matters: the environment.
In May 2023, one5c was acquired by Fragment Media and began the work of expanding a one-man-band newsletter into the go-to resource for living a climate-fixing existence. Brown now serves as one5c’s Publisher, and Corinne Iozzio, also a veteran science and tech journalist, is its Editor-in-Chief. The duo launched Cool Beans in June 2023, and tapped Gabriella Vigoreaux as its inaugural writer.