January 27, 2009

Greek-style cannellini beans and veggies with orzo

I've been spending a lot of time looking through my recipe collection, and it's bringing back old memories of food and cooking. Back in my early days of vegan cooking, when cookbooks were very limited and nut-roasts and lentil-walnut casseroles were the latest, I was thrilled to find a recipe in my Country Life cookbook for a loaf with unlimited variations. As long as one followed the basic proportions of grains, beans, veggies, herbs, crumbs and liquid, an infinite number of combinations were possible, and countless delicious dinners awaited. To celebrate this momentous discovery, we invited friends for dinner, and I couldn't wait to show off scrumptious loaf variation #1. My friend Deborah and I were each preparing food for the meal when her husband looked at the loaf and declared, "everything you two make is brown." He had a grin on his face and I don't think he meant any harm, but I felt like I'd just been hit over the head with a 20 pound mushroom. Everything...I...make...is...brown? Could this be true? Brown? Brown? Brown? Why yes, I believe he may be correct. Everything is brown TONIGHT, but was everything brown yesterday? Will everything be brown tomorrow? I was stunned, deflated, sad.

It reminded me of when I was in high school and was following an upbeat directive from Seventeen Magazine to discover my favorite color. "Just look in your closet," the magazine cheerfully encouraged, "your favorite color will be there." Will it be ruby? pumpkin? cerulean blue? I looked in my closet and there it was - my favorite color - brown! Even then, I was a nut loaf covered in mushroom sauce.

By the time the Moosewood Collective published "Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home" in 1994, vegetarian cooking had become much more original. My friends Alan and Claire have been rediscovering recipes in their copy of Moosewood and I decided to take another look at mine in search of colorful and tasty food. I asked my husband to pick out something interesting and here's what he came up with. Is it brown? My husband says emphatically, "NO." I say maybe just a little beige, but in a very colorful way. It's a homey, comforting everyday dish that we really enjoyed.

Greek-style cannellini beans and vegetables
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 carrots, chopped, chopped
  • 1 red or green pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh mint (1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced dill (1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh marjoram (sprinkle dried)
  • 5 artichoke hearts, drained and sliced (14 oz. can)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups cooked cannellini beans (15 oz. can, drained and rinsed)
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups stewed tomatoes or fire roasted canned tomatoes
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • red wine vinegar
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the orzo to al dente. Drain and stir in 1 tablespoon of oil.
  2. While the orzo is cooking, saute the onions and garlic in 1 tablespoon of oil. When the onion softens a bit, add the carrots and pepper. Cook for several minutes and add the zucchini. Add the herbs and artichoke hearts. Gently stir in the the beans and tomatoes. Simmer for several minutes. When the veggies are hot and cooked, stir in the orzo and season with salt and pepper. Add a splash of red wine vinegar (or serve at the table in a cruet).
  3. Serve with olives, bread and a green salad with toasted walnuts and dates.
This may not be a Greek addition, but I think that dried crushed hot red pepper adds a nice flavor to this dish.


  1. What a hilarious story (though not at the time, of course!). I think from age 30 to 40 I wore an actual color maybe twice--it was all black, all the time! But really, are brown foods so bad? I mean, chocolate is brown. . . .but this looks yummy, too! ;)

  2. I think I only have one brown skirt now — the rest are black! And no, I guess brown foods aren't so bad. I was thinking of chocolate as I wrote the post. I guess the key is to not have ALL brown foods.:)

  3. I love the Moosewood Cookbooks, but I don't think I have seen this recipe before...it sounds so good! Thank you for sharing it--I can't wait to try it!

    Haha--my color would be black...all of my clothes are black! I can't really think of any black foods, other than artificial stuff...


  4. Licorice, black beans...what else?

  5. That's sad.... and funny.... and ultimately inspiring! And WHICH Moosewood is that in? I don't recognize it, but it sure looks good!

  6. It's in Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, page 172 - isn't that the same one you've been using?

  7. How funny! The dish you made is certainly colorful and not at all too brown. My closet is pink and blue. My food is never those colors!

  8. What's wrong with brown? I love brown :-) Brown = earth! I also feel nostalgic looking through old recipes.

  9. Diann, You could make lots of strawberry and blueberry cakes!

    I love brown, too, but vegetarian cooking used to be a little TOO brown. We've come a long way.


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