Meatless Monday: Invitation to a Bean Feast

I'm inviting you to a bean feast -- that's what the Brits call that big company dinner when we gather to celebrate or because we have to. This'll be the bean feast to end all bean feasts, the dinner party of a lifetime. The United Nations has declared 2016 to be the International Year of Pulses (that's beans to you and me).

As an unabashed bean-lover, this alone has me revved for 2016, but the new year's shaping up to be amazing for other reasons, too. Veganuary, the start-the-year vegan jumpstart, is back. The world's leaders came together at last and agreed to take action against climate change. Details to come, but they've agreed to work together so the world will have a viable future. We have to step it up for the planet, too. So where do beans come in?

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Beans are nature's little powerhouses of plant-based protein, they're cheap, sustaining and sustainable. They take less water to grow and emit far fewer greenhouse gases than meat production does. Beans are among our first crops, we've been living on them since the dawn of civilization and we need to keep the party going. Our focus on a meat-based diet has been chipping away at the place we call home. The most revolutionary thing we can do is to take animals off the table. Beans, with their satisfying, almost meaty chew, are the perfect alternative. From classic Egyptian ful to New Orleans RBR (red beans and rice), every culture has a bean recipe to that fills the belly and stretches the budget. They're the most versatile thing in your kitchen, the little black dress of cuisine.

As I write in my book, "Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner," "Change your diet, change your life, change the world." We can do it. We have to. So break out the beans. A bean feast offers a low-cost, low-carbon banquet that feeds everyone. Wishing you a happy International Year of Pulses.

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Hopping John

I love kissing on New Year's Eve, but just as much, I love this humble combination of rice, black-eyed peas and collards on New Year's Day. Legend has it eating Hopping John promises the new year will be lucky. I can attest it also absorbs any yuck from excessive New Year's Eve partying. Flavor improves over time and Hopping John reheats like a dream. Serve with hot sauce for a happy, lucky, abundant new year.

1 cup black eyed peas
3 cups of water
6 cloves garlic
1 dried hot pepper
1 bay leaf
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup brown rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 jalapeño, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 big bunch collard greens, sliced into thin ribbons
juice of 1 lemon
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Soak beans in a bowl of cold water for 4 hours or up to overnight. Drain peas.

In a large pot, bring 3 cups of water to boil over high heat. Add black-eyed peas, 2 cloves of garlic (whole), pepper and bay leaf. Skim off any floating beans.

Reduce heat to low. Simmer beans uncovered for an hour and a half until beans are tender, not mushy.

Add brown rice and the vegetable broth. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, but leave the pot on the burner.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, jalapeño, celery and the remaining 4 garlic cloves, chopped. Sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring, until the vegetables soften.

Reduce heat to medium. Add greens by the handful, and cook until wilted, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Fluff rice and beans, remove whole garlic, dried pepper and bay leaf. Fold in collard mixture.
Squeeze in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

Serves 6.

More beans here, more everything at ellen-ink.com.