The Austerity Kitchen Challenge: Giant White Bean Stew

Greek white beans, otherwise known as gigantes, are large, slightly sweet beans that are perfect in soups and stews. Authentic Greek recipes use them in slow-cooked stews flavored with fresh herbs. It is important that one procure only the freshest beans as that will cut down on the time spent cooking them.

For this month’s Austerity Kitchen Challenge, the Kitchen has developed a version of a tasty traditional Greek bean stew. Substitute large lima beans for the giant Greek beans if you are unable to locate them. Feel free to experiment with different herbs and spices.

Giant White Bean Stew

1 1/2 pounds dried giant white beans
1/2 cup olive oil
2 small onions
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 bunch celery, chopped
5 large tomatoes, chopped
3/4 cup tomato sauce, or meatless pasta sauce
2 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried mint
1 teaspoon rosemary
2 teaspoons thyme
3/4 cup finely chopped parsley

Soak the beans overnight and then cook them until almost tender in unsalted water. Put all ingredients, except for the parsley, in a crock pot (or you can bake the beans at 400 degrees F for forty minutes) and cook until beans are tender and sauce is thick. Once dish is ready, stir in parsley and serve hot (or, for a more traditional dish, serve the bean stew at room temperature with thick slices of Greek or Italian bread).

The Austerity Kitchen Challenge: Lazy Pierogi

The cabbage didn’t appear with any frequency on the British table until the tumultuous reign of Henry VIII, when its cultivation started to be taken seriously by frugal-minded cottagers. Dozens of varieties were cultivated by these industrious cottagers, including the prodigious cow cabbage, which was said to reappear year after year without human interference, producing monstrous heads large enough to satisfy voracious bovine stomachs. A Norman variety more tasty to the human palate was frequently reported to reach heights of six or seven feet, and the hearty Strasburg cabbage weighed in at more than twenty-five pounds.

Needless to say, the cabbage was seen as an economical and tasty addition to the table–as well as an interesting and nutritious one. Belonging to the family Brassicaceae, the cabbage derives from the wild mustard plant and comes in a variety of colors — purple, green and red. It is an excellent source of vitamin C and contains the rare amino acid glutamine.

This month’s Austerity Kitchen Challenge presents a dish–lazy pierogi–that features cabbage in its fermented form — as sauerkraut, that is. Lazy pierogi is a delightful and inexpensive mix of mushrooms, onions, sauerkraut and pasta. Serve it with a green salad and a nice table wine.

Lazy Pierogi

1 package spiral pasta
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions
1 8-ounce package mushrooms
2 cups sauerkraut
garlic powder
smoked paprika (optional)

Boil the pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside. Chop and fry in the olive oil the onions and mushrooms. Add pepper, garlic powder and smoked paprika to taste. Add the sauerkraut and stir until thoroughly mixed in. Add pasta and toss together. Serve immediately.

The Austerity Kitchen Challenge: Lentil and Brown Rice Salad

Jacob sold his birthright for a pot of lentils; and, during the rebellion of Absalom, Barzillai brought them as a gift to David. Aristophanes rejoiced in his newly found fame as it meant he would never again consume a lentil. “Now that I am rich,” he wrote, “I will no longer eat lentils.” During the nineteenth century the Welsh used lentils as cattle fodder and Romans served salted lentils at funeral banquets.

Lentils have indeed enjoyed a varied and wondrous history. They were a staple among the lower classes, who enjoyed them with everything from sauerkraut to richly pungent blood sausages. They could be stored many years and transported vast distances. Ranging in color from black to red to a brilliant marigold yellow, they are praised in a Hindu proverb as being the very staff of life.

For this month’s Austerity Kitchen Challenge, the Kitchen has developed a recipe for a lentil and brown rice salad, which can feed four or five people for under $5.00. The amount of rice and lentils can be easily varied to suit your tastes and needs, and you can prepare the mixture ahead of time and serve it over salad throughout the week. Serve lentil and brown rice salad with warm pita bread and hummus.

Lentil and Brown Rice Salad

6 cups cooked brown rice
2 cups cooked brown lentils
2 large onions, chopped into large pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3-4 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro (optional)
2-3 heads of romaine, chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
2 cucumbers, sliced
1/2 red onion, chopped
chili powder
salt to taste

Brown the chopped onions in olive oil in a large pot. Add sugar, cilantro and cider vinegar. Stirring constantly, cook for three minutes over low heat. Turn off heat. Add cooked rice and lentils; mix thoroughly. Add salt to taste.

Toss romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers and red onion in a large salad bowl. Sprinkle chili powder over salad. Put salad on serving plates, top with lentil rice mixture and pour dressing over the entire salad.


2/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 clove crushed garlic (optional)

Mix olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard salt and garlic together until blended. Pour over lentil and brown rice salad. Amounts can be varied to suit taste.