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Reimagining the Casserole: Baked Mashed Potatoes with White Beans and Greens

April 17, 2009


Call me a fifties housewife, but I’ve recently begun a love affair with casseroles. There’s just something about mixing vegetables, starches, proteins, and the inevitable cheese into a mélange of baked, steaming deliciousness with a crunchy topping. What’s not to love?

Well, plenty. Casseroles get a bad rap in healthy-eating circles, and rightly so. Often, they consist of processed, excessively salty soups (ick!), cheese-food products (bleah!), mushy canned vegetables (don’t get me started!) and highly refined grains or starches. Eating these casseroles isn’t just bad for your health but often isn’t a very pleasant experience for your taste buds, either. At least, I don’t find it to be so.

But despite these misgivings, lasagna and dressed-up mac ‘n’ cheese led me down the seductive road of the casserole. And there’s just something about mixing lots of ingredients together, baking them, and ending up with a meal that delivers a rich abundance of flavors in every bite. Making a great casserole requires a larger investment of time at the outset than opening a few cans, but the health and flavor results are worth it, and you’ll have a meal that can serve a crowd, yourself and your family for a few lunches, or be stowed in the freezer for a convenient meal sometime in the future. This particular recipe combines the creamy comfort of mashed potatoes, the savory garlic-kissed bite of sautéed greens, assertive parmesan cheese, and the crunch of a bread crumb topping. Nutritionally, this recipe will provide you with plenty of protein and fiber, vitamins C and K, beta carotene, potassium, and a host of antioxidants.

The inspiration for this dish is Mark Bittman’s Green Mashed Potatoes recipe. I added white beans for protein and fiber to make this a one dish meal, and I thought the greens would taste better if they were sautéed with garlic rather than simply boiled. Finally, I added parmesan, butter, and mustard to punch up the flavors a bit.

If you use gluten-free breadcrumbs (as I did), this is a gluten-free recipe. Vegans can substitute a combination of nutritional yeast and finely ground nuts for the parmesan and a good margarine or more olive oil for the butter.  You can use any sturdy greens you like–I used kale, of course, but collards, dandelion greens, or mustard greens would all work wonderfully.

Although potatoes often acquire a disagreeable texture when frozen, with mashed potatoes this is not an issue; this recipe can certainly be frozen before baking (or you can freeze the leftovers, as I plan to.)

Baked Mashed Potatoes with White Beans and Greens

For the potato and bean mash:

1 lb. yellow-fleshed potatoes, such as Yukon Golds, quartered
1.5 cups cooked white beans (preferably cannellini)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, softened or melted
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the greens:
1 large bunch or two smaller bunches hearty greens, washed and chopped into bite-size pieces, water still clinging to leaves
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch salt

For the topping:
1 cup breadcrumbs
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup fresh parsley, minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1. Boil the potatoes in plenty of boiling, salted water until fork-tender. Reserving cooking water, drain and place in a large mixing bowl.

2. Preheat the oven to 400.

3. Add beans to potato mixture. Mix well. With a potato masher, mash until potatoes are coarsely mashed.

4. Add parmesan, butter, olive oil, salt, and pepper to potato and bean mixture. Mix well.

5. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until fragrant but not browned, about 1 minute. Add greens, a pinch of salt, and stir with garlic and olive oil. Cook until greens are wilted and tender but still bright green. Add the greens and any liquid in the pan to potato and bean mixture and stir well to combine. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust seasonings if necessary. Transfer mixture to a casserole dish or Dutch oven.

6. In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, parsley, and 1 tablespoon olive oil and mix well. Spread evenly over the potato and bean mixture. Bake until breadcrumbs are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve hot or warm.


10 Comments leave one →
  1. Lisa Piccone permalink
    April 17, 2009 11:34 pm

    How do you think this recipe would be if pureed cauliflower was substituted for the potatoes?

    • Lisa Piccone permalink
      April 23, 2009 12:28 am

      Thanks, Natasha. I have another question unrelated to this entry. Are you familiar with kamut berries or kamut pasta? I’m on a food plan that is based on omitting foods that are commonly known to cause food sensitivities. Kamut is one of the grains that is allowed. I’ve never heard of it. Do you know of a kamut pasta that is particularly good?

      • secretnatasha permalink*
        April 23, 2009 2:14 am

        Well, kamut is actually an ancient form of wheat that hasn’t been hybridized. It’s very similar to spelt, actually. My guess is that they are recommending it because a lot of people who can’t tolerate modern wheat can handle the more ancient forms.

        Since it is a form of wheat, I’d bet that kamut pastas taste a lot like whole-wheat pastas. I haven’t tried any myself–my favorite favorite wheat-free pasta is still a rice pasta, Tinkyada. That might be a better option for you since it’s also gluten-free, and I think it tastes a lot better than whole wheat pasta!

        • Lisa Piccone permalink
          April 23, 2009 7:38 pm

          Thanks Natasha. I’m not a big fan of whole wheat pasta either. For some reason rice pasta isn’t on the list of approved pastas. I’ll
          ask the nutritionist why next time I see her.It’s great to have you here to bounce this stuff off of.

  2. secretnatasha permalink*
    April 18, 2009 9:05 am

    Lisa, I can’t say for sure, but I’m inclined to think it would be too watery, because pureed cauliflower tends to be a lot thinner than mashed potatoes. Keep in mind, though, that the beans and vegetables add a lot of protein and fiber to the dish, bringing down the glycemic index and making it a lot healthier and more balanced than regular mashed potatoes, especially if you eat a smaller, lunch-sized or side portion.

  3. Rachael permalink
    April 20, 2009 11:54 pm

    Until you started pimping Bittman, I thought my kale and chickpea shepherd’s (veg-herd?) pie had a hand in this. Oh well.

    • secretnatasha permalink*
      April 22, 2009 8:13 am

      No one can really take credit for the combination of beans, greens and potatoes! And I think the accepted substitute term is “Gardener’s Pie,” although I really love the idea of herding vegetables.

  4. April 22, 2009 7:07 am

    a few points: 1) thanks for reimagining casseroles. my favorite thing about them is that they’re fairly easy to cook, and this one is still fairly easy. 2) omgz all your substitution ideas are on point. and 3) the pictures on this site are freaking GORGEOUS. something we talk about a lot in my magazine classes is how important it is for food magazines and blogs to have stunning, breathtaking, lush pictures, how without them it’s not a good food magazine or blog, and you’re owning the images here, they go perfectly with everything and they’re amazing… so kudos lady!

    • secretnatasha permalink*
      April 22, 2009 8:17 am

      Oh, thank you so much! I’ve been working really hard to try and make the photos enticing and pretty, so it’s great to hear that. It’s had the side effect of making me more interested in photography in general, too, which has been fun.

  5. April 22, 2009 9:40 am

    Casseroles! Yum! I’ll have to try this one.

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