Friday, February 10, 2012

Recipe for Greens, Beans, and Turnip Stew

Curly endive join white beans and turnips in a hearty stew.

As we tucked into a stew of Greens, Beans and Turnips, my husband told me that beans are one of the primary foodstuffs of Blue Zones.

Blue Zones are places in the world where people live longer, healthier lives. He learned that when Blue Zones author Dan Buettner spoke at the Iowa City Chamber of Commerce. The State of Iowa has committed to participate in a project to improve overall health. Cedar Rapids was just named one of 11 finalists for Blue Zone demonstration sites.

“Beans. Well that’s good.” (We eat a lot of beans.) “What else?” I asked.

“Oh, it’s what you’d expect: nuts, wine.” He couldn’t remember the rest, but I was feeling healthier already.

Greens, Beans and Turnip Stew
We like beans — which is a good thing as we are a mostly vegetarian household. My husband is more so than I am. Oh, there are the occasional duck legs for him in France, and sometimes I come home with hamburger on my breath.

The stew we enjoyed that night can be vegetarian if you swap out  chicken broth and use vegetable instead. The recipe is from a fellow Iowan down the road in Des Moines, Wini Maranville, food editor at the Des Moines Register. It’s from The Bonne Femme Cookbook published in 2011. I enjoy her blog, Chez Bonne Femme, which is full of recipes and observations about France.

Wini has spent many years in France and this book represents the “fresh, honest, and simple” everyday French cusine.

The term bonne femme means “good wife.” And how would a good wife cook? She’d be frugal rather than extravagant, she’d think seasonally, using her intuition, improvising as necessary.

Wini writes that this style of cooking is called bonne femme no matter who is in the kitchen, husband or significant other.

Recipes are organized by category (beverages, soups, salads, meats, etc). Wini writes colorful and fact-filled introductions for each recipe, setting the stage for its place in French life.

I look forward to trying many dishes from the book, but I chose this hearty stew first because of the turnips. It’s not too far from the white bean and greens soup that I often make, but I don’t use turnips. I actually prefer turnips raw, but I liked the gentle sweetness they gave this dish.

Chickory (curly endive) is one of my favorite greens. I add it to white beans or chickpeas in soup but my favorite way is as a side dish, sautéed with olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes.

Marjoram seasons this stew. It is an herb I never use, but will from now on.

It’s those shredded carrots that give a clever French touch. The obvious choice is to slice or chop the carrots, but when shredded they fill up the nooks and crannies of the dish, settling in between the larger white beans and turnip chunks. The stew is finished with a bit of sour cream, which brings everything together.

Score one dish for the Blue Zone.

Greens, Beans, and Turnip Stew
adapted from The Bonne Femme Cookbook

2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 c chopped onion
1/2 c sliced celery
1 c shredded carrots
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 c vegetable or chicken broth, home-made or low sodium
1 t dried marjoram, crushed
2 medium-sized turnips cut into 1-inch chunks
2 (15-oz) cans Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
2 c shredded chickory (curly endive) or escarole
1/2 c light or regular sour cream

Begin by sautéing onion and celery in a large heavy pot. Cook until vegetables are tender but now brown. Add the carrots and garlic; stir and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the broth. Stir in marjoram and turnips. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover. Let simmer until the turnips are tender, about 15 minutes.

Place 3/4 cup of the beans and about 1/4 liquid from the soup in a food processor. Process to a smooth pureé. (I didn't want to wash any more dishes, so I used an old wooden potato masher in a small bowl). Add this mixture, plus the remaining beans, to the soup. Bring to a boil.

Add chickory to the soup and heat until the greens are slightly wilted. Don’t overcook because you want the greens to retain their bright color. Add sour cream and heat gently, but not to boiling. Remove from heat and serve at once.


  1. This sounds so yummy and healthy! Are you in Iowa? I grew up in Ames, and lived in Iowa City for 10 years after college :)

  2. Hi Lizzy--I live in Des Moines most of the year, but hang out in France much of the summer....

    Iowa City is even better now than ever--there's more of an integration of adults (that is, 30 and over) amongst the college students....

  3. Hello, Lizzy and Wini. Thanks for stopping by. I'm in Cedar Rapids. New to Iowa.


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