Green and white bean gratin

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See notes for some recommendations on ways to tweak this recipe to taste and potentially remove a few more calories.

2lbs fresh beans that have been stemmed, cut into 2 inch lengths and blanched.
2 cans white beans
1/4 cup milk
4-6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons of dried thyme, finely chopped rosemary or sage
Pinch of salt and black pepper
1 cup grated low fat cheddar cheese*
1 cup bread crumbs *
1 cup Parmesan cheese *
2 tablespoons olive oil.

Combine one can of white beans (undrained) with the garlic, herb(s), milk salt and pepper until smooth.

Spread the green beans to cover the bottom of heavy baking dish.
Pour the blended mixture over the green beans.
Sprinkle with the cheddar cheese.
Drain the second can of white beans and spread on top.

In a small bowl, mix the bread crumbs, Parmesan and olive oil.
Sprinkle lightly over the top of the gratin.
Bake covered for 30 minutes (350 degrees)
Then bake uncovered until golden and bubbling (approx. 10 minutes)

This dish is ideal for controlling calories and provides a strong starting point for ways to lighten up a wide variety of recipes.

The Cheddar Cheese in this dish is a major flavor contributor. I am a believer that if you're going to add calories to your dish they had better be worth it. Even low fat cheddar is going to adding fat to the dish. In order to cut back calories, but give the dish a strong flavor punch replace the 1 cup of grated low fat cheddar with half a cup of aged white cheddar. If you can find a small brick of 12-24 month white cheddar it's going to add a HUGE flavor punch and allow you to add much less cheese. If you use one of these high quality cheeses use a microplane grater to get the cheese as fine as possible. This will infuse the maximum flavor into the rest of the dish. Once you've made the dish once you'll be able to tell if you can pull back on the cheese content even more with a higher quality product.

Bread Crumbs and Parmesan: This is very similar to the cheddar, with an extra twist. If you use a shallow casserole you will need much more breadcrumb/parm to cover the dish. Use a deep casserole that is not as wide, like a souffle dish and make less of the topping. You will still get a satisfying crunch, but will introduce fewer carb and fat calories into the dish. Also, as with the cheddar purchase a high quality parm, use a microplane, and taste the bread crumb and cheese mixture before you top your dish. If the cheese flavor is very strong apply a thinner layer. You're looking for a flavor accent and delightful browning on top of the dish, not a thick later of breading.