Spicy three-bean puttanesca sauce

tripod cocino

Lately, I’ve been drawn to the idea that the landscapes we inhabit come to inhabit us in turn.

Last day snow cloudy A recent 6-day backpacking trip through the Grand Canyon left me gorged on overwhelmingly beautiful desert panoramas and icy spring water. While sinking uphill through powdery snow to reach the canyon’s North Rim, the snow-covered vista below repeatedly tugged my preoccupied mind away from the physical difficulty of each step, insisting that I drink in my surroundings. It was a natural prompt for mindfulness; a moving meditation of sorts.

Although I don’t begrudge them for it, it makes me a wee bit sad when friends explain that they’re simply “not outdoorsy people.” I think it reflects, in part, how our society encourages us to see our bodies as tidily separate from the air that penetrates our lungs, the lakes that fill our cells, and the soil minerals that build our bones. Along these lines, is it really so straightforward to sharply delineate “indoors” and “outdoors?” What might happen if our species fundamentally recognized that we are physically constituted by the surroundings we inhabit and manipulate?

Lofty spiritual revelations aside, I’m a proponent of preparing awesome meals for camping trips (in fact, I probably put more thought into camping menus than my everyday eats). I was fortunate to have stumbled upon a trusty secondhand Snackmaster dehydrator for about $10 last year, which offers a convenient alternative to the packaging, saltiness and expense of store-bought dehydrated foods. After a day or two of dehydrator aromatherapy, homemade curries, stews and jerkies magically become portable for lightweight backpacking trips. The following recipe features ingredients from some hearty BC winter staple crops. For those cooks who consider themselves to be of the outdoorsy persuasion, I have parenthetically italicized instructions for dehydrating.

Musical inspiration: Winter
last day tonemapped

Spicy three-bean puttanesca sauce

Makes about 6 servings.

  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 large golden beet, cubed
  • 1 large leek, coarsely chopped
  • 3 small portobello mushrooms, coarsely chopped (small cubes if dehydrating)
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Two 796 cans of tomatoes (diced, whole, doesn’t really matter. If they’re unsalted, then add a pinch of salt), puréed
  • 1.5 tsp hot cayenne powder
  • 2 tsp powdered or whole dried thyme
  • 2 tsp dried oregano leaf
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • freshly ground pepper
  • Mixture of white beans, kidney beans and black beans (roughly equivalent to 1 1/3 cups uncooked dried beans, two 15-oz cans (drained) beans, or 3 1/3 cups cooked beans)
  • 1 small bunch kale, finely chopped (dinosaur/lacinato kale holds it crinkly shape remarkably well when dehydrated)
  • 1 cup sliced olives
  • One 14-oz can artichoke hearts, halved (finely chopped if dehydrating)
  • 1 bunch of fresh parsley, finely minced

cooking Heat oil in a large saucepan, and sauté onions, garlic and beets (plus leeks, if dehydrating) until onions are translucent (purée this mixture if dehydrating, and then return it to the pot. Thickening the sauce makes it easier to dehydrate).

Add the leeks, mushrooms and balsamic vinegar, and sauté on medium-high for 5-7 minutes.

Stir in the puréed tomatoes, cayenne, thyme, oregano, basil and pepper and increase the heat. When the sauce begins to bubble, add the beans, kale, and artichoke hearts, and reduce the heat.

Simmer gently until the kale just wilts, remove from heat and throw in the chopped parsley.

Pour over fried polenta cakes and garnish with a bit of extra parsley.


Scoop 2 cups of the sauce onto each parchment paper-lined dehydrator tray and spread evenly. Each 2-cup tray = 1 meal for 1 person. Dehydrate for 24-36 hours, and pack the dehydrated contents into a thick freezer bag.

Dump the dehydrated sauce into a minimum 2-L pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and stir until beans are fully rehydrated. Serve with polenta (I boil 1 cup dried polenta in roughly 3.5 cups water).


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