Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Awesome Baked Beans

Last May my older sister came to visit and at one of the stores in town we visited they were selling one pound sacks of unusual, heirloom dry beans from Rancho Gordo. I chose to try Vallarta They are described in the book from Rancho Gordo, Heirloom Beans, as a, "dense, soft yellow bean" and as being very rich and often paired with other ingredients, including greens like spinach, kale and chard.

I wish I could say that I tried them immediately and have since become someone who eats heirloom beans once a week or something, but the truth is that it took me until this week to cook them up and try them. Since they sounded like a bean that would taste good baked, I used two cups of the cooked beans to make some baked beans to go with fresh, roasted beets,

capresi salad with heirloom tomatoes, basil and fresh mozarella, plus some leftover meatballs from Costco and a plate of sliced cucumbers. everything except the cheese, meatballs and beans came from the garden and it was a satisfying meal. The beans were so rich that I ended up only eating one meatball and one slice of the cheese in the salad. Next time I'll serve the beans as a main course and forget about any meat. They really don't need it.

This is a pretty simple baked bean dish. If you don't have any freshly cooked beans on hand, you could substitute white beans or pinto beans from a can and still have a nice dish. Adjust the amount of molasses to suit your own taste. Some kinds are more potent than others and some people are fonder of molasses, too. Sweetie loves molasses and really like these beans. I didn't look at any recipes, just threw together things that seemed like they would make a nice pot of baked beans.

Baked Beans

2 cups cooked beans (I used Vallarta beans from Rancho Gordo). Recipe for cooking beans below.
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons ketchup
salt and pepper to taste

Combine beans and next four ingredients in an oven proof bowl or casserole. Taste for seasonings and add salt, pepper, and more molasses to taste.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes. Beans will be cooked through and crusty on top like the phot at the beginning of this post. Serve at once. Serves 2-4.

Cooking Dry Beans
I used a pound bag of beans and have enough left over after using 2 cups, cooked, for the baked beans that I can make another recipe. The instructions work for larger or smaller quantities of beans, but as long as you are taking the time to cook the dry beans, why not do at least a pound?

Pour the dry beans into a collander and rinse, making sure to check for any debris, small pebbles, etc. I didn't find any in my packet of beans, but have found some before when cooking lentils, so I always look. Place the rinsed beans in a large bowl and cover with cold or room temperature water. Let beans soak at least 3 hour, up to overnight. When ready to cook the beans, I poured out the soaking water and rinsed them again and set them aside. Some folks just put the beans, soaking water and all into the pot after they have cooked the mirepoix.

In the pot you will be cooking the beans, saute' a mixture of finely chopped onion, carrots and celery in a bit of bacon grease or olive oil or grapeseed oil. For the pound of beans I used 1/2 and onion, about 1/2 cup carrots and 2 stalks celery. This is the mirepoix.

To the mirepoix, once it is cooked long enough to color the carrots and so the onion is translucent, add the beans and stir to combine. Cover with water and enough extra water to be one inch over the beans. Bring to a boil, uncovered, and boil 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to a simmer, stirring often, let beans simmer until tender, somewhere between 1 and 4 hours, depending on the age of the bean and how it has been stored. When the beans are almost ready they really have a nice, beany smell which you will notice more than the onion-celery-carrot smell. Keep an eye on the liquid and add more room temperature water as needed. When the beans were almost tender I let some of the liquid cook down, so by the time they were done there was about 1/4 inch of beans above the bean cooking liquid. I also stirred the beans a lot to make sure that they cooked evenly.

Your beans are now ready to use in any recipe calling for cooked beans. Think of all the stews, chilies, soups, salads and so on that you can make. The Vallarta beans have even been used as ravioli stuffing, according to Steve Sando, one of the authors of Heirloom Beans. You can find Rancho Gordo beans and the book on the web, too.

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