[110] (Vegetarian) Baked Beans

Cover of How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, by Mark Bittman

More beans!

Okay, beans have entered our food life in a big way. Mostly because they’re fairly inexpensive and filling, but partially also because it’s supposed to be “the” way to have a substantial vegetarian meal.

Plus, Bill likes them. Especially if they’re black beans. I don’t know why black beans are his favorite, but they are. I suspect it has to do with a woman he dated previously, and her preferences. You’d have to ask him.

This was my second foray into baked beans, though it’s the initial recipe all of Bittman’s vegetarian baked beans derive from. I tell you this so you don’t get weirded out by the sense of deja vu you’re about to have. I did, in fact, basically copy what I wrote for the Maple-Baked Apple Butter Beans and adjust what needed to be adjusted. It was good.

My second foray? Worse than the first for crunchy beans. Bill and I didn’t have the patience to wait as long, it turns out, when he wasn’t hanging shelves.

Beans are rapidly becoming my dinner nemesis.

h2. Ingredients

1/4 c neutral oil (I used corn oil.)
2 medium onions, chopped

1/4 c tomato paste

6 c water (Still not listed.)

1 5-inch piece of kombu (I estimated on size again.)

1 lb dried white beans, washed, picked over & soaked (I think I used cannellinis this time too.)

1/2 c molasses (I used blackstrap molasses, because it’s what I have.)

2 tsp dry mustard or 2 tbsp prepared (To taste)

Salt & freshly ground pepper

h2. Instructions

Preheat the oven to 300F. In a large ovenproof pot you have a lid for, heat the oil and then sauté the onions in the hot oil over medium-high heat. Stir them up frequently, because it’s fun. Let ‘em go for about 7 minutes, until they’re soft and lightly browned, then toss in the tomato past and cook for another minute or so. In theory, this paste should kind of brown, but I didn’t notice any such thing. Stir in the water, adding maybe 1/3 at first, and using that to scrape up any browned bits (assuming you have them; if not just stir it all in).

Once the water is added, toss in the kombu, molasses and mustard. Stir well (the kombu will be stiff and that’s fine for now), cover, and then put it all in the oven and bake it for a full 2 hours without peeking at it. After that, you can peek, and you should. You should see how the beans are doing, add more water to cover the beans if you need to, and cook again until they are done. Mr. Bittman estimates this will be another 30 minutes.

After this is all done, and the beans are nicely cooked, sprinkle in as much salt and pepper as you’d like, and then stir it really well. The kombu should be nice and soft and break up at this point. It will also have expanded quite a bit. Taste your beans and add more molasses if needed. Turn the oven up to 400F and toss the uncovered beans back in until the beans are “creamy” and the liquid has thickened up nicely. Taste it one last time, add salt & pepper if needed, and serve or cool & refrigerate up to three days, but “reheat gently”.

h2. Cooking and Consumption Notes

h3. Cooking

I’ve got to be very honest with you guys, because that’s what the “notes” sections are all about. I am terrible at baked beans. My second attempt at them was definitely no better than my first. Actually, as I said above, it was worse. And it was, again, because I didn’t advance soak the beans. I even started these beans earlier, because of my first experience, and still my beans were not truly ready to be eaten by the time we gave up and ate.

I really wanted Mr. Bittman’s statement about it only needing (roughly) another hour more if you hadn’t soaked the beans to be correct. In fact, I bet it is often correct. But part of this project is learning, and part of what I’m learning is that beans kind of do their own thing. I understand, from reading Bittman’s cookbooks and from the lecture I heard at the “conference I went to at the end of January”:http://www.metacookbook.com/archives/193-A-short-post-maybe-on-Edible-Institute-2011.html by the founder of Rancho Gordo beans, that the length of cooking time is entirely based on the age of the beans. I would guess this is why pre-soaking is so important. I guess it levels the playing fields between the old beans and the new ones.

Stupid beans. Making me all crazy. Boo.

h3. Consumption

Did I mention that these beans were crunchy?

In terms of flavor, this was okay. Not fabulously impressive, but solid. Probably we would have liked it a lot were it not for the texture.

I can’t specifically name any flavor that stands out, to be honest. It wasn’t potently molasses-y or mustard-y. It was just a nice pot of crunchy beans.

Yes, I’m obsessed with the crunching. It haunts me.

I will tell you all this: We put these beans in the freezer, because it made a pile of beans. We’re hopeful that the freeze/thaw cycle the beans will have to go through will improve their texture. We’ll report back once we’ve eaten them.

Actually, come to think of it, that might be tonight for Bill. It depends on what he has for dinner tonight. I’m going out with a group from my old lab, and he’s welcome to join us, but he tends to decline. He likes all those folks quite well, but I think he enjoys the time at home to do whatever by himself. I get plenty of “home alone” time, and he gets almost none. So I imagine he’ll stay home. And whether he’ll have leftover beans or leftover soup (or something else) will be entirely up to him. I only say beans because it was what I was going to pull out of the freezer if my old lab group was not doing something tonight.

Aw, man! Beans are really becoming my dinner nemesis. Because when they take soooo long to cook, guess what I forget to do? TAKE A FINAL PHOTO.

They looked an awful lot like the last ones. Like beans, but cooked-looking. Which is, as you all know by now, a lie.

Please accept, in lieu of a final photo, this photo of the beans after they’d been in the oven for two hours. It’ll give you a sense of the process.