Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Baked Beans with Mint and Paprika

I've never done much with dried beans. We weren't really a bean family. My dad did have jars of dried lima, kidney, and pinto beans that he would add to his most awesome soups, but the only beans we ate as beans were doctored cans of pork and beans (onion, ketchup, and brown sugar--yum!).

In my college days I would play with pinto beans every once in a while, and then black beans became the rage and I played with those, too. But I never really mastered the art of cooking beans, relying mostly on canned organic.

But now that I'm eating a lot more beans (and am on much tighter of a budget), I've started playing with dried beans. I can do pinto, black and garbanzo pretty well, but I'm having some trouble with navy beans. The last two times I've made them (Turkish White Bean Stew and this), they haven't cooked all the way. This time I cooked them much longer than the recipe called for, but they're still not quite done. They aren't bad, they just aren't melt-in-your-mouth tender.

There are some interesting things going on in this dish. I used a sweet smoked Spanish paprika I got from The Spice House that permeated the whole dish with a sweet smoky flavor. The mint was refreshing, but there wasn't enough of it. The rings of pepper and tomato looked pretty spread out over the top, but the flour never made it into the mix so it didn't thicken properly, and the pepper and tomato flavors also didn't make into the mix.

I would make this again, with the following changes:

1. I would make sure the beans were even more cooked before I transferred them to the casserole dish (this should become my mantra, I think).
2. I would use more mint, both in the dish and for garnish.
3. I would chop the peppers instead of placing rounds over the top. I might still layer the tomatoes over the top--they break down more easily so they would probably cook into the dish.
4. I would sprinkle the flour over the dish before I put any layers on top of it.
5. It needs to cook longer than an hour at 325 degrees.

And here's the recipe:

Home Cookin 4.9 Chapter: Beans and Vegetables
Baked Beans with Mint and Paprika

1 lb. white beans
1 bay leaf
1 hot red chili pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 med. onions, chopped
1 tsp. paprika
2-3 large cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. fresh mint leaves, chopped
2-3 tomatoes, cut in rounds
2 red peppers, seeded and cut into strips or rounds
1 tsp. flour
Chopped fresh parsley or mint

from The Best Vebetarian Recipes, byMartha Rose Shulman (Wm. Morrow, 2001)

Soak beans 6 hours or overnight. Drain and combine with 4 c. water, bay leaf and chili pepper in large dutch oven. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45-60 mins., until beans are tender but intact. Discard pepper.

Transfer to an ovenproof casserole dish. Preheat oven to 325 deg.

Heat 1 Tbsp. of oil in nonstick skillet over med. heat. Add onion. Stir together, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, 5-10 mins. or until soft. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 mins.

Remove from heat and stir in paprika, garlic, salt, pepper and mint. Stir in app. 1/4 c. hot water. Add to beans and blend thoroughly. Arrange tomatoes and peppers over top of mixture. Sprinkle on the flour and remaining Tbsp. of oil. Bake uncovered 1 hr. or until beans are very tender. Add water if necessary. Sprinkle parlsey or mint on top and serve hot.

Serves 4-6

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