“She felt as heavy as a sack of beans. But then, a sack of beans never got embarrassed or did stupid balloon tricks in front of other sacks of beans or forgot to lock the bathroom door. Come to think of it, life was easy for all the beans of the world.” Jodi Lynn Anderson, “May Bird and the Ever After”
Have you ever gone on a cooking jag? I have. And, for some reason, this has been my summer of the baked bean.
I’ve tried white beans and red beans, tiny beans and big beans. I’ve made them the slow way – brining beans overnight in homemade “seawater” and cooking them to oblivion. Recently, I’ve been tweaking recipes and tweaking them some more. After all this, I’m now making them in a way so fast and easy it’s almost embarrassing.
Frankly — no pun intended, but get it? — these beans taste nearly as good as those of an octogenarian church lady I know who lives on a mountain ridge. She wears a tight bun and favors little lace collars. She can also cook like Gordon Ramsey.
I’ll never achieve her level of baked-bean greatness, but this recipe is shockingly close in spite of all the short cuts I’ve taken. It is also pretty and the addition of butter beans makes this vegan recipe taste as creamy as if I’d used salt pork.
Give it a try and see if you agree. We’ll just keep the speed and level of ease a secret.
Speed-of-Light Baked Beans
Wash, seed and coarsely chop about ½ pound sweet peppers (yellow, orange or red makes the prettiest end product) and one jalapeno pepper. Halve and peel one yellow onion, slice thinly so that you’re left with half rings you could almost read through.
Put 1 Tablespoon olive oil in an iron skillet and slowly cook (not burn!) the peppers and onions until they are so soft they look melted. Add 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar. Stir and turn off heat.
In a large iron skillet or a Dutch oven (an enameled iron cooking pot), empty two 28-ounce cans of prepared baked beans. (Vegans need to check ingredient labels here. I found a version I like at Aldi.) Open a 16-ounce can of butter beans (don’t substitute another bean or you won’t get the right level of salt-pork-like creaminess). Rinse the butter beans, drain them and remove the weird empty bean casings that tend to rise to the top.
Add the cooked peppers and onions, stir. Put on a lid or some aluminum foil and bake up to one hour in a 300 degree F oven. Ten minutes before serving, take off the lid, turn off the heat and let a slight crust form. (Or, if you’re really in a hurry, put it all in a pan and simply heat through on the stove top. Not quite as good, but still tasty.)
Serves six. Doubles well. If you have leftovers, freeze them in one-cup portions and add one serving to a pot of vegetable soup as soon as a chilly day comes along. Mmmm!