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Vegetarian Baked Beans

“Why baked beans?”

My friend was perplexed. I was equally perplexed by the question.

It turns out she’d never eaten them growing up. I’d grown up in the same state, and only a few hours away, but had plenty of experience with them. They weren’t a staple in our house, but they showed up at picnics and potlucks, and on Boy Scout camping trips. Sometimes they were delicious and interesting. Often, not so much.

Baked beans are a comfort food for some people, and are commonly made with tomatoes—often ketchup—so that makes them fair game for The No Nightshade Kitchen. (Note: Pork—as ham, ham-bone, or bacon—is another common ingredient in baked beans. But when I added pork, this recipe just wasn’t as good. I’d suggest sticking straight vegetarian for this one.)

INGREDIENTS

  • oil for sauté
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
  • 1 vegetarian bouillon cube dissolved in 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 (15-ounce) cans organic navy beans, drained
  • 1 cup Beetuto
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons black garlic powder, or 3 cloves black garlic
  • 1 tablespoon malt vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sherry wine vinegar

INSTRUCTIONS

1Preheat oven to 325°F.

2The beans are both the most and the least important part of this equation. The advantage of cans is that you can easily mix and match—I like using navy, great northern, and a small kidney bean for variety. But if you’re using cans, try to get reduced sodium, otherwise you have little control over how salty the final product will be.

3Likewise, if you’re cooking up your beans from scratch, go light on the salt. You’ll need two cups of dry beans, and start with no more than a sprinkle of salt for cooking the beans. I often use none at all. Because the umami quotient of the other ingredients is particularly high, it’s actually quite delicious with just a sprinkle of salt.

4If you have a cast iron skillet, or an otherwise oven-safe skillet you won’t need while these are baking, use that. Otherwise, use a large skillet and add olive oil and onions and cook for several minutes, then add the garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent and soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the Beetuto, sugar, molasses, black garlic, mustard and vinegar until well combined and cook for 1 minute.

5Add beans and bouillon water and bring to a simmer. Salt & pepper to taste.

6Transfer to baking dish or bake in the cast iron skillet. Cover with a lid or foil and bake for 40 minutes to an hour. Remove lid add about 30 minutes. You might add more broth if needed to moisten beans and continue to bake, uncovered, until top is browned and bubbly. But in my experience after the sauté there is never any point at where this dish is NOT ready to serve; everything is cooked by the time you stick it in the oven. But it’s in the oven that the last bit of alchemy takes place. Serve hot.

NOTES

Just like not all vegetarian bouillon is nightshade free, not all vegetarian bouillon is vegan—or even vegetarian! But this is a vegan dish if you make the right choice here.

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