Baked beans

Baked beans just out of the oven. 

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With Memorial Day weekend on the horizon, you may be waxing nostalgic for a proper cookout to kick off summer like back in those pre-pandemic days. The backyard (or patio or fill-in-the-blank space) is the new park and playground, at least for now. Everyone who has a grill surely will be firing it up as if it were clockwork, with the smoke of charcoal briquets hanging in the air like cheap perfume.

While the designated grillers rev up the coals, there’s the business of figuring out the sides. For your consideration, a pan of homespun baked beans, a world apart from the stuff in the can and requiring about an hour of your time. Whether or not you cook the beans (or buy a couple of cans) is totally cook’s choice; the fun here is in making your own sauce, which is both tangy and slightly sweet. Feel free to put your own spin on the sauce and make it as sweet or spicy as you wish. The beans are waiting.

True-Blue Baked Beans

Excerpted from "The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook" by Kim O’Donnel.

Makes 6 side-dish servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon powdered mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground medium-heat chile pepper (such as New Mexico or Aleppo)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce
  • Optional: ¼ cup leftover brewed coffee
  • 4 ½ cups cooked pinto, kidney or Great Northern beans (from 1 ½ cups dried or three 15-ounce cans, drained
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion (from more than ½ medium)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a food processor or stand blender, blend the tomato puree, molasses, brown sugar, Worcestershire, mustard, ground chile pepper and chipotle until well combined. Transfer to a large bowl.  (Plan B: Place in bowl and whisk vigorously; the sugar will need some force to break down.)

Stir the beans into the sauce.

In a 10- or 12-inch skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring regularly; the onion should still be a little crunchy. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds or so. Transfer the onion mixture to the saucy beans, stirring until evenly mixed.

Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch (or approximate size) dish. Pour the beans into the dish and bake for 30 minutes. The sauce will reduce significantly but the beans should keep moist. Cover with foil if needed and return to the oven for an additional 15 minutes. Beans should be bubbling.

Best eaten hot. Keeps well in the refrigerator for up to one week.