Martha Rose Shulman was focusing on vegetables back when most vegetarian cooks were structuring their meals around brown rice and butter. But plant-based eating has come a long way since the 1970s; today, more and more us are learning to put vegetables at the center of our plates. Shulman says this is much easier than it used to be, because now we have more access to local vegetables and grains.
Shulman talks vegetarian history with Evan on this Saturday’s show. Enjoy her recipe for Greek Sweet and Sour Baked Beans with Tomatoes, Peppers, and Mint below.
Greek Sweet-and-Sour Baked Beans with Tomatoes, Peppers, and Mint
(Reprinted from The Simple Art of Vegetarian Cooking by Martha Rose Shulman. © 2014 by Martha Rose Shulman. By permission of Rodale Books. Available wherever books are sold.)
Makes 6 servings
One of my favorite baked bean dishes, this is inspired by a Greek recipe, and even though it’s Mediterranean, for once in my bean-cooking life I’m not calling for garlic (add it if you wish). The sweet and sour flavors and the peppers and tomatoes should be prominent here. Like all baked bean dishes, the more time these beans have in the oven, the better the texture of the overall dish will be. The dish is prettiest when made with white beans. Serve with thick slices of country bread.
I lb slow-cooked beans (see bean template below)
2 red bell peppers, diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, pulsed with the liquid from the can to a coarse puree (or 3 cups of Pomi strained tomatoes or grated fresh tomatoes)
3 tablespoons mild honey, such as clover or acacia
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar (or more to taste)
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1. Follow Step 1 of the bean template recipe below, using white, pinto, or borlotti beans.
2. In Step 2, after softening the onion (omit the garlic), add the bell peppers and a pinch of salt and continue to cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until the onion is soft and lightly colored.
3. In Step 3, stir the onion/pepper mixture and remaining 2 tablespoons oil into the beans, along with the pureed tomatoes, honey, tomato paste, vinegar, paprika, and salt to taste. Make sure the beans are just submerged in liquid (add water if necessary). Bring the mixture to a simmer.
4. Cover and bake as directed in Step 4, stirring every 20 minutes, until the beans are tender and the mixture is thick. Taste and adjust salt, add black pepper to taste, and stir in the mint. Cover, return to the oven, and bake another 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Slow-Cooked Baked Beans Template
Baked beans should have a plush, pillowy texture, the result of slow cooking that allows the beans to stay intact while becoming very tender. I’ve found that I have the best success with baked beans if I bring the beans slowly to a boil on top of the stove, cook them partially at a low simmer, then transfer them to a moderately low oven–300° to 325°F (sometimes even lower). In most cases, baked beans call for less liquid than simmered beans; enough so that they’re submerged, but they should end up being enrobed in a sauce rather than suspended in a broth.
1 pound beans, rinsed and picked over for stones
1 bay leaf
4 to 6 cups water
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
1. Soak the beans for 4 hours or longer, or use the quick soak (see page 188). Do not soak lima beans. Drain the soaked beans and place in a flameproof casserole. Add the bay leaf and enough water to cover by an inch. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer 1 hour. Check the beans at regular intervals to make sure they are submerged, and add water as necessary.
2. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 300°F. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat in a heavy skillet. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add a generous pinch of salt and the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
3. Stir the onion and garlic into the beans, along with salt to taste (at least 1 teaspoon per 1/2 pound of beans). Drizzle the beans with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil.
4. Cover the pot, place in the oven, and bake, stirring occasionally, until the beans are thoroughly soft, 1 to 11/2 hours. Check after 30 minutes to make sure that the beans are at a very slow simmer; if they are not simmering, turn the oven up to 325°F. Check also from time to time to make sure that the beans are submerged. Either add liquid or push the beans down into the simmering broth if necessary. Discard bay leaf. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot or warm.
ADVANCE PREPARATION: This is even better if you make it a day ahead. It will keep for 3 or 4 days. Reheat on top of the stove or in a 325°F oven.