Dates, Baked Beans and Sitting on a Beach with Chris Christie

Dates, Baked Beans and Sitting on a Beach with Chris Christie

Pythagoras was so convinced that beans had souls that their consumption was forbidden among his followers.

Don’t get me wrong. I love beans, but I’m not so sure about the soul part. Tiny little bean hearts, maybe.

Truth be told, however you fix ’em, I love beans. I love beans in soups. I love beans baked. I love beans and grains in salads paired with a really good vinaigrette. Refried beans rock my world as a guilty pleasure for breakfast. Then, there is glorious hummus…

Let me count the ways.

First, beans are flat out great for your health. They are low in fat with most beans having no more than 2-3% fat. Beans contain no cholesterol. Most beans are at least 20% protein. Beans are high-carbohydrate energy powerhouses. Beans are a rich source of fiber, B vitamins and iron. What’s not to love?

Second, beans taste wonderful.

Third, beans are abundant in nature. Did you realize that beans are part of the third largest flowering plant family? Only orchids and daisies outnumber them. And, food scientists rank beans as the second most important family in the human diet. (Grasses are first.) So…there is no need to feel any guilt when you put away a Chris Christie-size bowl of beans. (Just don’t do it while lounging on a New Jersey beach that you’ve closed to the public. Just sayin…)

Obviously, with all those good qualities, it doesn’t take much of a nudge to get me to try a new bean recipe, particularly if you throw me a little curve in the recipe–some unexpected ingredient, for example.

This is such a recipe.

This baked bean recipe is adapted from one in a cookbook that I just added to my collection, The First Mess by Laura Wright. (Yes. I know. Buying cookbooks is an addiction for me. Hear me out here, though. I believe that if I just find just one extraordinary recipe in a cookbook, the book is a bargain and well-worth a piece of the dwindling shelf space in my office.)

And…I knew I had to buy this book. Wright, after all, is a somebody in the food blogging world. She is a highly-regarded Canadian blogger and cookbook writer. Saveur Magazine named her blog “Best Food Blog” in 2014. Better Homes and Gardens nominated her blog as Best Food Blog in 2016.

So, with one tiny click on Amazon late one recent insomnia-stained night, it was done. The First Mess was mine and I could drift off to sleep knowing that somewhere in a Seattle warehouse Jeff Bezos would be wrapping my package.

But…back to beans and this great recipe. Wright’s cookbook features a creative baked beans recipe with maple syrup and Medjool dates. You read that right, Medjool dates! The dates were definitely the “hook” for me on this recipe. Who ever thought of putting dates into baked beans?  Genius.

Here is a link to Amazon where you can buy her book: Laura Wright’s The First Mess .

Here is my adaptation of Wright’s recipe.

A Date with Baked Beans
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Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried white beans (I used Rancho Gordo Marcella beans)
  • 9 C. water
  • 1 medium onion (chopped)
  • 1/2 C. pure maple syrup (I used Trader Joe's brand)
  • 1/2 C. Medjool dates (pitted and chopped) (or use more if you like a sweeter baked beans)
  • 1/4 C. tomato paste
  • 1/4 C. unsulfured molasses
  • 1/4 C. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 T. grainy mustard
  • 2 t. smoked paprika (dissolved in water)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnish with chopped parsley, chopped tomatoes and chopped red onion

Instructions

  1. Soak beans overnight. Cook the beans in an Instant Pot for about for 20-25 minutes or until done but not falling apart.
  2. Alternatively, drain soaked beans and put them into a large Dutch oven. Cover the beans with water and bring them to a boil. Lower the heat and cook the beans for about 40 minutes or until they are just tender.Drain.
  3. Whichever way you cook the beans, reserve about two cups of the cooking water. Using the Instant Pot method, I didn't have quite two cups and added tap water.
  4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  5. Put the beans in a large Dutch oven and stir in the chopped onion, maple syrup,dates, tomato paste, molasses, apple cider vinegar, mustard, smoked paprika, salt, pepper and the two cups of reserved bean cooking water. Cover the pot with a solid, tight-fitting lid.
  6. Bake at 325 degrees F. for at least 2 hours or until the beans are tender. Check on the beans as you are baking them and add a bit more water as necessary if the beans seem dry. You want them the beans to be suspended in a tasty sauce when you serve them.
  7. Serve with a garnish of chopped parsley and chopped tomatoes. Some chopped red onion would be a nice garnish, too.
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