Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Baked Beans with Honey and Dill
After the glorious weather we had this weekend (it was 70 degrees and sunny on Saturday!), it's rather difficult for me to come back to you with this recipe. I want to tell you about spring breezes, runs in the sunshine, and the crab cakes and asparagus we ate on Sunday! I want to tell you that we planted our first seeds this weekend: tomatoes, eggplant, basil, and hot peppers, which will live indoors getting a head start for the next 8 weeks or so. I want to tell you about the amazing surprise of my two best friends showing up at my door on Friday night from Atlanta and New York to spend the weekend hanging out and helping me pick out a wedding dress!
Alas, today the weather is back to true New England spring: rainy and cold. Delicate little salads and spring vegetables are not quite what I want to eat after I've slogged home in rubber boots, fighting with my umbrella. Instead, I want something warm and stewy, preferably something that I can sop up on a piece of bread. These baked beans with honey and dill from the New York Times fit the bill nicely.
Greek* Baked Beans With Honey and Dill
I used Rancho Gordo runner cannellini beans for this, and soaked them for a few hours but not overnight. Rancho Gordo beans almost always cook up faster for me than grocery store beans, but regular old white navy beans would work well here, too.
1 pound dried white beans, soaked for 4-6 hours or overnight, drained
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes (I used a quart of tomatoes I canned last summer)
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill (I used 3/4 of a cup, but I loooove dill)
In a large dutch oven (you want something ovenproof with a lid), combine the drained beans and enough fresh water to cover by a couple of inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, allow to boil for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 30-60 minutes (I'll explain how to check if they're done in a second). You want a couple of bubbles breaking the surface every few seconds, adjust the heat accordingly.
Preheat the oven to 375. In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat, and saute the onion for 10 - 15 minutes or until lightly caramelized. If onion is browning too fast, lower the heat. Remove from heat.
Check the beans: If you lift a few out on a wooden spoon and blow on them gently, do the skins peel away? They're ready for the next step. Drain the simmered beans, then return them to the dutch oven. Add the rest of the olive oil, the tomatoes and their liquid, the bay leaf and honey, the onion, and enough water just to cover the beans. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then cover and place in the oven. Bake for an hour, stirring every 10 minutes and adding water if the level gets below the top of the beans. (You could also do this on the stove top over very low heat, but then they're not technically "baked" beans and it may take a little longer.)
After the beans have been in the oven an hour, take the pot out and add the tomato paste, vinegar, and salt and pepper. I started with a teaspoon of kosher salt and a half teaspoon of black pepper.
Cover and simmer on the stove top for another 30 minutes, until the beans are tender and the stew has thickened.
Stir in the dill, and let sit off the heat for 15 minutes. Taste the beans; they may need more salt. Serve with bread for dipping.
*I put Greek in quotation marks because I don't know how authentic this recipe is. I don't actually care, because it's quite tasty, but just because it's got honey and dill doesn't make it Greek. Sort of like adding salsa doesn't makes something Mexican and adding peanuts and lime doesn't make something Thai.