Merrill's baby Clara is finally old enough to eat solid foods. Armed with her greenmarket bag, a wooden spoon and a minimal amount of fuss, Merrill steps into the fray.
Today: Baked beans, with less sugar.
For a while we were eating a lot of bean and lentil soups, and Clara really seemed to love them. But then she wanted to feed herself all the time, and they lost their luster. (Soup as finger food does not end well, trust me.)
Looking for another way to give Clara her legumes, I started cooking bigger, plumper beans in just a little bit of liquid, with vegetables and aromatics. This way, they were infused with flavor but she could pick them up one at a time and feed them to herself without making a huge mess.
The other week I decided to try a riff on baked beans for her, with a little less sweetness than the versions we all know and love. I simmered cranberry beans with onion, garlic and thyme, stirred in a sauce of chopped tomatoes, brown sugar, vinegar and spices and then baked everything in a low oven until the sauce thickened and the beans were very tender.
These baked beans are just a little tangy and just a little sweet -- and they can be more than a little spicy if you feel like amping up the chipotle powder. I recommend serving them with barbecued chicken or ribs, both excellent finger foods in their own right.
Serves 4 to 6
1/2 pound cranberry, pinto or cannellini beans, soaked overnight
2 sprigs thyme
1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled
1 small onion, diced (save the ends for the beans)
1 tablespoon bacon fat (you can also use oil or butter)
1/8 teaspoon sweet paprika
Pinch chipotle powder (optional)
2 cups chopped canned tomatoes (I use tetra-pack)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
Photos by James Ransom