Saturday, November 22, 2014

Italian Baked Beans (gluten free)

Pioneer Baked Beans was one of the most popular posts at my blog with time more then 6,000 hits.  Who'd a thought? Retro and comfort foods are supposed to continue to be big this year and as the weather gets colder here I for sure have been turning to home cooked soups, stews and casseroles.

Often I don't want the meat and the fat from the pork so I make a vegetarian version of baked beans. I have made these beans in the oven in a casserole baking dish, cast iron Dutch oven and also in a slow cooker. My instructions show slow cooker method followed by stove top and oven. The version below has cheese but it is easy to make VEGAN by skipping the cheese or topping with my recipe for quinoa polenta and toasted sunflower seeds.

Click this link for a printable recipe.

1 cup White pea or “Navy” beans - any dry bean - 250 ml
½ tsp Fennel seed - 2.5 ml
½ tsp Thyme - 2.5 ml
1 tsp Basil - 5 ml
1 Tbsp Hot chile pepper - 15 ml
1 cup Onion, diced - 250 ml
2 Garlic, cloves, minced 
24  Carrots, baby, medium 
28 fl oz Diced tomatoes, canned, with juice - 798 ml
5 fl oz Tomato paste, canned - 156 ml
1 cup Wine, white, dry - 250 ml
1 ¼ lb Polenta, tube, ready to serve (e.g., Aurora brand) - ½ kg
¼ cup Romano cheese, shredded - 60 ml
1 cup Mozzarella cheese, part skim, shredded  - 250 ml
¼ cup Parsley, fresh, minced - 60 ml
½ tsp Paprika, sweet, ground - 2.5 ml

1. Soak beans in plenty of cold water over-night - use three times their volume of water. You can do this in the crock of the slow cooker. Drain.
2. Add fennel, thyme, basil, a whole chili (optional), chopped onion and minced garlic to the beans. Add 2 liters (8 cups) cold water to cover. This amount of water is an estimate. You can add more later if it is needed.
3. Stir in whole baby carrots. I used some cubed rutabaga the second time I made this as I was out of carrots. Necessity is the mother of invention. Cover and cook on LOW 4 hours. The beans should be tender and most of the liquid absorbed. It looks a little monotone with the turnip but this gets corrected.

4. Stir in slivers of coloured peppers, canned diced tomatoes with liquid, tomato paste and white wine. Cover and cook an additional. 2 hours. Taste it and see if it needs salt, more herbs etc. The polenta and cheese topping will add some saltiness so go easy.

5. Slice polenta into rounds.

Arrange polenta rounds on top of the beans. Push them down into the beans a bit.

Then sprinkle on the grated Romano and mozzarella cheeses (optional). I sprinkled on some fresh parsley and paprika last for colour.

Cover and heat on low until bubbling and cheese is melted. I don't have a picture of the final product as my son and I were pretty hungry and had devoured a lot of it by the time I remembered I hadn't taken a picture.

STOVE TOP version:
1. Add dry beans to stockpot and cover with 3 times their volume of water. Bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let sit 1 hour.
2. Drain discarding liquid. Return soaked beans to pot along with 3 times their volume fresh water. Add fennel, thyme, basil, hot pepper, diced onion and minced garlic. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 30-45 minutes or until tender. Drain, reserving 2 cups cooking liquid.
3. In oven proof casserole combine cooked beans, reserved liquid, baby (or chopped) carrots, slivers of yellow pepper, can of tomatoes with juice, tomato paste and white wine. Cover and bake at 350'F for 2 hours.
4. Top with sliced polenta rounds. Push them down into the beans a bit. Then sprinkle on the grated Romano and mozzarella cheeses (optional). I also sprinkled on some fresh parsley and paprika last for colour. Cover and bake another hour or so until bubbling and cheese is melted.

Nutrients (per 1/8th of recipe – about 350 g): 280 calories, 14 g protein, 5 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 37 g carbohydrate, 10 g fibre, 10 mg cholesterol, 640 mg sodium.  %DV (Daily Value) are 25% calcium and iron, 120% vitamin A and 130% Vitamin C. Darned good nutritionally and marvelous winter food!

Yours in good taste, © Nancy Guppy, RD, MHSc.

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