Sunday, February 10, 2008

VeggieTales, Day 4: Full of Beans and Brown Bread

In my husband's family, you don't just say a fidgety, feisty kid is full of beans: they're full of beans and brown bread. And that's what I made for dinner tonight. Tart & Tangy Baked Beans from the Moosewood Cookbook and Boston Brown Bread from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.

This is the kind of cooking I had in mind when I decided to go meatless for Lent--trying new recipes, breaking out of a rut. But I can only do this type of meal on a weekend because it's both labor-intensive, with lots of chopping and measuring, and time-consuming, with pots bubbling on the stove and pans baking in the oven for hours. Oh, and it fills the sink with dirty dishes.

None of which would be a problem if the result made my mouth happy. (That's a Japanese Iron Chef reference, for the uninitiated.) But it did not. My mouth was bored.

The brown bread was OK. At least, it tasted like I think it's supposed to. I can't be sure, because I've never had it before. But it was a little too strong, somehow. I think I'll give it one more chance, but I'll try maple syrup instead of molasses for the sweetener. The recipe listed both as options, and I had both on hand, but I went with molasses because the beans also had it, and I thought that would make the flavors complement each other.

The beans, though...let's just say I could've gotten a tastier result by taking two cans of beans, giving them a good rinse, and heating them up with a bottle of barbecue sauce, not even the good stuff but any old brand, plus maybe a sauteed onion and some molasses for more flavor. And it would've taken maybe a quarter the time and effort. This recipe had an ingredient list a mile long. I soaked the beans overnight, then simmered them on the stovetop for an hour and a half. I chopped onions and sauteed them with chili powder, cumin, dry mustard, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, and freshly ground black pepper in what seemed liberal quantities. I stirred in chopped apples and tomatoes, plus cider vinegar, cheddar cheese, and molasses, again in what looked like ample amounts to make for an interesting dish full of complex flavors. The recipe, after all, advertised itself as tart and tangy. And the house smelled nice while it baked.

But it was bland. Boring. Tasted like something out of a can. I sacrificed half my afternoon to those damn beans, and they were BLAND. Grr. That's one recipe I know not to try again.

Tomorrow I'll have approximately 45 minutes to get dinner on the table and eat before my writers group, so I'm throwing together a sort of bruschetta/french bread pizza/melt thingy based on my own instincts and experience for what flavors work together. It'll have like five ingredients, and two of them are bread and olive oil. It might be bland or even taste like crap, but at least it won't be maximum effort for minimum reward.

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