Tuesday, April 13, 2010

32. Back Burner Beans - Is it a Fruit?

Sometimes when I served bean for dinner, my children would sing a little song that began, "Beans, beans the magical fruit..."

I did not know they learned this little rhyme from a Bart Simpson episode! Apparently, Bart was sent to a Catholic school after being expelled from his regular elementary school. Bart's new teacher asked him to sing a hymn but, not knowing what a hymn was, the little character was allowed to sing a song of his choice - the bean song. After he sang the rather colorful words, he was chased away by the teachers and other students. (Version of song at end of post).

No matter how many times my children tormented me with the bean song, I never actually heard or internalized the word fruit at the end of the first line. I think of beans as vegetables and to paraphrase an 1828 version of the Webster's Dictionary,...vegetables are such plants used for culinary purposes and cultivated in gardens...they are of a more soft and fleshy substance than trees and shrubs and include cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, potatoes, peas, beans, etc...

Obviously, Webster thought they were vegetables and to bolster my case, cuisine terminology tells us plant parts which are sweet and fleshy are fruit. A bean is hardly sweet and fleshy and it would seem at this point that it is safe to say it is a vegetable...on the other hand, a bean is also classified as a legume...and the definition for legume is, the fruit produced by members of that family.

Maybe a bean is a fruit, after all.

I guess in the end, it doesn't really matter; beans are good for you, whatever they are - so, eat them!

We did have a variety of legumes when I was a child - navy beans, lentils, split peas, kidney beans, lima, and red beans. Many of them were featured in my mother's soups or stews. Baked beans, however, came from a can and they were a family favorite because Mother always added chopped onion and sometimes other things to the canned mixture.

Today's recipe has a baked bean consistency and it has been modified to make a tastier and lower-fat version of one I used to cook. It has such a wonderful flavor, it could be a main dish.

Diane's Back-Burner Beans

1 large onion, diced
1 T bacon bits (you may used 4 slices of bacon, drained if you wish)
4 cans navy beans, drained
1 can chicken broth
7 T real bacon bits
3/4 C sorghum molasses
1 can tomato paste
1/2-3/4 C brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
Salt & pepper to taste

Heat a pot on med-high heat, add 1-2 T oil. When oil is hot, add diced onions and cook until soft and golden. Stir frequently and make sure they do not burn. Halfway through cooking process, add 1 T bacon bits. (Or fry the onions in a little bacon fat).
Next, add remaining ingredients except for 7 Tbacon bits and stir until well mixed. Turn down heat to low and simmer with pot partially covered for 45 minutes. Add remaining bacon bits and taste.

Adjust sugar or salt. Serve or refrigerate. Makes 2 quart.

Serving suggestions: as a side with baked Ham, hot dogs, hamburgers, fried fish, sandwiches, meat loaf.

*Bean song: Beans, Beans the musical fruit, the more you eat the more you toot. The more you toot, the better you feel, so eat your beans at every meal.

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