Vegetarian Baked Beans
This sweet dish was originally made by Sephardic Jews.
Rabbi and food historian Gil Marks has traced some unlikely American staples to Jewish origins. Among them: Pasta, yogurt with fruit, and sitcoms. So it should not come as much of a surprise to learn that baked beans, too, came from members of the Tribe. Marks writes in The World of Jewish Cooking and Encyclopedia of Jewish Food that the sweet, tender beans were first cooked by Sephardic Jews, and the Pilgrims picked up the recipe in Holland en route to the New World.
Marks' research shows that the dish began as a cholent recipe called shkanah in Arabic. The Sephardic Jews living in the Netherlands adapted their Middle Eastern stew to use local ingredients like fava beans, honey or molasses, and goose fat. The Shabbat meal that could cook in residual heat from a hearth or oven appealed to the Pilgrims, who as Puritans also refrained from lighting fires on the Sabbath.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Heat the oil in a skillet and add the onion. Sautee for 5-10 minutes, or until browned and becoming translucent. In an oven-safe crock pot or casserole dish, combine the onions, beans (if using dried beans they need to be soaked overnight and then cooked on the stovetop), and other ingredients. Mix gently with a spoon until well combined. Cover the pot or casserole dish and bake for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, or until sauce has thickened. If too much liquid remains, bake uncovered for 15-30 minutes until the beans have reached your desired consistency. For best flavor, eat the next day.
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