Boston – Style Baked Beans & Blue Cornbread

These baked beans are not really baked, but they are easy and mouth-watering delicious. I like to make a large quantity as beans freeze well, and these are winners at potlucks. I team it with Blue Cornbread, a favorite quickbread of mine that I’ve been baking for many years.

The (not) baked beans recipe comes from my dog eared and adored cookbook (the velveteen rabbit on my cookbook shelf), Peter Berley’s The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen. Peter was the executive chef at NYC’s Angelica Kitchen, my favorite vegetarian restaurant there, a standard established in 1976. The Angelica Home Kitchen cookbook is my also often used but not so dog eared favorite.

Boston (not) Baked Beans

I’ve used lots of combinations of beans here, all work well, so it’s really up to your imagination and your pantry. Peter suggests pintos or northern beans. I like cranberry and rattlesnake beans, when i used to be able to find them. I like to do a combination of different beans. One year I tried 1/2 Lima’s (believe it: they were good) with 1/3 navy, 1/3 northern and 1/3 white cannelini for the other half. My note in my books says “delicious”. Another time i combined pintos and kidneys. I’ve also done all northern. It’s a fool-proof recipe that works well no matter what you use. Most recently i did a black soybean, Appaloosa and red bean combo. I tend to think i prefer the white bean combo

6C dried beans, sorted and soaked overnight
2 onions, cut in half stuck with 4-5 cloves – peeling unnecessary
3 celery ribs, with leaves, broken in half
3 carrots, broken in half
9 cloves garlic, not necessary to peel
1 strip kombu
6 slices ginger root (3/16″ thick)
2 bay leaves
1/3C olive oil
water to cover
3/4C maple syrup
1/2C tamari soy sauce
2T Dijon mustard
celtic sea salt
freshly ground blk pepper

Optional: first saute the veggies in the oil. or just combine the beans and veggies and salt a pressure cooker and cover with 1″ of water. bring to a boil, skimming off foam. attach lid and bring to full pressure, reduce heat and cook 10 minutes.
release pressure by running pot under cold water. remove veggies and discard.

(i collect the discarded flavoring veggies and spices as well and veggie scraps in a bag in the freezer. when it gets full i use them to make veg stock. for more, see the last item on this post.)

heat the beans on a medium flame. add the syrup, soy sauce and mustard. cook, uncovered for 30 minutes or so until “meltingly tender”. the liquid will thicken into a rich sauce. add pepper to taste. Voila.

Why Celtic sea salt?

this type of salt is loaded trace minerals from the sea, accounting for its grey color. many of these have few other dietary sources.

Why Kombu, and What is it?

Kombu is a sea vegetable, sold in the macrobiotic section of natural food stores, and co-ops. When cooked with beans, it aids their digestibility and also adds valuable trace minerals we normally would not include in a daily diet. 100g provides 800mg of calcium, 300mg iodine, 150mg phosphorous, a whopping 5800 mg of potassium & 430 ius of vitamin A. Keep in mind that 1 strip of kombu weighs about a half a gram. After cooking the beans, pull out the Kombu and either compost it or finely chop it and mix it into your pet’s food to add the trace minerals to their diet.

I am fortunate to come from a family of cooks. Both my grandmothers made delicious meals. My maternal grandmother was considered a gourmet in her day. I remember standbys she made, like potato, split pea and lentil soups, apple butter and apple sauce, kidneys (i didn’t touch them, but apparently my mother requested them), spaghetti sauce (gravy), lots of jams and so on. She would come to our house once a month for a week, cook up a storm, and load the pantry until her next visit. it would sure be nice to have her around to do that for me, as an adult. she was helping my mother raise a family. that was her generation. so i lived in a house full of home cooked food. no packages or cans, that was her conviction.

my mother is not so much a gourmet, she makes solid wholesome staples, like fresh green salads, steamed veggies, rice. she to served her family fresh, balanced meals. typical a meat, generally broiled chicken, lamb chops or beef, a steamed vegetable and a starch or grain. nothing stands out for the latter category, but i am sure that it was represented on the plate. my father, typical male, liked to bar-be-que: chicken, steaks or ribs. he always enjoyed cooking and has taken over the kitchen in retirement (to my mother’s great joy). he also is a gourmet and adventurous. you name it, he makes it, really.

so true to my genes, i began cooking as a teenager, taking over for my working mother. i got tired of late, simple meals so started getting creative: coq au vin, ratatouille, if the picture looked appetizing i wanted to try it.

however, when as a young woman i changed to a vegetarian diet, i found cooking impossible. i couldn’t just modify all the ingredients and turn the dishes into veg-friendly offerings: it didn’t work. i couldn’t rely on a no-brainer, broiled meat and a veggie, and couldn’t find an easy plant based protein to sub for the meat.

i was living in NYC at the time, and fortunately discovered the Natural Gourmet Cooking School, where i learned to cook again, this time vegetarian. i have favorite dishes i’m still making from those invaluable classes.

This cornbread recipe comes from one of their basic series cooking classes, this one taught by Tim Aiken. I’ve done some modifying over the years, and now have this standby that i still make often.

Blue Cornbread

2C blue cornmeal

2C spelt flour

2T Baking pwd

2C water

1/2C coconut oil, melted

1/3C raspberry brown rice syrup

1t sea salt

preheat oven 400.

whisk wet (and salt) and dry ingredients together in separate bowls. add the wet ingredients to the flours, blend well. pour into a 9×9″ baking pan and bake 400 for 10 minutes (8 min convection). reduce heat to 375 and bake 30 min (23 min convection) until lightly browned. cool and cut into squares. serve with Earth Balance margarine.

Why blue cornmeal?

i have an adventurous palate, and like to try anything different (yellow and purple cauliflower are favs). so when i saw the blue cornmeal, i wanted to give it a try. i think its a little heartier and more flavorful than yellow.

i use spelt flour to avoid wheat (even though its a cousin). i use the pastry flour, its lighter for baking.


use pampered chef stoneware baking pans. they don’t require greasing and they are easier to clean. the company recommends against soap. just soak in warm water and loosen and remove any stuck food with a brush. KB