JUST IN TIME FOR SUMMER ~

Finally, finally!  The temps are rising and people are heading outdoors!  YIPPEE!  We in Boston have been brutalized by the historic winter passed, and are ready to get out and about.

Picnics on the beach, barbecues, dining on the porch or under the stars, we are packed and READY!

SO today I have two great things for you to enjoy….

The first, Spicy Root Beer Baked Beans, is the very best take along recipe you will ever make for a gathering.  It is easy,  portable, freezes beautifully and is TOO.DIE.FOR.DELICIOUS!

Adapted from a recipe by chef Aarti Sequoia of Food Network fame, I humbly bring you the most delicious baked beans you will ever eat….and I’m from Boston…I know baked beans!!!

These beans are spicy and sweet, with smoky bacon, ginger and an indian spice called garam masala, which make them so very delicious.

It also contains a surprise ingredient, ROOT BEER, who’s sweetness balances the heat and subtle spices beautifully.

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Don’t be put off by the garam masala if you’ve never had it.  It is nothing like the curried up pungent Indian food that some people are adverse to.  Garam masala only brings a warmth and depth to the beans without a heaviness of flavor.  Kind of like what cumin does to a chili dish.  You feel it more than you taste it.

But I digress.

Here’s what you need…Serves 8

  • 1 pound of smoky bacon, cooked and crumbled.
  • 1 large or two medium Vidalia or yellow onion, diced.
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced.
  • 4 tablespoons fresh ginger root.
  • 1 1/2 bottles, (about 18 ounces) of premium quality root beer.
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar.
  • 4 tablespoons molasses.
  • 1 tablespoon grain mustard.
  • pinch of red pepper flakes to taste.
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2  cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained.
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste.

We start with a dutch oven, or any oven proof pot, and a 400 degree heated oven.

First you brown the smoky bacon until it’s crisp.  Remove it from the pot,  along with all but about four tablespoons of the bacon grease.  Discard the excess grease and set aside the bacon.  Next, saute the large diced yellow onion, the garlic, and the freshly grated gingeroot, until all are soft.  Then add the tomato paste and cook for about another two minutes.

The fun continues when you add one and a half bottles (about 18 ounces) of really good root beer.  Get the best root beer you can find, as it does make a difference.  To that, add the cider vinegar, molasses, grain mustard, red pepper flakes and garam masala to the pot and stir til combined.

Finally, gently stir in the beans so they don’t break apart,  add salt and pepper to taste, and heat on high to almost a boil.  (Don’t season too much here, as when the beans cook down, the flavor intensifies. You can add more after if needed.)

At this point, your beans will be soupy and you will probably want to kill me for wasting your hard earned money…..but PATIENCE.

Pop this soupy mess in the oven and bake it for about 35-45 minutes, UNCOVERED, until the mixture cooks to a thick, lovely, luscious sauce for the beans.

Let cool a bit, then sprinkle with the cooked bacon, chopped.

That’s it!

I would love to see your face when you take your first bite.

WOWIE!

I’ve taken this to many occasions, and it’s always requested again and again.

You know you have a great recipe when THAT is the one dish people remember from a meal.

This is that recipe.  Forget the perfectly grilled steaks, or juicy ribs or burgers….They will be talking about and requesting this gem of a side dish for years to come.

The next little nugget I have is a lovely book of picnic fun …The Picnic, Recipes and Inspiration from Basket to Blanket, by Marnie Hanel.

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Great, no fail picnic take along recipes, check lists, picnic games and rules, and even 99 uses for a Mason jar.  That, ALONE was worth the book.

You can buy it at Barnes and Noble or Amazon.com

Here’s wishing you many memorable days and nights under the stars, with loads of good food and people you love.  Now hurry up and get out there…Winter starts is exactly 222 days!!!! ~

 

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