This bean dish could almost be a shoe in for Meatless Monday, but for the 7 to 8 ounces of ham it contains.
That’s why you’re seeing this recipe on a Tuesday. Oh, and it uses chicken broth too, though that could easily be swapped out for vegetable broth.
Sigh. I always have the best of intentions about supporting the Meatless Monday movement. I think it’s wonderful.
Because the stats here are not encouraging. According to the Worldwatch Institute, the average ‘Sally’ and ‘Joe’ now eat more than twice as much meat as compared to just 50 years ago. And with our exploding global population, meat demands have increased five-fold, driving up demand for more and more water, land, feed, fertilizer, fuel, and waste disposal capacity. A recent New York Times article stated that “an estimated 30 percent of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, which also estimates that livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases — more than transportation.”
Yikes. Makes you not want to know sometimes.
And yet, knowing what I know, here I am…still offering up something that contains just a teensy weensy bit of meat. I need to be more creative here, clearly. Will work on it.
In my defense, though, meat is only an accessory in this dish. A flavor enhancer, if you will. This is true of many of the dishes I make. And while I don’t have the ability to prove it (I’ll leave this to sharper minds than my own), I suspect that our lovely, resource-finite planet would have an easier time feeding its 7.1 billion (and growing) inhabitants if meat became a ‘meal accessory’ much of the time and not the featured item it often is.
In the meantime, here’s an absolutely satisfying ‘almost-just-beans’ dish that brings you to the table with a smile on your face, in part because its fragrance is so compelling.
making baked black beans, red pepper & ham
Preheat the oven to 375°F .
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a 10-inch skillet on medium-high heat until it begins to swirl but is not smoking. Add 7-8 oz. of ham of your choice, sliced in strips or chopped (smoked ham gives this dish a muskier flavor).
Cook until the sides of the ham pieces start looking golden and browned, or about 5 minutes or so. Remove ham with a slotted spoon and set aside in a small bowl.
Add 1/2 of a red bell pepper, julienned, in the same skillet and turn the heat to high.
Stirring constantly, allow the pepper strips to soften and blacken ever so slightly and then remove immediately from the heat. Add sea salt to taste and mix. Set aside.
Add another 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the same skillet and heat it up until it begins to swirl, and then add 1 large grated or finely chopped Spanish onion. Cook it until the onion has turned translucent and you start to see browning on the bottom of the pan.
Add the other 1/2 of the red bell pepper, grated or finely chopped, and cook until the pepper has completely softened.
Add 2 cans of 28 oz. black beans, rinsed well (or 1 cup of dried black beans that have been pre-soaked and pre-cooked).
Sometimes I’m organized and remember to pre-soak the beans I’ll need the night before. For the occassions when I’m not, which are sadly more frequent than I’d like to admit, I have a reserve of assorted canned beans in my garage pantry. Canned beans sometimes get a bad rap because of BPA concerns. More and more people are becoming aware of the toxicity of this substance, which is an industrial chemical found on the inside lining of many food cans. While the FDA says that it won’t harm you in small amounts (not very reasurring, is it not?), BPA exposure has been associated with potential adverse effects on the brain, and on the prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children.
Thankfully, the market is winning on this one. As more consumers demand BPA-free cans, we are seeing more and more of them on the shelves. Since I don’t make any money for saying this, I will share that my go-to source for canned beans is Eden Foods. They were pioneers. After much difficulty and after taking a cut on their profits, they produced the first BPA-free cans in 1999. They are OK in my book.
Also add ½ cup chicken broth and mix well, continuing to keep the skillet on the heat. Taste for seasoning. Add sea salt if needed and a good fresh crush of black pepper.
In a casserole dish, place the cooked ham. Move the ham around so that its condiment covers the bottom of the dish. Add the bean mixture and then arrange 1 tomato, cut horizontally in five slices, on top. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
Arrange the cooked pepper strips all over the top of the beans and tomato. Makes 8 servings.