Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mean Joe Bean

The Messy Apron went sloppy recently as I was inspired by a recipe in a recent issue of Cooking Light magazine. It was in a column by Mark Bittman about accepting less meat into your life and was for Almost Meatless Sloppy Joes. I, of course, wondered why they had to be “almost” meatless, and why, if one accepted the added beans and vegetables, one couldn’t just leave out the meat entirely.

Now, here’s where the debate begins. I’ve written about this before. You can’t just take the meat out of something, especially something like a burger, and pretend it’s still meat. You will be disappointed. You will be outraged. You will insult the cows. But if you just take the flavors of, say, a Sloppy Joe sandwich, and apply them to a vegetarian selection of good, wholesome foods with a high WFQ*, cook them properly and aren’t foolish enough to pretend they are a meat substitute, you can still have something good. Trust me. This was good.

I increased the amount of beans in the original recipe and changed the seasonings to reflect the way I like Sloppy Joe’s, which were known as “barbecued hamburger” in our house when I was growing up. I served it over rice the first time we ate it, because I was afraid of pushing the Sloppy Joe metaphor too far. The mixture is sweet and just a little spicy (you could add more chile flakes or chop up a fresh chile pepper if you want it spicier) and it is so thick and filling with the mashed beans and cooked-down crushed tomatoes that I decided to take a serious chance. I served the leftovers on sandwich rolls.

The filling held together reasonably well on the buns (at least as well as a Sloppy Joe does, which isn’t really all that well anyway) and these sandwiches turned out to resemble real Sloppy Joes more, at least to me, than they have any right to. Harry insisted they carve out their own niche in the culinary world. He ate the stuff and liked it, so I don’t care if he refuses to compare it to Sloppy Joes. Thick stew or sandwich filling or whatever this is, how about if we consider it a meat alternative rather than a meat substitute? After all, if you know Manwich, this is no Manwich.

Sloppy Beans and Tomatoes

3 cups cooked red kidney beans (about 2 16-ounce cans) rinsed and drained, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup finely chopped onion
½ cup grated carrot
¾ teaspoon salt, divided
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons chili powder
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cups canned unsalted crushed tomatoes

1. Place 1 ½ cups kidney beans in a small bowl and mash well with a potato masher or fork. Leave the remaining 1 ½ cups whole. Set aside.

2. In a medium-size skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté 3 minutes. Add the carrot and ¼ teaspoon salt and sauté 5 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté 30 seconds more.

3. Add the remaining ingredients, including all the beans and remaining salt and stir well. Bring to a boil (the mixture with be thick). Reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes or until the mixture is very thick, stirring often. Serve over rice or on a sandwich roll. Top with shredded cheese if desired.

Makes 4-6 servings.

One year ago: Wheat Sandwich Bread

*WFQ: Whole Food Quotient

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