Nearly all my bean cookery takes place entirely on the stovetop and at the counter. Soup, stew, chili, refritos, salad, a plate of just-plain beans, and even my "baked beans," which I hope to write about soon, never see the inside of an oven.
However, every once in a while I do things the other way. Half an hour of baking, bathed in tomato sauce and plenty of olive oil, produces a bean dish I like very much. It's not quite the same as what you would get if you simmered the same beans in the same tomatoes for the same amount of time on top of the stove; the undisturbed gentle, dry heating in a shallow dish ensures that every bean retains its integrity, while the sauce cooks down into a lovely dense evenly clinging coat for each one.
I recently received a fresh order of beans from Rancho Gordo, including two bags of the pretty-in-pink Flor de Junio. They are a medium-sized pink bean with a somewhat pinto-ish shape and a lovely smooth, creamy texture. Steve Sando, the owner of Rancho Gordo, warns that they don't age well, which makes this fresh supply feels like a special treat. These were harvested less than two months ago, sometime in July, and should be cooked before next summer--but I'm sure they won't last the month. Being so fresh, they cooked up quickly, from their overnight soaking to tender in about half an hour flat.
MAKE A POT OF BEANS
Using half a pound of dried beans, make a pot of beans like so or according to your own preferred method. Set aside for as little as no time at all, up to a week in the refrigerator, or much longer in the freezer. (Don't forget to thaw them in time for cooking, in the latter case.) About an hour before dinnertime, begin heating the oven to 325 F, and
MAKE THE SAUCE
1 medium onion, chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1.5 - 2 cups of chopped tomatoes
salt to taste
and a secret ingredient, optional but a great and subtle way to make your sauce just a shade more delicious, zingy, pulled together--in short, really good: a teaspoon or two of green olive tapenade.
Slowly saute the onion in the olive oil. When it is soft and beginning to turn gold, add the minced jalapeno. Cook a few minutes more, then add the garlic and cumin. After a minute, add the tomatoes. Let the sauce simmer for several minutes. Stir in the tapenade if you're using it. Add drained beans and taste for salt. You'll need some if you didn't use any tapenade, and may not if you did.
Pour the mixture into a baking pan. Bake for thirty minutes. Remove from oven and let cool or serve hot.
These beans are great warm with cooked greens or cold with a salad, over rice, inside a tortilla, under a fried egg, alone in a bowl with some extra olive oil drizzled over top.