Cool Beans

If it's as hot where you are as I am these days (on one memorable day last week, it hit 108° here in Jersey. No kidding.) you're probably doing a lot of grilling. In my house, any grilled piece of meat must be accompanied by beans. I used to buy a can of baked beans and spend time doctoring them up, but no more. Instead, I adapted this recipe from one that called for soaking and cooking dry beans. For just about the same time I spend adding ingredients to prepared baked beans, I get a result that tastes much more homemade, particularly if you do them in the oven--not an option in the dog days of summer, but perfect on a November day when an off-season hankering hits. The key to this recipe is balancing the savory and the sweet, so play with the sugar and spice amounts to your taste, and if you like more onion, throw a whole one in. Serves 6.

Rosie's Baked Beans

--one half large Vidalia or other sweet onion, coarsely chopped

--three slices bacon

--two 15 oz. cans small white beans (do not drain)

--1/4 cup molasses

--1/4 to 1/3 cup dark brown sugar to taste

--2 teaspoons prepared brown mustard

--1/8 teaspoon of allspice

--dash of cayenne pepper if desired

--12 twists of pepper grinder, preferably a mixed blend of peppercorns (I like McCormick's)

--3 to 6 twists of sea salt grinder or 1 teaspoon salt

Brown the bacon in the bottom of a large Dutch oven; remove and drain bacon, and pour off all but a tablespoon or so of fat. Cook onion in bacon fat until nicely browned and beginning to carmelize. Crumble bacon and return to pot. Add beans with their juice.

Add molasses, brown sugar, mustard, allspice, and both peppers. Taste before salting, as canned beans have a sizeable sodium content. Stir mixture well and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer on low for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Stir every 20-30 minutes, adding water as needed. If weather permits, bake in 3oo° oven for same time.