Bean Casserole: Make It Alluring

Dig, if you will, a picture: Once I was a junior editor at a major food magazine. My boss there produced a column called “Dinner for a Busy Weeknight.” I was young, I wore a lot of black eyeliner, and I had just moved to New York City: “Dinner for a Busy Weeknight” was, to me, a contender for the most boring subject in the world. Flash forward more years than I’d like to mention and here I am: a mother of two trying to balance work and life. The central dilemma of my existence is now….what to cook for dinner on a busy weeknight.  So, meet my favorite bean casserole. The words “bean casserole” are not sexy. They sound downright dowdy. But give it a chance, people, because this one is really good, far better than the words “bean casserole” suggest. Believe it.What I like about this dish, what truly makes it sexy (if bean casserole can be sexy, and why can’t it be?) are the following attributes: It is simple to throw together, it is actually seasonal in that it relies not just on canned foods but also on utterly fresh, ripe tomatoes, and it’s a homey and delicious tangle of comforting flavors and textures…it’s easy to love, once you get over the words “bean casserole.”

(Note: I listen to Mary J. Blige’s “No Drama” when I make this casserole; for whatever reason, this dish and that song go so, so well together. Don’t forget to share your own cooking playlist with me here.)

Sexy Bean Casserole

6 cups canned beans, any type or a mixture, drained
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon marjoram (oregano can be substituted)
2 medium-large ripe fresh tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup grated cheese, preferably jack or sharp cheddar
1 cup tortilla chips, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400.

Stir the spices into the beans.

In a baking dish, spread a layer of the beans. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add a layer of tomatoes to cover. Add a layer of onion over the tomatoes. Sprinkle on a layer of cheese. Add a layer of all the crushed tortilla chips. Repeat process with a layer of beans, then tomatoes, then onions, and top with remaining cheese.

Bake until hot and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Serve hot, garnished with avocado and sour cream if you like.

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