Even though this is a fall/winter dish, whenever I eat it, I can’t help but ruminate on family cookouts when I was a kid. The luscious barbecue spice–infused beans bring back memories of swimming, wrestling with my cousins, and playing video games in between bites of potato salad, baked beans, and other family favorites. The finger-licking barbecue carrots in this dish are a standout on their own, but their interplay with the beans is outstanding. I suggest adding vinegary pikliz or Memphis Coleslaw to brighten each bite, but you can add any number of pickled vegetables for this purpose. Serve this with a thick, toasted slice of country bread for mopping up the saucy elements of the dish and balancing the intensely-flavored carrots and beans.
A note about the sub-recipe pikliz:
A few years back at one of MoAD’s galas, the museum auctioned off a private dinner curated by me. To make the meal, I hired my buddy Isaiah Martinez—a super-talented Afro-Caribbean chef now working in Eugene, Oregon. I had my friend Jaynelle—owner of Pietisserie—make pies for dessert, and I brought on the homie DJ Max Champ to spin records. The whole event was fresh, and Isaiah killed the food. Included in his Afro-Caribbean feast was pikliz, a condiment in Haitian cuisine made of pickled cabbage, carrots, bell peppers, and Scotch bonnet peppers. This brilliant combination of quick-pickled vegetables adds acid and heat to enhance flavor and punch up dishes from rice to rich stews. I pretty much incorporate pikliz in meals throughout the week these days.
Vegetable Kingdom: Barbecue Carrots with Slow-Cooked White Beans
Makes 4 servings
- 8 (4-ounce) carrots, trimmed and peeled
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 5 tablespoons BBQ Seasoning (recipe follows)
- 1 cup great northern beans, picked over and soaked in water with 1 tablespoon salt overnight
- 1 (2-inch) piece kombu
- 1 large white onion, halved: half kept intact, half finely diced
- 5 garlic cloves: 3 kept whole, 2 minced
- 1 dried red chile
- 1-1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup chopped canned tomatoes, with their juices
- 1 tablespoon Bragg Liquid Aminos
- 1 (3-inch) rosemary sprig
- 1 bay leaf
- Pikliz (recipe follows), for garnish
- Thinly sliced scallions, for garnish
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Toasted country bread, for serving
For the BBQ seasoning (makes about 1/2 cup)
- 1 teaspoon whole white peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
- 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon raw cane sugar
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper
For the Pikliz (makes 1 quart)
- 2 cups finely chopped green cabbage
- 2-1/4 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1/2 cup 1/4-inch diced white onion
- 1/2 cup 1/4-inch diced peeled carrot
- 1/2 cup 1/4-inch diced, seeded green bell pepper
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons minced seeded Scotch bonnet or habanero chile, or to tegaaste
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1/4 cup fresh navel orange juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Spread the carrots out in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet. Rub with 2 tablespoons of the oil, followed by 4 tablespoons of the BBQ seasoning. Cover the baking sheet tightly with aluminum foil and bake until the carrots are super tender, about 2 hours.
- While the carrots slow-roast, cook the beans: Drain the beans and pour them into a medium saucepan or Dutch oven. Cover them with 3 inches of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium and add the kombu, onion half, peeled garlic cloves, and chile. Partially cover and simmer until just tender, 1 to 11/2 hours. When the beans are 10 min¬utes from being done, add 1 teaspoon of the salt and simmer for another 10 minutes. Drain the beans, reserving 3 cups of the cooking liquid. Remove the kombu, onion, garlic, and chile, and discard.
- While the beans are cooking, warm the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the diced onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and cook until the garlic smells fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomato paste and remaining 1 tablespoon BBQ seasoning and cook, stirring often, until the paste begins to stick to the bottom of the pan, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and liquid aminos, bring to a simmer, and continue to cook, stirring often until the mixture is dark red and thick, about 5 minutes.
- Return the drained beans to their pot and scrape in the contents of the skillet. Add the reserved cooking liquid, rosemary, and bay leaf and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the beans are very flavorful and the sauce has thickened, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaf.
- Once the carrots have become super tender, remove them from the oven and increase the temperature to 450°F. Uncover the carrots and carefully flip each over. When the oven is hot, bake the car¬rots until sizzling and caramelized all over, flipping the carrots and rotating the baking sheet as needed, 7 to 10 minutes.
- To serve, ladle the beans into four bowls. Top each bowl with two carrots, and garnish with Pikliz and scallions. Season with salt and pepper to taste and pass the toasted country bread.
- Play the song “Atari,” by Hiatus Kaiyote from Choose Your Weapon
Make the BBQ Seasoning
- In a mortar, grind the peppercorns finely using the pestle. Add the remaining ingredients and grind into a uniform powder.
- Warm a large skillet over medium heat, pour in the spice mixture, and toast, shaking the pan frequently, until the mixture starts to smell fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
Make the Pikliz
- Combine the cabbage and 2 teaspoons of the salt in a large bowl. With clean hands, massage the cabbage until soft and wilted, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a colander set in the sink and rinse the bowl. Put a plate on top of the cabbage and weight it down (a 28-ounce can of tomatoes works well for this). Let sit for 1 hour.
- Rinse the cabbage under cold water, then squeeze with clean hands to extract as much liquid as possible. Transfer the cabbage back to the bowl. Add the onion, carrot, bell pepper, garlic, chile, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. With clean hands, gently mix everything, then transfer to a sterilized 1-quart canning jar (see sidebar, page 35). Pour in the vinegar, orange juice, lime juice, and 1/4 cup water, adding more water as needed to ensure the vegetables are completely submerged. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 days to allow the flavors to develop before enjoying. It should keep for up to 1 year refrigerated.