Heinz spills kosher beans onto High Holy Day plates

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Beans! Beans! They're good for your heart. The more you eat, the more you…can enjoy a healthy, satisfying, cholesterol-free kosher meal, straight from the can.

This year, as the High Holy Days roll around, Heinz U.S.A. hopes its Premium Vegetarian Beans will grace the tables of Jewish families nationwide. To drive home this aim, the company is distributing a glitzy holiday press kit featuring recipes, health information and a history of the product. The packet's richly photographed cover is a veritable ode to beans, showing a sea of the moist kosher legumes swimming in a rich tomato-based sauce.

Heinz has reason to toot its own horn.

In 1923, Heinz Vegetarian Beans became the first product to display the "Circle U," the United Federation of Rabbis' mark of a kosher product — kashrut. And little did the company know that more than 70 years of nutritional research would bring beans to the forefront of health-oriented diets, as Americans eat less meat and stock up on other protein sources including this high-fiber, low-fat, vitamin-rich food.

"Heinz takes great pride in initiating what's become a highly recognizable and desirable labeling standard," says Heinz Vegetarian Beans assistant product manager Stephanie McLoughlin.

Obvious side effects aside — and the press kit naturally avoids these — health experts say beans may be the perfect food, packed with vitamin A, calcium and riboflavin. Heinz beans are also canned under the supervision of Rabbi Gershon Cohen, the mashgiach (kosher overseer) for the company's Pittsburgh factory.

"Consumers expect a certain quality behind the `Circle U,' and we work with Heinz to exceed their expectations," says Cohen.

That's nice. But the thought of breaking the Yom Kippur fast with a burrito and salsa just doesn't seem quite, well, kosher. Fortunately, the Heinz people have thought of everything, devising a selection of holiday recipes that won't make October 4 feel like Cinco de Mayo.

Open a can of beans, they say, and voilà: bean-potato kugel, tsimmes, cholent. (Recipe booklets are available by calling (800) 872-2229.) Non-Jewish recipes, including pasta-bean salad, bean enchiladas and vegetable sauté over rice, are also, available.

The press kit is kind enough to mention some possible bean side dishes as well, one of which might be appropriate for ringing in Rosh Hashanah: "Add chopped apple, raisins or toasted pecans and a dash of cinnamon" to beans, suggests the recipe booklet. Now that's unusual. And it's destined to be a crowd-pleaser. If Uncle Hymie has been kvetching about his irregularity, hand him a plateful and wish him a Happy New Year.

In hyping the product, Heinz is hoping to add some spice, not to mention fiber, to holiday menus. One thing the family won't say after tasting these nontraditional recipes: Bean there, done that.