Let’s Cook: Cures for the Winter Blues

Winter’s chill will send you again and again to your pantry over the next several months, but don’t let that make you glum. This is a great time of year to experiment with new ingredients and flavors — especially if you’ve been snowed in and a grocery run is out of the question. 

This month, we turn to the North Fork’s scratchiest cook, Kim Dyla, for some advice on some good comfort food —a hearty sausage and bean casserole, finished off with cookies so simple, you’re unlikely to be without the ingredients. 

If you were lucky enough to get an Instant Pot for Christmas, now’s a good time to break it out and start to experiment. 

Scratchiest Pork and Beans

I grow Thai chilies, Tarbais beans, and cowpeas right here on the North Fork. I love kielbasa. These are the ingredients I use. If you don’t like spicy, skip the peppers or substitute a red chile of your preference. You can substitute any white bean for the Tarbais and black-eyed peas for the cowpeas. I like the texture of kielbasa but Italian sausage works, too. This is comfort food. Make the substitutions that would make it comforting for you.

Ingredients
6 slices thick cut bacon cut into lardons
1 14 ounce package kielbasa or other sausage
4 small onions, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
10 cloves of garlic, peeled
3 red chilies
2 bay leaves
10 ounces dried Tarbais or other white bean soaked overnight
10 ounces dried cowpeas or black eyed peas soaked overnight
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cups chicken stock

 

Preheat oven to 300F.

Drain the beans. If you got an Instant Pot for Christmas, making beans is super easy. Put all the beans in the pot and cover with water by an inch or two above the beans. Close the lid, make sure the vent is set to Sealing, press the bean/chili button and adjust the time to 20 minutes. To cook the beans conventionally, place them in a large pan and cover with water about three inches above the beans. Bring to a gentle boil and then simmer until tender but not soft. Start checking the beans after about 45 minutes so they do not overcook. Drain and proceed with recipe as directed. If you really don’t want to mess with dried beans, you can substitute 2 cans of each type.

Fry bacon pieces in a Dutch oven with a capacity of at least 7 quarts. Remove bacon to paper towel lined dish. Brown sausage in bacon fat. Turn off heat. Cut sausage into bite sized pieces.

Layer the ingredients in the pan starting with the onions, carrots, garlic, and chilies. Top with sausage, bacon, and bay leaves. Top with drained beans. Mix tomato paste and chicken stock and pour over beans. The liquid probably won’t come to the top and that’s okay. Put the lid on, bring the beans to a simmer, and then put in the oven.

Check the beans after an hour. If the liquid hasn’t come up to the beans, add more chicken stock or water. Cook for another hour. Then serve. Salt and pepper to taste.

I make this amount even when there’s only two of us. We always have seconds and it’s even better reheated for leftovers.

 

Three-Ingredient Nut Cookies

The original recipe calls for walnuts. I’ve made them with black walnuts, hickory nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, and walnuts. The cookies made with foraged black walnuts have been my favorite. There is no flour in this recipe so the cookies are naturally gluten free.

Ingredients
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
2-1/3 cups (285 grams) nuts
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Process sugar and nuts in a food processor until it has the consistency of coarse sand. Don’t worry if there are some larger bits.

Scrape the sugar nut mix into a bowl and make a well in the center. Crack the egg into the well. Use a fork to break up the egg and gradually incorporate more and more of the sugar nut mix. You’ll end up with a sticky mass.

Grab a handful of the dough and roll it into a 1 inch thick log. It helps to wet your hands but you will still have dough sticking to you. Cut the log into 1 inch pieces and place them uncut side down and about an inch apart. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Bake for 15 minutes. You’ll be tempted to over cook them. If the top of the cookie looks dry, it’s done. Let cool before eating. Cookies will stay chewy for days. I store them in mason jars.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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