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Bowls of Goodness

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I collect bowls. I’ve got dinted and dinged up enamel bowls hanging in my kitchen. One of the older ones has a tiny hole in it and is actually patched with a small piece of grey tape. (Yes, that was my grandfather at his absolute finest. He was from the country and never threw anything away.) I have colorful cafe au lait bowls from France. I’ve got a terra cotta bowl I bought at a gas station in Italy and ceramic bowls from Mexico. I have numerous antique bone china bowls handed down through my family. The one above is from an artisan craftsmen in Massachusetts, Spencer Peterman. But, I also have a favorite hand-carved wooden salad bowl I got for 5$ at a thrift store in Brooklyn nearly 15 years ago. Of course, I need bowls for entertaining, but I just like the look of them. It’s a bit of an obsession. I like the fullness, the roundness of bowls. Bowls mean plenty. Bowls are welcoming, giving, and comforting.

Fall food belongs in bowls.

I’ve got a couple of great fall food recipes to share with you today. One is from my friend and colleague Andrea Reusling. She is the chef-owner at the award-winning Lantern in Chapel Hill, NC. Her food is flat out phenomenal. It is is a lovely marriage of Asian flavors and North Carolina ingredients sourced mainly from local farms and fisheries. (If you are any where near Chapel Hill you need to get your self there.)

Andrea shares her food and sensibilities in her cookbook Cooking in the Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes. It is truly a beautiful book and I instantly fell in love with it when it came out last year. Andrea’s a James Beard award-winning chef that shares with readers how to cook delectable, chef-inspired, seasonal food at home. That’s certainly my passion and what I try to do – to help folks without restaurant experience or culinary training to cook good, inspired food at home. I love her food because there is a simple sophistication to it, but it is not remote or rarified. Her food is welcoming, giving, and comforting. It’s good food made with good ingredients that have been well executed. In my opinion, often that is the best kind of meal.

Check out her recipe and make yourself a big bowl of Macaroni with Beans, Roasted Pumpkin, and Ham Hocks below. For my comforting bowl of goodness, I’m sharing my recipe for Stewed Pinto Beans. Pair either of these with a wedge of cornbread and you, my friend, are good to go.

Speaking of good to go – I’d like to announce that I’m a new member of the Food52 Hotline Expert Panel. I’ll be answering your questions on Southern food and cooking. Check it out and let me know if you have any questions!

Bon Appétit, Y’all!

PS. Please take a moment and like me on Facebook or follow on Twitter. And, if you send your information to me, I’ll do the same!

Macaroni with Beans, Roasted Pumpkin, and Ham Hocks
Serves 8 to 10

4 cups ½-inch cubed peeled small, sweet orange “eating” pumpkin or winter squash, such as butternut (about 1½ pounds)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound dried large macaroni-type pasta
2 large red onions, cut in half and then lengthwise into ¼-inch-thick slices
8 garlic cloves, smashed and coarsely chopped
2 cups shredded cooked ham hock meat
3 dried red chiles, such as de Arbol, crumbled if more heat is desired
Leaves from 3 to 4 small sprigs fresh rosemary (about 2 tablespoons)
¾ cup dry white wine
2 cups cooked white beans
2 cups bean cooking liquid
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Preheat the oven to 475°F. Bring a large heavy pot of salted water to a boil. Place a large heavy baking sheet in the oven for several minutes to preheat. In a large bowl, toss the pumpkin with 1 tablespoon of the oil and a generous sprinkling of salt, and then spread it out in one layer on the hot baking sheet.

Return to the oven and roast for about 8 minutes, tossing once about halfway through, until the pumpkin is golden brown but not quite tender. Set aside.Cook the pasta in the boiling water until it is not quite al dente. Scoop out 3 cups of the cooking water into a bowl before draining the noodles in a colander in the sink; set both aside.

Return the pot to the stove over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil along with the onion and garlic, tossing to coat them in the oil, and season with salt. Cook for about 3 minutes, until the onion is starting to wilt and get a bit of color. Push the onion to one side and re-center the pot so that the now empty space is over the hottest part of the burner. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and then the ham, chiles, rosemary, and a pinch of salt. Cook for 1 minute, until the ham gets some color and the rosemary and chiles start to crisp. Add the wine and cook for 30 seconds, scraping the pan, until slightly reduced.

Raise the heat and add the beans and bean liquid. Bring to a boil and add the pasta, stir well, and cook for 1 minute. Season with salt, and add pasta cooking water as needed to keep about 1½ inches or so of liquid in the bottom of the pot. Add the squash and continue to cook until the squash is hot and cooked through and the pasta is the desired tenderness, about 3 minutes. Add a little extra pasta water if necessary to moisten, and divide among warm bowls, passing the Parmesan cheese and extra olive oil at the table.


Virginia’s Stewed Pinto Beans
Serves 6 to 8

Side meat. Pretty descriptive terminology—it sounds rough and hardworking. Side meat is meat taken specifically from the sides of a pig. It may be smoked and cured, in which case it becomes bacon, or salted, in which case it becomes salt pork. Dried beans are inexpensive, rough, and hard-working, too. A steaming hot bowl of beans is a bowl of comfort.

1 pound dried pinto beans, washed and picked over for stones
12 ounces salt pork, cubed, optional or 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, preferably Vidalia, chopped
10 cloves garlic
8 cups homemade chicken stock or reduced-fat, low-sodium chicken broth
2 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chowchow, for serving

Place the pinto beans in a large bowl and add water to cover. Soak overnight. Or, place the beans in a large pot of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the beans come to a boil, remove from the heat and set aside for 1 hour. Before cooking, discard any floating beans and drain.

To prepare in a slow cooker, combine the drained soaked beans, salt pork, onion, garlic, chicken stock, thyme, and bay leaves in a slow cooker. Heartily season with freshly ground black pepper. Cook over low heat until the beans are tender, about 6 hours.

To prepare on the stovetop, heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the salt pork and cook until it starts to crisp and brown, about 5 minutes. Or, if preparing without the salt pork, heat the olive oil in the large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 45 to 60 seconds. Add the chicken stock, thyme, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to simmer and cook until the flavors are well-blended, 20 to 30 minutes.

Add the beans. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then decrease the heat to low. Simmer, covered, until the beans are tender, about 3 hours. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Spoon into warmed serving bowls and top with chowchow. Serve immediately.

Andrea’s recipe is from Cooking in the Moment .
Pinto Bean Photo Credit Helen Dujardin.

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Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis’ biography includes making chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraging for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvesting capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunting for truffles in France. She is talent and chef-instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen. Her segments feature authentic and innovative Southern cooking. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Virginia has spoken at SXSW, cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Jane Fonda with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Recently, her work has been inspired by her weight loss success story, Virginia has lost 65# and kept it off for over 2 1/2 years! “If a French-trained, Southern chef can do it, you can, too.” She is the author of Fresh Start; Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all won a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health Category. Lighten Up, Y’all as well as her first cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all, were finalists in the Best American Cookbook for the International Association of Cookbook Awards and were also named by the Georgia Center of the Book as “Books Georgians Should Read.” She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, GRLSQUASH, Culture, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude, approachable spirit, and traveling exploits. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in content creation, recipe development, culinary editorial and production services, cookbook writing, media training, spokesperson and brand representation, and public speaking. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board, as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. She is a food and hunger advocate for No Kid Hungry and a premier member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. She a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and Southern Foodways Alliance.

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