There’s probably no need to state the obvious, but there’s also no way to avoid talking about it: New York City has had a very turbulent six weeks. Our city’s most devastating natural disaster has taken a major toll on just about everything in our lives; it’s impossible to ignore the consequences. Many people in low-lying areas have lost everything. Others are still without power and heat, fuel is scarce, and the most basic necessities are desperately needed. Forty-thousand people were homeless. The storm is over, but the recovery is anything but. Of course, there’s always the Red Cross, but it seems that Occupy Sandy is really leading the way in relief efforts, alongside the Red Hook Initiative. Donate now, donate often.
My family and I were incredibly fortunate. Our power didn’t even flicker. We hunkered down for two days, and ate. Ate steak. Ate fried potatoes. Baked cakes and ate them. Ate just about any darn thing we wanted. And booze of course…my husband Daniel kept the Manhattans flowing. And we snuggled Dahlia till we were all snuggled out.
Towards the end of the week, I actually made the trek into midtown, where I started my new staff job at the Times. A great thing, this new job, but it added to the feeling of upheaval. I now have a desk at the paper and a place to go, but after over a decade of working from home, it's disconcerting.
Then, the election filled with nail-biting anxiety and then a flood of relief. This was quickly followed by Thanksgiving, the busiest time of year for the food section of a newspaper. And now, the holiday season is here. Not coming, not on its way, but offically here. Dahlia and I sang Hanukkah songs and Christmas carrolls on the way to school today, even though it was 50 degrees out.
All this up and down has just about tuckered me out. And I know I’m not alone. So for those of you who, like me, need a little easy comfort, I think I have just the thing: beans. Beans…they might just be the most ancient comfort food. Just imagine how valuable they would have been a hundred (or more) years ago—they store magnificently. They’re inexpensive. They’re hearty and nutritious. They can feed an army. Beans are little bundles of promise; they hold immense potential that a few hours of simmering can unlock with wonderful results.
A few weeks back, I froze the last of the fresh cranberry beans I could get my hands on at the greenmarket, knowing they’d come in handy. And they did indeed. Cranberry beans can be utterly elegant, but my goal here was something easy and rustic. (Note to New Yorkers, Ray Bradley often sells frozen, shelled cranberry beans at the Grand Army Plaza Farmers' Market on Saturday.)
Dinner, with about five ingredients. I toss everything into a pot, and add enough water to just cover the contents. I bring the pot just to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about thirty to forty minutes until the beans are creamily irresitable. Of course, this could work with dried beans too. Just give them a solid overnight soak, drain them, and off you go though it will take more like an hour and a half (add more water if needed).
Even though Thanksgiving is past, I still feel a deep sense of gratitude. I have much to be thankful for, and being able to share good, satisfying food is high on the list.
Easy, Comforting Cranberry Beans
2 pounds fresh cranberry beans or 1 pound dried (soak overnight if using dried beans)
1 white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
3 sprigs rosemary
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, more to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Into a large pot, add all ingredients. Add enough water to cover the beans (cover them by 2 inches if using dried beans). Over high heat, bring pot to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer 30-45 minutes (1 1/2-ish for dried beans) until beans are tender.
2. Finish with flaky sea salt, more black pepper, more olive oil, chili flakes, etc. Whatever suits your comfort food fancy.Serves 4 to 6