Friday, November 2, 2012

Cook For Your LIfe

Scarlet Runner beans, courtesy of
All last weekend, the skies warned us there’d be trouble. A colossal grey duvet of pre-blizzard clouds, combined with a grumbling angry wind, threatened an impending Armageddon. For several days, it felt as if the entire country was heavy with anticipation of Hurricane Sandy.

And so here in CT, we got ready. We gathered our flashlights and candles and firewood; we scoured every grocery store for disappearing ice and water bottles; we filled the car with gas, dragged the patio furniture into the garage, purchased emergency pump supplies and considered investing in a generator. We dutifully followed all the instructions given to us from our governor, our mayor, our parents and our meteorologists. And then we waited for the sloth-like storm to inch it’s way north. That white pinwheel of doom on every TV station weighed down our hearts and souls for four long days as we waited for the storm to hit land.

As we entered the final 24-hours of anxious anticipation, I succumbed to a familiar urge:  the need to hunker down and cook. For most of the day, I cooked as if my life depended on it. I made comfort foods of every variety to carry us through the storm…

I cooked lasagna and pork loin and hard-boiled eggs and potato bacon hash and espresso-laced chocolate chip cookies. I prepared three different salads and yeast waffles and homemade granola and bought lots and lots of cheese. I even invested in emergency salty snacks, power bars and shelf-stable fruit.

And of course I made a pot of hefty beans. A serious storm called for serious beans, which meant diving into our stash of Scarlet Runner beans from Rancho Gordo.
photo courtesy of
Cooking rich foods under threat of a hurricane seemed entirely justified, so after starting the beans a’boiling, I felt no guilt at all when I next fried up a pound of bacon and harvested the precious grease from the pan. I used a little bacon grease for sauteing some onions and garlic, and the rest for cooking cubed potatoes later on.

Once the beans had softened, I dumped the onion and garlic into the bean broth, and, as always, this was all we needed to soothe our frayed nerves.
If you’re not a big fan of beans, you probably just haven’t tried any of the Rancho Gordo varieties yet. We stocked up on their Scarlet Runner beans this year after becoming hooked on their voluptuous texture and enormous, purple tortoise-shell appearance. There are about a million ways to prepare beans, but simplest is usually best for these buxom beauties.

Bean-o-phobes: never fear. They’re as velvety as veal – if veal were a bean. Even if Scarlet Runners turn out not to be your favorite food in all the world (though I can’t imagine this possibility), I would venture to say that one of the Rancho Gordo varieties will make you a bean believer. Adam Roberts of Amateur Gourmet thinks so too. Even the folks at Martha Stewart agree.

Sandy ended up sparing our corner of the world, and we survived the storm with all our trees intact. School was cancelled for four days due to weather-related issues in the neighborhood, but thankfully our biggest nuisance was dealing without electricity for a short time.

Once the storm passed, my genius of a husband figured out how to reheat the pot of beans on our gas grill. We feasted outside as the skies morphed back into soothing shades of blue. Harmless cottonball clouds floated overhead as we enjoyed a quiet, thankful family meal on a perfectly calm autumn night.

After dinner, I donned my cool new headlamp to wash the dishes in the fading dusk. But before I could even finish scrubbing the pots, the power snapped back to life, and our kitchen once again hummed and shone in all the right places. Our adventure in darkness was over after just 20 hours. We had weathered the storm.

How about you? How did your area fare in the storm? What comfort foods helped get you through? Leave me a comment below.
Scarlet Runner Beans in Broth plus Potato Bacon Hash
Fry 1 lb. bacon, then, for beans:

1 lb scarlet runner beans
1-2 Tablespoons bacon grease
1 to 2 cups onion, chopped (any variety)
2-3 cloves chopped garlic, to taste
1-2 Tablespoons salt

Place beans in a large bowl with water for 6-8 hours to soften, then simmer in water for about one hour or until tender. If you don’t have time to pre-soak the beans, don’t worry. You can bring the beans to a heavy boil, then reduce the heat to simmer and cook the beans until tender. It will just take a little longer (1 and ½ to 2 hours total). Add water as necessary to keep the beans covered while they cook.

Sauté onion and garlic in bacon grease until soft.

Add onion, garlic and salt (to taste) to bean mixture. Simmer for another 10 minutes before serving. Pair with a salad and a nice crusty loaf of bread.

For the hash:

Remaining bacon grease after cooking 1 lb. of bacon and preparing beans
5-6 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. salt
1-2 cups frozen peas
About 6 slices chopped, cooked bacon, for garnish

Cook potatoes in bacon grease until fork-tender. Remove from heat.

Sauté onions with the salt in the same pan until soft and translucent. Add to potatoes.

Stir frozen peas into potatoes and onions. They will defrost from the residual heat.

Chop bacon and set aside.

Serve bowlfuls of hash with chopped bacon on top for garnish.


  1. I'm so glad to find you via "Pushing on a Rope". I really enjoyed your post. Thanks for writing it. Reia from

  2. No storm for me but I did hunker down and cook tons of food this past weekend to get me through an on-coming cold. I made crab and corn chowder, chili, and roasted pork loin with a apple and cherry sauce.

    1. Come on up: I'll trade you a good snow snorm (as we speak) for some crab chowder. You know you miss the weather up north.

  3. glad your family got through Sandy relatively unscathed. your recipe inspired me to cook up the Scarlet Runners I had also in a chili. can't believe how big those guys plump up, and I agree, delicious.

  4. But there's really nothing all that scarlet about them, is there? I guess "pinkish polka-dot runners" just doesn't have the same ring.


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