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smoky pinto beans + red cabbage-carrot-pear slaw with creamy mustard-orange-walnut dressing table.jpg

Total country comfort food, and good for you, too. While we usually enjoy our main-dish pinto beans (soup beans, as you may know them) with a heap of collards and pepper vinegar, variety is the spice of life. And this simple slaw is awfully charming. Not only are its bright colors a welcome sight in the middle of winter, but the dressing is a real winner. Despite the inclusion of a generous amount of hot stone-ground mustard, the final product is mild, and the consistency is made wonderfully creamy by pureeing in walnuts. This recipe makes a moderately dressed slaw: more than we'd use on a green salad, but with an emphasis on letting the flavor of the vegetables come through. If you know you like a creamier slaw, try increasing the dressing recipe by half.

The smoky beans are a little saltier than we'd normally suggest, but worth it every time. And because they cook in the slow cooker, way more than worth the effort. (If you've never made beans in the slow cooker before, you may want to wait for a day you'll be around the house for the first time, to nail down what works best for your equipment. But slow cookers tend to be forgiving.) A little advance planning gets you a satisfying, classic bean dish. And leftovers to look forward to.

We'll be back next week with another side to complement this cozy meal.

smoky pinto beans detail.jpg

Smoky Pinto Beans (Soup Beans)

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yields about 6 cups

1 lb dried pinto beans, soaked for 8 hours

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp marjoram (or thyme)

2 tsp liquid smoke

4 cups water

1 1/4 tsp salt

Drain the soaked beans, rinse, and drain well. Add them with all other ingredients, except salt, to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low until very tender, 6-7 hours. Stir in salt, turn off heat, and let sit, covered, another 20-30 minutes. Serve.

red cabbage-carrot-pear slaw with creamy mustard-orange-walnut dressing detail.jpg

Red Cabbage-Carrot-Pear Slaw in Creamy Mustard-Orange-Walnut Dressing

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yields about 7 cups

1 navel orange

2 dates, pitted

1/4 cup shelled, unsalted walnut halves

2 TBSP stone-ground mustard

1 small head red cabbage (18-20 oz, app. 5-6 inches in diameter)

3 large carrots (10 oz total weight)

1 medium pear

With a paring knife, remove the peel and pith from the orange. Working over a container to catch all the juices, segment the orange and discard the membrane. Using an immersion blender or small processor, puree the orange with its juices, dates, walnuts, and mustard until smooth (bits of mustard seed will still be visible). The dressing should blend readily, but will remain quite thick. Set aside.

Remove the outer leaves from the cabbage, cut into quarters, and cut away the core from each quarter. Shred the cabbage with a chef's knife (or grate, if you aren't comfortable with a knife). Set aside.

Peel the carrots and shred them thinly with a peeler (or grate, if you prefer). Add to the cabbage. Shred the pear, add it to the vegetables and dress, tossing thoroughly. The slaw can be served immediately or will keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.