Fred at Durham Art Walk

We’d love it if you would come to see Fred’s work at the Durham Art Walk this weekend, Nov. 1 – 2. We’ll be in the West Village Apartment lobby, across Morgan Street from Tosca.

Our recent trip to New York, where Fred visited the Met, MoMa, and the Frick, has fueled a creative streak that’s filled our apartment with about 50 new watercolors, including the watercolor below is inspired by the Italian artist Giorgio Morandi. (It’s one of my favorites.)

Much as I love Fred’s work, I would be thrilled if it could find a home outside our dining room. To address this problem, we’re buying a house in Trinity Park with an art studio. You can come see paintings and watercolors there too.

Through all this, I keep cooking–the only thing that keeps me sane. This weekend, we returned to an old favorite: pinto beans and cornbread. I firmly believe that only two people raised on “country cooking” in the South can fully appreciate the joy of a dinner consisting of pinto beans and cornbread. I don’t see a point in offering a recipe–you put a pound of beans, a few slices of salt pork or bacon or ham, onions, and salt in a crock pot and cook on high for 4 – 5 hours, or low for longer. But when you’re buying a house, there’s no dish that can make you feel more frugal and virtuous.

No such thing as too many collards

Perhaps it’s come to your attention that our Weight Watchers updates have decreased in frequency. We haven’t quit; we’ve just plateaued. Our collective weight loss stands at 32.8 pounds–15.8 for me, 17 for Fred. With just 1.2 pounds left for me and 6 for Fred (to reach his initial goal of a 10% weight loss), we’re now entering the final push.

This means more soup. At least that’s what was suggested at our last WW meeting.

If you’ve ever wondered how Jell-O salad ever got to be popular, come to a Weight Watchers meeting. I’m often stunned at the culinary tactics some of my fellow members deploy in the kitchen.

In our last meeting, the leader divided us into groups to come up with ideas for fall soup recipes. Our group (led–some might say dictated–by me) devised a spicy butternut squash chowder. This idea was met with murmured confusion, even by some group members. (But like Sarah Palin, and Stalin–who must be related to her since Alaska is so close to Russia–I had managed to suppress dissent.)

The most popular idea was to take a bag of frozen vegetables and dump some canned chicken broth in it. I was forced into seething, bitter retreat.

In response, I offer this very simple but MUCH better dish, which I made the next night.

Brat, Butter Bean, and Collard Soup

3 pork brats or sausages, quartered lengthwise and sliced

NOTE: The brat should have enough fat for the saute. If you use brats made with a low-fat meat like turkey, add oil or chicken stock to the saute mix to keep it from burning.

4 cups collard, cleaned and chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic
1 can butter beans, undrained
1 tsp sage
1 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
1 whole dried chipotle pepper
Salt to taste
Water or chicken stock to cover

Heat chopped brats on medium heat. Add onions and saute until translucent. Add garlic and stir. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on medium heat for about 1/2 hour.