Stories Behind the Recipe: Four-Bean Chili

Samantha Leder is a JLDOC member and contributor to Taste of Tobacco Road.  Here, she writes about her love for cooking, her idea of a best Valentines night, and talks about her recipe, The Four-Bean Chili, found on page 163 of Taste of Tobacco Road.

The Four-Bean chili looks like a great option for a no-fuss, cozy night in. Do you have any stories behind this recipe? How did you develop it?

Top view of bowl of black bean chili with wooden spoon and fresh
Samantha: My family often spends Thanksgivings at the beach on Bald Head Island! This recipe originated many years ago when my mom asked me to plan dinner for our first night at the beach. I figured after a day of travel I wanted to find something quick, easy, and relatively healthy prior to our big Thanksgiving meal. I came across this recipe and added a few tweaks of my own and voila–the perfect, cozy winter dish that we have eaten every year since and it has become our little pre-Thanksgiving family tradition! So easy to just throw all the ingredients in the crock pot when we arrive, head out to enjoy the day and come home to a warm, yummy meal.

Anything you would recommend pairing with it?  A wine or a beer?

Samantha: I definitely recommend pairing this with tortilla chips for dipping! And always extra cheese is a great idea. We typically keep it light on the sides, but I think a small salad would be a perfect addition as well as a nice glass of wine.

Any tips / tricks / twists

Samantha: Add the couscous slowly at the end and adjust more/less to your preference. Just be careful that if you are planning to have leftovers, don’t overdo the couscous as it will soak up the liquid and you’ll end up having more of a thick pasta dish then a chili. Adding the can of sweet corn is one of my favorite additions! You can also adjust the heat by adding more/less spice to taste. that you would recommend for this recipe?

What does your best Valentines or Galentines night look like?

Samantha: Anything that makes you feel special and surrounded by people/things that you love. Whether that’s movie night with girlfriends, in-home solo spa night or dinner with a sweetheart, I’ve done and loved them all! This year, I’ll be working a nightshift at the hospital so my celebrations will be a bit belated.

How would you describe your cooking style?

Samantha: I love traditions and am a very sentimental person.  For example, I gave my mom (a JL sustainer!) a blank notebook years ago and asked her to handwrite all my favorite recipes from over the years inside. This is such a special book to me and she has continued to add recipes ever since. I also like to find new recipes online or in cookbooks and add some tweaks to make them my own.

Stories Behind the Recipes: Refectory Cafe’s Cranberry Apple Pie

Just in the time for the holidays, Refectory Cafe’s Founder and CEO Laura Hall discusses the inspiration for the Cranberry Apple Pie that is sure to please a crowd. pie

Refectory Cafe’s Cranberry Apple Pie recipe can be found on page 194 of Taste of Tobacco Road

What is your inspiration behind the Refectory Café’s Cranberry Apple Pie recipe?

Laura: Fall, Home, Family, and Thanksgiving

How has being located in Durham shaped this recipe, or any of your cooking and baking?

Laura: Our customers appreciate traditional, unpretentious desserts that focus on quality ingredients and freshness.

This looks like the crowning dessert at any Thanksgiving table… Any special tips for baking this pie at home?

Laura: Patience is any bakers best friend, waiting until the juices thicken when baking will yield a more flavorful pie that is easier to cut and plate.

Has this dish ever been offered in the café? Or is this something special from the chef or owner?

Laura: Our pastry chef Rosa Redel has been with The Refectory Café for 13 years.  Our customers can order anything on our rotation to take home or just have in the pastry case when they choose to dine with us.  By the piece or the pie our guests get the option.

Would you recommend serving this with anything?

Laura: Whipped cream and coffee are personal favorites.  Butter pecan or Caramel ice cream would be amazing.

Stories Behind the Recipes: Skillet Rosemary Chicken

Anna's ChickenJunior League of Durham and Orange County member Anna Thompson contributed more than one stunningly delicious recipe to the Taste of Tobacco Road Cookbook. Below, she discusses a no-fuss, hearty meal, and where her love of cooking started.

Anna Thompson’s Skillet Rosemary Chicken recipe can be found on page 143 of the Taste of Tobacco Road Cookbook.

  • Where did your love of cooking come from?

Anna: My brother and I grew up helping out our Mom in the kitchen. We were raised under the philosophy of the “Little Red Hen” story – meaning, if you planned on eating, you had to help out. As little kids, this meant setting the table. As we grew older, it built up to “salad duty” and vegetable prepping and then eventually I was cooking meals all on my own. I have also been religiously watching the Food Network since probably middle school, so I’ve learned a lot of tips and tricks through watching people like Ina Garten. To this day, I’m still an avid fan of the Food Network – my favorite show right now is The Kitchen.

Who taught you the most about cooking and baking?

Anna: Definitely my mom. While growing up, I was always in the kitchen helping her. I have a huge sweet tooth, so my favorite thing to do was bake. There’s actually a video of 2-year-old me icing a cake (and sneaking a taste of the icing)!

High School added to my skills as well. In a cooking class there I learned a lot of essential skills– how to break down a whole chicken, and how to make pasta and biscuits from scratch.

Do you have any tips for folks making the Skillet Rosemary Chicken recipe? Something people should be careful to do (or not to do) when cooking this?

Anna: You definitely want to make sure your chicken breasts are thin. I usually cut mine in half length-wise or you can also pound them out. If they are too thick, they may need to stay in the oven longer. I highly recommend a meat thermometer to make sure your chicken is cooked all the way through!

Have you ever modified this recipe? Any ingredient substitutions or twists?

Anna: I’ve definitely subbed the fresh rosemary for other herbs in the past. Thyme works well or I’ve also used dried herbs or the herbs in a tube that you can find in some grocery stores. You can also use garlic powder in a pinch if you don’t have fresh. To save time, I’ve also sometimes skipped the pre-boiling of the potatoes. If you cut them up small enough (maybe about a 1in dice), they’ll cook through in the time they are in the oven. I’ve also added other vegetables to the mix like onions and carrots.

Any other thoughts?

Anna: Invest in a cast-iron pan! They are fantastic – and inexpensive. As with this recipe, they are great for cooking something on the stovetop first and then transferring straight to the oven – one pot clean up. And speaking of clean up, they are super low maintenance. All you have to do is rinse them with very hot water and scrub them with some coarse salt. The more you cook with it, the more the pan gets seasoned and the better your food tastes! You shouldn’t ever use dish soap on them since they are porous and can absorb the soap flavor.



CH Farmer’s Market Pie Competition

It was an early (chilly) fall morning today. We hosted the Chapel Hill Farmer’s Market Pie Competition that began at 8am! Locals entered sweet and savory pies to the competition; all containing main ingredients found at the farmer’s market. There was a (insert Forest Gump accent here) Parsnip Piiie, Sweet Potato Pumpkin Pie, BBQ Sweet Potato Pie, Chicken Pie  — and we provided our Apple Cranberry Pie for sampling!

We came, we served pie, we sold cookbooks, we went home to warm blankets. Another successful day selling our beloved TOTR cookbook.

monogram ATE
Anna Thompson

“Taste” Thanksgiving Menu

Southern Cheese Straws (p.13)
Elegant Olive Dip (p.25)
Woody and Jean Durham’s Sweet-and-Sour Meatballs (p.17)
Festive Fall Salad (p.93)
Shrimp and Corn Soup (p.71)
Turkey Squares with Mushroom Gravy (p.148)
Skillet Rosemary Chicken (p.142)
Maple Pecan Roasted Brussels Sprouts (p.102)
Bahamian Macaroni and Cheese (p.117)
Squash Dressing (p.119)
Slow Cooker Apple Crisp (p.206)
Coach K’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie (p.197)