What I’m Cooking: Food Writer and Producer Andrea Weigl

When stuck at home, Andrea Weigl serves up a mix of no-cook meals alongside Southern comfort food.

Andrea Weigl worked at The News & Observer for 17 years, including a decade as a food writer and editor. She now works as a producer on the PBS show Somewhere South, starring Kinston chef Vivian Howard. The series premieres at 9 p.m. March 27 on UNC-TV and airs every Friday night through May 1. We pinged the Raleigh-based writer, producer and home-cook extraordinaire on what she’s been cooking at home. 

These strange days have many of us in the kitchen more than normal. Here’s some inspiration based on the meals I’ve been making since social distancing entered our lexicon. But let me first say this: No one should feel bad about what they are or are not doing in their kitchens right now—I often enjoy cheese, crackers and salami for dinner, which requires no cooking at all—so give yourself a break. But if you find comfort and solace in the kitchen, I hope these ideas help.

Sourdough Bread

You do not need yeast to make bread, which is good to know since I hear it’s hard to find. You can make your own sourdough starter by mixing flour and water and leaving it to sit on the counter. Wild yeasts will start the fermentation process and in five days you’ll be able to make your own bread. You’ll have to feed it a bit; directions below. One note: your bread will get better the more often you make it so don’t be discouraged by a dud of a loaf among your first attempts.

More resources:

  • The Kitchn’s Sourdough Starter Recipe made with all-purpose flour.
  • My favorite sourdough bread recipe is from Sour by Mark Diacono; this lovely book’s kneading technique took my loaves to the next level.
  • King Arthur Flour’s website is a good resource for bread recipes.
  • My bread baking Instagram crush is Tara Jensen, aka @bakerhands

Whatever You Got Bean Soup

My mom always turned a leftover holiday ham into a large pot of ham and bean soup. While I love the prepackaged 15-bean soup that I can get at the store, it’s not necessary. These days I use the random assortment of dried beans in my pantry to recreate this favorite.

  • Shorthand Recipe:
  • Cover 3 cups of dried beans (really whatever you’ve got: lentils, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, black beans, pintos, etc.) with water in a pot and let soak overnight. The next day, drain off the water and add 8 cups fresh water, 1 diced onion and any meat you have on hand (a leftover ham bone, a ham hock or sliced smoked sausage). Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 90 minutes to 2 hours until beans are all soft. Add 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes and juice of 1 lemon or 1 tablespoon cider vinegar and simmer for another 30 minutes. Pull ham bone or ham hock, if using; once cool enough to handle, remove meat from the bone, shred, and add meat back to the pot. Season to taste with salt, pepper and up to 1 teaspoon chili powder. Note: this makes more than most families will eat in one or two settings and freezes well.

Fried Apple Pies

Every occasion where you’re stuck in the house for a period of time requires one indulgent homemade treat. And so, I’ve been making a lot of fried apple pies; in part because of my job and the fact that the first episode of Somewhere South is centered around hand pies. In her Instagram stories, Vivian Howard is encouraging fans to make them in the lead up to Friday’s premiere. Even though, I really don’t need an excuse to make them. They’ re so delicious!

  • Recipe with notes:
    Vivian Howard’s Old Timey Apple Jacks recipe, which can also be found in her cookbook/memoire, Deep Run Roots. A few tips: you don’t need to use dried apples. I substituted diced fresh apples and cooked them as directed—although I used juice instead of cider—until translucent and dry. Be inspired by what you have in your pantry: add raisins, shredded coconut or chopped nuts to the filling.

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