Dear SOS: My sister and I were in Santa Barbara recently. When we stopped at the Chase Restaurant & Lounge, they served a bean appetizer for happy hour. My sister loved it and ate two helpings. They said it was an old family recipe.
Dear S. Ackerman: Sonia Rosinka, owner of the Chase Restaurant & Lounge, says these beans are a Romany (gypsy) dish from the former Yugoslavia, traditionally served during Lent as well as during a three-day fast in December that honors Saint Nicholas. They're incredibly satisfying and delicious as an appetizer with garlic toasts or as a side dish.
Rosinka's peppered white beans
Total time: About 3 hours, plus overnight soaking
Note: From Chase Restaurant & Lounge in Santa Barbara
1 pound dried Great Northern beans
2 to 3 large onions, thinly sliced (about 6 cups sliced)
1 to 2 cups olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Sort the beans. Soak overnight in cold water to cover generously.
2. The next day, drain and rinse the beans. Bring a large pot with fresh salted water to a boil. Add the beans and turn down the heat; simmer until tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Drain and cool. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
3. Layer the beans and onions in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Have ready about 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. First cover the bottom of the dish with a layer of onion slices. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add beans to cover the onions and sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Continue making layers in this fashion until the dish is full, finishing with a layer of beans and using the 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. The oil should come to just below the top layers of beans and onions.
4. Cover and bake until the beans are very tender, about 30 minutes.
5. Remove the cover and bake 15 minutes longer, until beans start to turn golden brown. To serve, remove spoonfuls of beans and onions from the baking dish with a slotted spoon, letting the oil drain off. Season to taste with additional salt and a generous amount of black pepper. Offer on small plates as an appetizer with fresh bread or garlic toast.
Each serving: 290 calories; 6 grams protein; 18 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams fiber; 22 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 3 mg. sodium.