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Hearty bakes and stews for a gloomy, cool start to summer

Abundant Chicken Potpie
Chicken potpie, baked beans and an intensely aromatic rice dish offer plenty of summer-appropriate comfort.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
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One day last week, I was working at my computer and thought, “Do I need to bring the space heater out?” It’s been a cold and uncharacteristically gloomy couple of weeks here in L.A., and while I — as someone who bathes in sunscreen — am never one to complain about not seeing the sun, even I’ve started longing for a bright day to restore warmth to my soul.

Until then, I’ve been indulging in cold-weather comfort food that’s appropriate for — what’s supposed to be — summer. Dishes that make full use of my heater, a.k.a. my stove and oven, and that make large portions of rib-sticking food that I can warm up easily throughout the week.

I wrote earlier this month about my Abundant Chicken Potpie that lightens the typical gravy with shots of fresh lemon juice and Dijon mustard and large handfuls of herbs and leafy greens. It’s still a filling of chicken and veggies baked in a pie crust, but it feels much more appropriate for light-jacket weather versus snow-boots days.

Another chicken-and-veg dish that’s got tons more spice — and no pastry crust — is Ghanaian Jollof Rice. Garlic, thyme, cayenne and ginger infuse the baked rice dish that’s dotted with shredded chicken and lightly pickled bell peppers.

And this type of weather screams for Martin Draluck’s Baked Beans. Here are two different paths: First is the classic pinto beans simmered in a stew of ketchup, brown sugar, honey and Worcestershire and enlivened with hot sauce, chile flakes and cumin. (They’re even better if the weather happens to warm up by surprise because then you can bring them to an outdoor picnic.)

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And the other path is my Brothy Baked Chickpeas With Chilled Lemon Watercress. I simmer chickpeas with soppressata, rosemary and aromatics to imbue the brothy stew with tons of flavor then serve it in bowls topped with bracingly cold watercress dressed with lemon. It’s a dish that, like the rest of these, toes the line between cold- and warm-weather eating perfectly and is adaptable to any day.

Ghanaian Jollof Rice

Baking this one-pot rice dish ensures evenly cooked grains. You can prepare it all on the stovetop too: Instead of transferring the skillet to the oven, adjust the heat to maintain a bare simmer while covered, and cook until the rice has absorbed all the liquid.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 55 minutes.

Ghanaian Jollof Rice
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Baked Beans

Ketchup, honey and brown sugar add plenty of sweetness and body to these Southern-style baked beans, perfect for a picnic or dinner at home. Make sure to stir periodically so the beans don’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 3 hours, plus overnight soaking.

Baked Beans
(Silvia Razgova / Los Angeles Times)

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Abundant Chicken Potpie

This summertime riff on a chicken potpie is all about having lots of fresh green produce and herbs in the filling so it’s lighter than wintertime versions. Whole milk in place of cream, and the use of Dijon mustard, lemon juice and lots of parsley, dill and chives, help brighten up the veggie-loaded chicken filling.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 4 1/2 hours.

Abundant Chicken Potpie
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Brothy Baked Chickpeas With Chilled Lemon Watercress

Any kind of lightly smoked or spicy cured meat will work here, so if you have a couple of leftover slices of thick-cut bacon or ham, feel free to use them in place of the soppressata. Similarly, you can treat any type of canned beans this way, though they may fall apart more than the sturdier chickpeas.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour 10 minutes.

Brothy Baked Chickpeas With Chilled Lemon Watercress
(Leslie Grow / For The Times)

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