Pasta with Beans, Brussels Sprouts, and Bacon

beans, bacon, and pastaWhat’s not better with a little bacon? That’s our new family motto. We have been indulging in a weekly ration of bacon from the Hitchcock deli. It’s an inexpensive addiction that makes breakfast, lunch, or dinner a whole lot better. Hitchcock has a great selection of meats in their case and is one place in Winslow where you can pick up local eggs if you’re in need and doing errands in town.

In the interest of making less kitchen waste (and for the sake of our pipes), we save fat left over from cooking bacon in a jar in the fridge. Using a little for cooking is not so radical – one of those lost cooking practices that should not be ignored for it is sheer deliciousness. (And hey, if you’re dairy free, it’s a good way to add a little yum without butter, right?)

Serves 2-3

about 5 oz dried pastaphoto
3 strips bacon
1 15 oz. can Great Northern beans (or any white bean)
1 pound brussels sprouts
1 tbls. bacon fat
pinch of red pepper flakes
4 sprigs thyme
1/2 tbls. dried marjoram
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
squeeze of lemon
salt and pepper

  1. Clean and cut the sprouts into thirds with a sharp paring knife.  (Cut from top to bottom. Core and stem is in the middle third.)
  2. Drain and rinse beans.
  3. Chop the bacon into 1/4 inch squares. Crisp the bacon over medium in a large cast iron skillet.
  4. At the same time, bring your pasta water to a boil in a large pot. (Observe the cooking time of your selected pasta and cook accordingly.)
  5. Remove the bacon to a towel. Reserve the bacon fat that is in the pan. Add sprouts to this pan. Sprinkle with salt. Stir to be sure they are coated on both sides and then turn burner down to medium low. Cover with lid for 8 minutes.
  6. Transfer sprouts to a warm bowl to hold.
  7. Add 1 additional tablespoon of bacon fat to skillet. Add beans, red pepper flakes, herbs, a generous amount of salt, and pepper. Give the beans a stir. Let them cook and sizzle while you go drain your pasta.
  8. Add pasta and sprouts to the skillet
    with the beans. Stir. Sprinkle bacon on top. Stir once. Add a little squeeze of lemon. Stir and put on plates. Top with Parmesan, if desired.

Notes to those of you who are just learning to cook. This dinner began without a recipe. Just knowing that bacon and thyme go well with white beans, was the beginning of another improvisational pasta dish. Red pepper flakes add a little dimension and a squeeze of lemon brightens it up. For another simple brussels sprout recipe, try this.

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Carrot Top Soup

Get the most out of those farmers’ market carrots and make this summer soup.

Serves 4-6
Adapted from Local Flavors

2-3 cups carrot tops (leaves)
6 small carrots
2 tbls. butter
3 tbls. white rice
2 leeks
2 sprigs of thyme
2 tbls. chopped herbs (marjoram or dill)
1 1/2 tsp. salt
ground pepper
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock

  1. Remove the leaves from the carrot stems. Wash and chop finely.
  2. Dice carrots quite small.
  3. Chop leeks  and herbs.
  4. Melt the butter in your soup pot and add carrot tops, carrots, rice, leeks, and herbs. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add salt and stock.
  5. Bring to a boil over high and then reduce heat to medium. Simmer for about 20 minutes.

Serves well as an appetizer.

Kitchen Scraps

  • It’s fall! We’ve been doing a lot of preserving lately and our pantry is satisfyingly filling peaches in light syrupup with glass jars of delicious fruits and veggies. I’ve been relying on the National Center for Home Food Preservation website and recommend it to anyone who is looking to begin a canning project. So far, we’ve canned: pears in light syrup, pear sauce, peaches in light syrup, tomato sauce, ketchups, pickles, and jams.
  • Anne was a guest blogger on A Year in Bread, which has begun a series of Friday Favorites. It’s been great to read about others’ favorite, stand-by bread recipes. Check it out!
  • Perhaps the most bizarre island tradition can be found next week at the Bainbridge Island farmer’s market: the great zucchini race! You won’t want to miss it. While you’re at the market, look for more ways to prepare for winter: winter csa sign ups at Persephone and Butler Green Farms and Laughing Crow’s list for winter storage potatoes. Don’t forget to buy extra for your freezer.
  • The Day Rd. pumpkin patch is now open. It’s hard to believe it’s time for jack-o-lanterns. Why not make it a local one? The field is full now of pumpkins and, over the next few weeks, it will be fun to watch them disappear.
  • The next time that you go to visit the troll, have a sandwich at this new-ish Fremont lunch place: Homegrown. Seattle is a hard town to find a great sandwich in and Homegrown eclipses all expectations – local, organic, and scrumptiously delicious. Their sandwiches are just innovative enough to be intriguing but also rather predictable, as sandwiches should be. Here’s a recent review.

Mid-Summer Improvements

Chard frog says: "Eat local."

We are excited to share some improvements to Small Potatoes!

We now have an index of Seasonal Recipes.  Loosely organized according to season, it can help you find the various recipes and tips we’ve posted.

Also new is our Bookshelf page.  We are of the opinion that one can never have too many books. We’ve narrowed it down, though, to the titles which we continue to go back to time and again. As we’re constantly learning, we’ve also updated our About Us page.

We hope these improvements will make it easier for you to find great ways to eat locally.  As always, thanks for being part of our journey!

Tips for Eating Locally Through the Winter

With the opening of the farmer’s market this week, I finally feel like winter is over.varitable vegetable variety

So, how did we do? I think we faired much better this winter than last. I’m happy  to say that we just used the last of our storage onions, still have some potatoes left over, and though I haven’t seen them in awhile, there may still be a  few green vegetables in the bottom of the freezer. Oh, how far we’ve come. I’ve been repeatedly told that it’s not true, but last winter, I feel like all we did was eat squash.  This year, we were able to make it through the winter with variety. And so, while it’s still fresh in my mind, I’ll lay out a few things that I learned when I look back on this, our second winter,  of eating locally.  It’s never too early to plan for next year.

How to survive the winter and eat more than squash:

  • Start preserving right away. Each time you go to the market, put a little aside for the winter. Did you get an especially abundant CSA box? Think carefully at the beginning of the week and put away anything that you won’t use. (Don’t wait until the end of the week, when that arugula is wilting.)  This website tells you how to best preserve food, no matter which method you prefer.
  • Learn new skills. Don’t discount a little food project, just because you’ve never done it.  Put canning, dehydrating, and pickling on your list of things to learn. This book is one of our favorites.
  • Swap. Do you have too many beans? Maybe someone else has too many apples. It’s in our natures to keep all that applesauce to ourselves, but really, sharing leads to variety.
  • Constant vigilance. Be on the lookout for food. Read local websites that connect you with farmers. If people know that you’re looking, some delicious things might just come your way.  For our area, I recommend, the KCAA site and  Sound Food.
  • Take field trips. Some markets go year-round. With planning, you can make trips and stock up.  Check out the Seattle markets and our favorite, Ballard’s Sunday market.
  • Start a root cellar. It doesn’t have to be underground or even a real cellar – ours is just a corner of the garage with a fancy thermometer.  Learn what stores well in your temperature and humidity – and unless you want a bag of rotten carrots (er… that never happened to us… no, of course not) learn how to prepare your vegetables for storage.
  • Store food in food. Many things store well in prepared foods, which you can freeze after making.  Put the spinach in a calzone.  Make a tomato sauce from summer’s best.  Put corn in your chicken potpie (though it freezes nicely by itself).  Not only is this a great way to add variety to your meals, but it saves you time on a busy night.

Many thanks to the farmers who were at the market Saturday morning with grins and delicious variety.