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.


Roasted Tomato Cream Sauce

Sometimes you just need to wallow in a bowl of pasta.

For two

1 batch fresh pasta
2 large heirloom tomatoes
1 small onion
3 cloves spunky garlic
drizzle of olive oil
2 stems oregano
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 -1/2 c. cream

  1. Roll some fresh pasta. I rolled mine to #6 and used the fat lasagnette cutter. (Sage advice given by R. as he was walking by: “If your dough is sticking to your board, you’re not using enough flour.”)
  2. Meanwhile, cut two beautiful tomatoes into large hunks. Do the same with an onion. Peel garlic.
  3. Roast the tomato and the onion with olive oil on a parchment-covered baking sheet at 450F for about 15 minutes. Toss the garlic in the center of the sheet after about 5 minutes.
  4. After roasting, blend the vegetables, oregano, and salt in a food processor until smooth. (An immersion blender would actually work better here, if one’s husband has not broken it in a homemade hot dog experiment. Ahem.)
  5. Add tomato sauce to a skillet with cream. Heat gently and briefly over low.
  6. Add pasta to salted, boiling water for 1 minute. Reserve some pasta water.
  7. Toss the pasta in the skillet with the sauce. Thin with pasta water if needed.

This recipe is dedicated to my friend (who lives in a much warmer climate) and who had the “problem” of her garden producing too many heirloom tomatoes which you see at right.

Zucchini and Garlic Sauce for Pasta

Zucchini has arrived at the market. Here’s an extremely quick dinner for you.

For 4

olive oil
dried red pepper flakes
2 zucchini
3 garlic cloves
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 tsp. salt
herbs (I used one stem of oregano and one stem of mint.)

  1. Rinse and slice zucchini into about a 1/2 inch dice. Slice garlic.
  2. Heat a pan over medium-low. Drizzle in olive oil.
  3. Saute zucchini until brown, about 6 minutes.
  4. Add garlic and a sprinkle of red pepper. Cook for 4 minutes more.
  5. Add stock and and deglaze the pan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve over fresh pasta with Parmesan.

Not Just Another Tuesday Night

Some evenings are more surprising than others. You sit down, check your email, glance at that the blog stats and… wait where did that massive spike in traffic come from? After a glance at the incoming referrers you discover you’ve been nominated for a “Best Food Blog” award by Saveur magazine. Really? That Saveur? Really?

Then the pressure sets in. Something needs to be posted. Something good.

Late winter is the most challenging time of year for eating locally. Fresh vegetables are much harder to find, the root cellar is looking depleted and worse for the wear, the freezer is emptying and meals begin to feel monotonous. Combined with work and the short days, it’s easy to feel like every night is just one more meal of kale and potatoes. Or maybe some beef and parsnip stew. Or squash soup. Or white beans and grain.  Or pork chops and cabbage.  The diversity kind of sneaks up on you – the winter menu is not boring, in fact the options seem pleasantly surprising.

But something has to be posted. Right?

Fortunately, our blog is about just these types of meals: eating quality local ingredients everyday.  From farm and freezer to table, tonight’s meal is a mainstay: fresh egg pasta with a sauce. Pasta serves as a wonderful vehicle for the midweek meal – it can easily be frozen, cooks quickly and lends itself to improvisation. The fact that it is made from our neighbor’s eggs and flour from Eastern Washington keeps it local. (I’ve been working on sources of flour even closer to home, hopefully I’ll solve that problem later this year.)

The sauce comes together from whatever happens to be in the freezer or refrigerator. After a bit of digging, I decided to use some rainbow chard that Anne picked up from Butler Green Farms and combine it with bacon (home smoked; the pork came from Rolling Bay Farm) in a light cream sauce. For myself, I tossed in a few Hood Canal Spot Prawns that I had been hoarding from the Brinnon Shrimp Festival*. For additional flavor, I leveraged a small onion and four cloves of garlic out of the root cellar, courtesy of Laughing Crow Farm. Altogether, we were eating in less than 30 minutes – photo session for the food included.

The result was a slightly sweet, but completely delicious sauce which lightly clung to the wide noodles. The hint of smokiness and salt from the bacon melded well with the spot prawns (which are very sweet themselves).

Weeknight Pasta

1/2 lb. Fresh Egg Pasta
1 small onion, fine dice
4 cloves of garlic, thick slices
7 rainbow chard leaves, rolled and cut into thin strips
3 chard stems, fine dice
about 2 tbsp diced bacon
6 Hood Canal Spot Prawns*
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp olive oil
8-12 oz pasta water
salt, to taste
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)

  1. Start heating the water for the pasta.
  2. Heat a large deep skillet over medium heat for several minutes.
  3. Add the oil and red pepper flakes to the skillet and allow the oil to heat.
  4. Add the diced bacon and cook until browned.
  5. Add garlic, chard stems, and onions and cook until translucent and starting to brown
  6. (Optional) Deglaze the pan with some white wine.
  7. Salt the pasta water.
  8. Add a ladle (4oz) of pasta water to the pan and allow to boil until almost gone.
  9. Add heavy cream, chard leaves and another ladle of pasta water.  Cook until the chard has lost its crunch.
  10. Add the pasta to the water and cook until done.
  11. Put the pasta and another ladle of pasta water into the sauce – cook for a few more minutes and serve.

If adding shrimp, saute with a small bit of red pepper flakes in a separate pan and add just before serving.

Enjoy!  And, if you did, vote for our blog.

* I don’t recommend keeping frozen shrimp as long as I did. The FDA suggests 3 months – but sometimes you have to break the rules.

Slapdash Squash Tortellini

I had a squash sitting on the counter looking at me and wanted to turn it in to something wonderful, but I wasn’t in the mood to fuss with scraps of dough. This is the short-cut tortellini that I came up with. It may not have been perfectly pretty, but it tasted great.

1 butternut squash (or other winter squash)
olive oil, salt, and white pepper

Parmesan cheese
2 tbls. butter
white pepper, salt

fresh sage leaves
more butter

  1. Split squash, remove seeds,  and drizzle with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 350F for about 1 – 1 1/2 hours. Remove skin. Mash with a potato masher or run through the large disc of a food mill. Mix in butter while the squash is still warm (or melt your butter separately and add later).
  2. Make pasta dough. Err on the side of a drier dough. Roll the dough out in big sheets. Flour lightly.
  3. Add your desired amount of Parmesan to the mashed squash. (I used about 1/2 c.) Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Cut your pasta sheets into rough squares. (Herein lies the shortcut! To make beautifully shaped tortellini, use a cookie cutter to create large rounds. The procedure for shaping is the same, though fussier.)
  5. To form the tortellini, place a small amount of filling (about 1 tsp.) in the center of the square. Fold over and seal the seam with a wet finger. Bend the tortellini with the folded side in the center and press ends together. (Place your thumbs on the fold and bend towards you.)
  6. Bring a pot of water to a gentle boil.
  7. Over medium low, melt about 4 tbls. of butter.  Add sage leaves and cook until crispy.
  8. Add tortellini and cook for three minutes each.
  9. Drain tortellini gently and toss with the sage butter sauce. Salt and pepper to taste and add more Paremesan if desired.

Italian Meatballs

Doubling this recipe and freezing what you don’t immediately eat is a great way to stock up on supplies for a quick, weeknight meal. Pair it with fresh pasta and roasted vegetable sauce, both which you can also hoard in your freezer.

1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup Italian, flat-leaf parsley
4 oz Parmesan, grated finely or processed in food processor
small onion, minced finely
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1/2 c. breadcrumbs
1 egg
3 tbls. red wine
2 tbls. tomato paste
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper

flour for dredging
olive oil for pan

  1. Mix ingredients all together. Knead lightly until the meat looks smooth.
  2. Shape meatballs. Pack together firmly, but do not squish.
  3. Roll meatballs in flour.
  4. Heat a skillet over medium. Add a drizzle of oil (about 2 tbls.) until it looks shiny.
  5. Brown in skillet over medium-low, shaking often and rolling the balls over with a teaspoon.
  6. When ready to eat, warm tomato sauce and add meatballs. (This can be easily done straight from the freezer.)

Eat Locally, Even When You Hit the Trail (or ‘How to Really Torture a Tomato’)

A gourmet meal, fit for a tired hiker -Summer is here and it’s time to go out and enjoy nature. Chances are that you’re packing up to go explore some of the wonderful scenery that our area has to offer. If you’re going backpacking, you might find yourself staring at packaged foods, lost and wandering through the grocery store, as your prepare for your trip. There I was, reading instant rice packages and browsing the bulk aisle for the least worst option. After about an hour of aimless indecision, I had a revelation. Why, especially when I’m going out to enjoy the depths of nature, should I compromise on the way that I like to eat? Why couldn’t I take my love of local food on the trail? I must admit that these questions sent me down a rather involved road, but believe me when I tell you just how good my meals tasted when I was dirty and tired on the top of the mountain.

I spent the most time thinking about the main meals. For the mornings, I add apples (that I dehydrate at home), local hazelnuts, milk powder, and brown sugar to instant oatmeal. This is more cost effective than buying individual, prepackaged portions and tastes better too. For lunch, I stocked up on Trailhead cheese, raw green beans, and a hearty loaf of dense bread. And then, it was time to consider what to have for dinner. I eyed the beautiful tomatoes sitting on my counter. Did I dare? Could I really? I decided to give it a shot. After roasting, blending, and dehydrating, I had a sauce that I could take on the trail. I hand-rolled and dehydrated some fresh pasta to go with it. When I was finished, I had a meal that was local, organic, packable, and delicious. All I needed to complete the feast was a rock to sit on.

At Home

Roasted Vegetable Sauce

Yields: 2 cups of sauce which makes 2 dehydrated rolls (One roll will liberally sauce two portions of pasta.)

1 pint small tomatoes, sliced into chunksChop the vegetables.
1 medium-sized zucchini, sliced into 2-inch chunks
1 onion, sliced into 2-inch chunks
4 cloves garlic, whole
olive oil, salt, pepper

On a baking sheet lined with parchment, mix tomatoes, zucchini, and onion. Drizzle with olive oil and season. Roast in oven at 450F for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and add garlic in the center of the sheet. Roast 15 minutes more. Blend in food processor.It's a good idea to cool sauce before dehydrating.

Spread sauce out onto plastic tray of an dehydrator. (If you don’t have a plastic tray, cut parchment paper to fit on your regular tray.) Be careful to spread it as evenly as possible. Dry at 135F for 8 hours (or until completely dry.) Cut, if necessary, into two pieces and roll.

Pasta for the Trail

Yield: 4 portions of pasta

8 ½ ounces flour (and more to use while working the dough)
3 medium eggs
1 tbls. olive oil
½ tsp. kosher salt

Mix dry ingredients. With a fork, stir in eggs and oil. Knead dough for about 5 minutes. Make a ball. Cover with plastic and let it rest for 30 minutes. Cut ball in two, leaving one piece in the plastic. Flatten, sprinkle with flour, and fold like a letter. Flatten and run through machine a series of times. Roll to setting 6 and cut with fettuccine cutter.

Separate and lay strands in a dehydrator. Dehydrate at 135F for 1 ½ hours.

Package dried pasta in a bag with a little salt, so that it’s all ready to go. Pack a little grated Parmesan on the side for extra decadence.

On the TrailGet ready to cook!

Lay out all of the components for the meal: sauce, pasta, and cheese. Bring a pot of water to boil. As it heats, remove some warm water with a cup. Reconstitute a sauce roll in a bowl with the warm water. Add a little water at a time until you reach your desired consistency. Boil pasta for about 6 minutes. Drain with lid. Serve and savor!

Other Hearty Snacks

With the philosophy that, if you’re going to carry baked goods, they should be worth their weight.

This article was also published by Sound Food. Check out their website for lots of great recipes and ideas.