Bean Soup with Bacon

Bean Soup with Bacon

Background

This past growing season, we made a conscious effort to put more of our legume production into beans for drying.  We’ve tried freezing green beans with less than great results so we decided to try something new.  We planted two heirloom varieties; Vermont cranberry and Kenearly, a white bean from the state of Maine).

I have to tell you that we having been really enjoying  cooking with dried beans.  We’ve had baked beans, potato leek and bean soup, and a “killer” red beans and rice among others.  Today, we are talking about a soup made with Kennearly beans.  The base recipe is taken from “Slow Cooker Revolution”, a cookbook presented by the people behind “America’s Test Kitchen” on PBS.  I have tweaked the recipe to satisfy my particular soup making style, but ATK deserves some props.  This is my take on their “Tuscan White Bean Soup.”

KENEARLY BEANS DRAINED, RINSED AND READY FOR ACTION

KENEARLY BEANS DRAINED, RINSED AND READY FOR ACTION

Ingredients

1 pound white beans (I used Kenearly) soaked overnight in 4 quarts of water containing 2 tablespoons of salt.  Beans were drained and rinsed prior to cooking

6 ounces of quality bacon chopped into 1/2″ squares
3 onions, diced
8 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1 cup of white wine (for deglazing)
6 cups of chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1 parmesan cheese rind
1 large sprig of rosemary

Procedure

  1.  Prep all of the vegetables, stage the rest of your ingredients and setup your slow cooker.
  2. Place a couple tablespoons of cooking oil (I used extra virgin olive oil) in a large saute pan, heat up the oil and add the bacon.  Cook until crispy.
  3. Add Onions, garlic and red pepper flakes to pan and saute until the onions have browned.  Place in slow cooker.
  4. Deglaze the pan with 1 cup of white wine and add to slow cooker.
  5. Add chicken stock, beans, bay leaves and cheese rind to slow cooker.  Set on low and cook for 10 hours.
  6. Twenty minutes before serving, add sprig of rosemary to slow cooker.
  7. Remove bay leaves, rosemary and cheese rind.  Serve with crusty bread and a salad.
  8. ALL OF THE FLAVOR INGREDIENTS SAUTEED AND READY FOR THE SLOW COOKER

    ALL OF THE FLAVOR INGREDIENTS SAUTEED AND READY FOR THE SLOW COOKER

    A BIG BOWL OF DELICIOUSNESS

    A BIG BOWL OF DELICIOUSNESS

    Prep time was about 40 minutes and well worth the effort.  I forgot to mention that we added some shaved parmesan cheese just before serving.  This one is going into the rotation.

It’s Seed Catalog Time

It’s Seed Catalog Time

I actually love this time of year.  While most people I meet are complaining about the cold weather, I am basking in the glories of the many seed catalogs that grace my mailbox  during the dark days of Winter.  Planning for Spring seems to make Winter more tolerable for me.

USING THE SEED INVENTORY TO ASSESS MY NEEDS FOR THE UPCOMING SEASON. THE NFL DRAFT "AIN'T GOT NOTHING ON ME".

USING THE SEED INVENTORY TO ASSESS MY NEEDS FOR THE UPCOMING SEASON.

My wife accuses me of treating the process of picking out seeds for the new year like it was the NFL draft.  OK.  Maybe I obsess a little.  I choose to view it as time well spent.

The catalog search was preceded by my annual seed inventory.  With nearly 100 packets of seeds to keep track of, I have resorted to creating a spread sheet which lists the variety, the year purchased, the current quantity or approximate quantity , the supplier and a column for listing seed starting dates.   Updating this report gives me the opportunity to revisit the success or failure of a particular variety, check the dates on the seed packets to make sure that I don’t have any seeds past their expected viability and determine which favorites need to be replenished.

Two factors are causing me to be a little more thoughtful about garden planning this year.  The first is a PBS program I watched recently called “In Defense of Food” hosted by Michael Pollen.  His basic message was that we should be eating a more plant based diet with less red meat.  The second influence on my current garden planning is an old copy of  “Nutrition Action Health Letter” that I rediscovered while reorganizing my home office.  In this particular issue was a chart rating vegetables on  their nutritional content.  I thought that this might be worthy of sharing.

HERE ARE THE TOP RATED VEGETABLES

HERE ARE THE TOP RATED VEGETABLES

My wife Catherine and I are working on a plan to utilize more of the top rated vegetables in our garden as well as creating meals that have more vegetables by volume and less meat.  The ideal is 80% vegetables – 20% protein source: more about that in future posts.

One hopeful sign that Spring is not that far away is that our chickens are starting to lay eggs again, now that the days are beginning to get longer.  We’ve also started some herb disks, which means I’ve set up the light stand in the home office.  We’re about ready to ‘rock’.  Yeah, let’s get some seeds ordered.  Here’s hoping that you are enjoying planning for the new growing season and that it will be your best garden ever.

All the best,
Greg Garnache

 

Sauteed Scallops with Celeriac Puree and Wilted Beet Greens

Sauteed Scallops with Celeriac Puree and Wilted Beet Greens

One of the great joys of being both a cook and a vegetable gardener is putting together a delicious meal featuring some fresh picked vegetable.  My wife and I teamed up a couple of days ago to create a simple but delicious meal featuring beet greens that I had harvested that very afternoon.

Catherine went to the market to buy some fish.  However, she saw that sea scallops were half priced, so she brought those home instead.  Being a bit on the small size for sea scallops, we decided to stir fry them.  It so happened that we had some leftover celeriac puree in the fridge.  Catherine handled the scallops while I took care of the beet greens.

After washing and culling the greens, I put two large handfuls into a saute pan with a 1/4 cup of chicken stock.  I put the lid on and let the greens steam for a couple of minutes.  I then removed the lid and let the liquid evaporate as I moved the greens about with a pair of tongs.

When the stock was completely evaporated and the greens sufficiently wilted I added a splash of red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.

The greens were placed into two shallow bowls with a pat of butter on top.  The reheated celeriac puree was placed over the greens and the scallops over the puree.  What a fabulous combination.  This was truly a delicious winter meal.

SAUTEED SEA SCALLOPS WITH CELERIAC PUREE AND WILTED BEET GREENS

SAUTEED SEA SCALLOPS WITH CELERIAC PUREE AND WILTED BEET GREENS

A Lovely Winter Afternoon

A Lovely Winter Afternoon

Having just survived several  days of very cold weather, I could not resist the temptation of a sunny day in the mid 40’s.  Grabbing the camera and some harvesting tools I headed for the chicken coop and then the garden.

My three chickens named “Buffy” (they all look alike) hadn’t been out of the pen since the snow storm last week and neither had I; mentally, I mean. Got out to the pen, greeted the Buffys and opened the pen door to let them out.  Those chickensh*%s wouldn’t leave the pen because of the 2″  crust of snow on the ground.  I had to tempt them with a treat before they would venture out.  They bit for the mealy worm feast cast before them.  They came, they pecked, they returned to the pen. ” Thanks for the company, girls.  Don’t let the pen door hit you in the butt on the way in”.

THREE CHICKENS ON SNOW IN LATE AFTERNOON

THE “GIRLS” ENJOYING A TREAT IN JANUARY

Did I mention what a beautiful day it was?  Late afternoon sun, which this time of year can be quite pleasing, moderate temperatures, no wind; a perfect January Day.

A Visit to the Carrot and Beet Patch

Remember the harvesting tools?  My ultimate destination was the low tunnel covering the carrots and beets.  It took about  twenty minutes to free the bottom edge of the plastic sheeting that covers the tunnel  so that I could peel it back to gain access to the planting bed.  I was pleased with what I saw when I moved the plastic out of the way.  Remarkably, the greens for both the carrots and beets looked relatively healthy.  I looked for the bushiest carrot heads and pulled them out of the ground.  The end result was thirty two carrots, with many more left to harvest in March.

CARROTS ON SNOW

THE JANUARY CARROT HARVEST

Sadly, the beet roots haven’t yet grown  to harvest size.  The greens, however, were very healthy.  I had planted three rows that were four feet long.  The small patch produced a large bowl full of beautiful greens.   I live for these moments; outdoors on a pleasant day in January, enjoying the late afternoon sun and shadows.  Add some harvesting and some quality time with the “Girls” and you have a recipe for shaking those “Midwinter Blues”.

BEET GREENS IN WINTER

BEET GREENS HARVESTED IN JANUARY

While the canopy was open, I took the opportunity to water the entire plant bed.   I closed the tunnel and won’t be back until late February.  The short days are signally dormancy for most of the stuff in both low tunnels.

CARROT PATCH IN JANUARY

THE CARROT PATCH UNDER PLASTIC

THE LOW TUNNEL WITH THE SNOW CHIPPED AWAY AND THE GREENHOUSE PLASTIC PEALED BACK

THE LOW TUNNEL WITH THE SNOW CHIPPED AWAY AND THE GREENHOUSE PLASTIC PEALED BACK

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THE BEET PATCH, GREENS PICKED, BED WEEDED

DSCN1146

A LOVELY BATCH OF BEET GREENS

DSCN1149

THE CARROTS, PRUNED, WASHED AND DRYING ON A TOWEL

When my wife got home from work, she noticed the beet greens and thought that they would be a nice addition to dinner.  I was assigned the job of wilting the greens while she stir fried the scallops she had picked up on the way home.  We included some leftover celeriac puree and had a delicious supper.  I will post the recipe very soon.

All the best,
Greg Garnache

Happy New Year from Greg’s Garden Party

Happy New Year from Greg’s Garden Party

I celebrated the New Year by harvesting the remainder of the Brussels sprout crop.  It was a sunny day in the mid 40’s with a 2″ crust of snow on the ground.  The chickens were not happy about the snow and let me hear about it on my way out to the garden.

OUR THREE HANDSOME CHICKENS

THE “GIRLS” GREETING ME ON MY WAY OUT TO VEGETABLE GARDEN

My five “Diablo” Brussels sprouts plants still had a nice supply of sprouts despite repeated pickings since mid-November.  Total haul was just over four pounds; quite satisfying for this time of year.

THE BRUSSELS SPROUT PATCH ON NEW YEARS DAY

THE BRUSSELS SPROUT PATCH ON NEW YEARS DAY

BRUSSELS SPROUTS HARVEST

THE FINAL HARVEST OF THE 2015 SEASON

This marks the official close of the 2015 gardening year.  The next two months will be devoted to evaluating the previous year and planning the new year.  I’m already halfway through perusing the 2016 seed catalogs.

Here’s wishing you a wonderful new year of gardening.

All the best,

Greg Garnache
gcgarnache@gmail.com