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Raise your hand if you think farmers’ markets are expensive. Come on, I know a lot of you do. Farmers’ markets often get a bad rap for being pricey; food for the elite bourgeois, some say. But as an avid farmers’ market shopper, I know that’s not the case. A pound of onions at Trader Joe’s might only cost $1.50, but guess what? They only costs $1.50 at the farmers’ market, too!

So, last month I set out on a mission: to show off the affordability of farmers’ market items by creating a week’s meal plan from a $50 market haul. If it seems like an impossible feat, come learn my farmers’ market shopping secrets and tips for cooking sustainably, and you’ll be a believer in no time.

Wednesday: Slow Cooker Celery and Kale Risotto with Garlic Bread

You already know I am a fan of the slow cooker. Tonight, we’re getting over hump day by using it to magically make dinner for us with this delicious New York Times celery and kale risotto using this Food Network technique for making risotto in the slow cooker.

A few notes: I can’t buy Arborio rice locally in New York, but the Greenmarket does have a really great program featuring regional grains, so I was able to get my hands on some deliciously nutty red winter wheat berries. While they don’t cook up exactly like Arborio (and the slow cooker method yields a less creamy, albeit easier to make, risotto in general) I was happy with the results. Use the vegetable stock you made last night, along with the remaining kale (you should have about a quarter bunch left). I subbed apple cider vinegar for the wine and used celery leaf in the place of parsley and chive, but if you happen to have white wine and chives at home, by all means use those!

While the slow cooker is cooking away, slice half the baguette. Transfer slices to a rimmed baking sheet, rub each with a crushed garlic clove, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with chopped parsley leaves and bake at 350F until golden brown and toasted, about 10 minutes. Drizzle the finished risotto with oil, top with light green celery leaves and serve with garlic bread.

To make things easy for tomorrow night, cook 1/2 cup of the dried beans using this method, simmering them with a smashed garlic clove and some celery leaves. Chill overnight.

Food waste tips: This recipe makes more than enough to have leftovers for lunch the next day. Add a few tablespoons of water or vegetable stock to risotto when reheating. You can also use risotto leftovers as a stuffing for roasted vegetables like portobellos or peppers, or to make veggie burgers.

Thursday: Celery and Bean Salad with Soft Boiled Eggs

It’s the end of the week, and if you’re anything like me, you’re exhausted. So, for Thursday’s dinner, we’re making things super easy, with a quick dinner salad. I followed this FoodPrint celery leaf salad recipe, reusing my salad dressing and pumpkin seeds from Tuesday night and subbing in parmesan for the blue cheese.

In order to take things from side salad to dinner salad, I boosted the bowl with protein, adding in the beans, two eggs per person, and some bacon (cook one-quarter of the bacon, about 4 ounces). If your farmers’ market doesn’t offer dried beans, you can skip this ingredient altogether, or pick up some canned or dried beans from your local grocer. I prefer creamy white beans, but whichever variety you prefer will work here.

Food waste tips: Again, save those egg shells to scour pans!

Friday: Slow Cooker Bacon Bean Stew with Cheesy Toast

Tonight is the night to use it all up! We’re leaning on our good friend Mr. Slow Cooker one more time, making it an easy end to the week. In the morning, you’ll toss the remaining ingredients together in the slow cooker, set it on low and come home to a stew-y dinner. This recipe is great for a chilly night, and it works with so many different ingredients. If you have extra root vegetables, any leftover cooked meat or other dried beans or grains, you can add them in as well, just adjust the liquid accordingly. But you’ll find that even with only a little bit of bacon — the remaining 12 ounces — you can get a lot of flavor and the base recipe works well with just the few ingredients called for below.

For an equally comforting side, use the remaining cheese and bread to make cheesy toast. Slice the baguette, transfer to a rimmed baking sheet, cover with the remaining grated parmesan and mozzarella, sprinkle with some chopped celery leaves and bake at 325F until golden brown and melty, about 8 minutes. Serve the cheesy toast alongside the stew.

Food waste tips: This is a great time to use any leftover dried beans, rice and grains hiding in the cupboard. It also freezes well; portion leftovers into airtight containers and freeze for up to 6 months.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Bacon Bean Stew

Katherine Sacks, FoodPrint

Serves 4 – 6
Time: up to 8 hours 15 minutes

This recipe is great for cutting back on food waste and using up odds and ends in your pantry and crisper drawer. You can add chopped root vegetables, leftover cooked meat, dried beans, rice and other grains to the pot. Simply adjust the liquid and seasoning accordingly. Serve with cheesy toast or cornbread on the side.

Ingredients

12 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups dried beans
1 cup wheat berries
3 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
6 cups vegetable stock
Olive oil, for serving
2 tablespoons light green celery leaves, roughly chopped

Method

  1. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until brown and beginning to crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to slow cooker, reserving 2 tablespoons bacon fat in pan. Add celery, garlic and onion to pan and cook on medium, stirring, until softened and lightly browned, about 3 minutes more. Transfer celery, garlic and onion to slow cooker.
  2. Add beans, wheat berries, salt, cumin, pepper and paprika to slow cooker and stir to combine. Pour vegetable stock over, cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low 6 – 8 hours.
  3. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed. Pour into bowls and serve with a drizzle of olive oil and celery leaves on top. Stew can be made 3 days ahead; cover and chill, or freeze up to 6 months.



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