Frugal and Fabulous

My pantry is small, but pretty well stocked with staples.  Between that and the garden, it's easy to spend a week without going to the grocery store.  I get milk from Family Cow Farmstand, eggs from a neighbor, and a few items at the Burlington Farmers' Market during the summer.  The main thing I go there for is the cheese from Does' Leap Farm: they make the  best chevre I have ever had.  The feta is fabulous too, and I used it in this dish.  Having a garden, visiting the farmers' market, and having a well stocked pantry (I buy stuff like pasta, beans, and olive oil in bulk, when it is on sale) means you can throw together simple meals for not much money.  We stretched Sunday's dinner to make 8 meals over two days.  That comes out to ahout .33 a meal.  Pretty good, huh? I made this escarole feast after I noticed a huge, beautiful head of the stuff in the garden (wish I had a picture).  It's one of my favorite vegetables, and has to be grown to be appreciated.  The flavor gets kind of bitter if it sits in the fridge too long, but if you cook it up right after harvesting, it is magnificent...silky, unctuous yumminess.  Frugality means not being afraid of leftovers.  Often, I will cook one large meal and then stretch it by morphing it into other things.  Shape shifting dinners.  Here's what I made on Sunday night,  and a few ideas for the leftovers. You can substitute any other greens if you must, but really, you should  give escarole a try next year in your's pest free, super cold tolerant, and gorgeous.  But for now, there might even be a head or two with your name on it at the farmer's market.

Escarole and White Beans on Pasta

1 TBS olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped or 2 leeks (for a sweeter flavor), white parts only, washed and chopped

1 jalapeno, chopped (use the seeds if you like it hot. Mine came from the garden, not to brag or anything)

3 cloves of garlic sliced, minced, or crushed (all three ways produce different results, figure out what you like).

1 large head escarole, washed, but not chopped.  (mine came from my garden...wish I had a photo, it was gorgeous) or any other green you like -- chard, kale, mustard greens, arugula

1 can white beans (butter beans are my favorite)

1 box pasta, whatever you like

Optional garnishes -- fresh squeezed lemon juice, capers, feta or parmesan, another drizzle of olive oil.

Salt and Pepper to taste

  • Get your (salted) pasta water going in a large pot.
  • While that is coming to a boil, heat the olive oil in a large skillet or dutch oven type of pot.
  • Saute the onion or leeks, garlic, and jalapeno over medium high heat, stirring.
  • After about 5 minutes, when everything is softening and realeasing its aroma, dump in all of the escarole (still wet from being washed so that it creates some steam).  Put a lid on the whole pan and ignore it for a few minutes.  Open the can of beans, rinse them if you need to, dump them on top of the escarole and put the lid back on for a few more minutes.
  • By now, you should also be cooking your pasta to the toothsome al dente point - i.e. not mushy.
  • Stir up all the escarole and beans so that they are evenly distributed, and season with the salt and pepper to taste.
  • Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the cooking liquid if you want to stir it into the finished dish later if it seems dry.
  • You can combine noodles with the vegetables in the big skillet or pot, or alternately, you can serve big shallow bowls of pasta with the veggies on top, passing the optional garnishes around at the table.

This is a great dish to serve reheated as is, or you can turn it into a stew by reheating it with some broth.  I also love it with an egg cracked on top, and steam poached: just put the lid on the pot you are using and make sure there is enough liquid or fat in the bottom of the pan so that nothing sticks.   Super simple, and super yummy.  The escarole becomes silky, with a little bit of pleasant bitternes and the garlic and jalapeno balance it all out.  Bon Ap!