Sunday, August 23, 2009

Summer Sides: Baked Beans and Pasta Salad

Admittedly, I haven't been doing as much from-scratch cooking in the past few weeks as I would prefer (thank running my own consulting business and watching my kids for that - wait, did I say that exact same thing last week?). At any rate, during these stretches I'm a big fan of short-cut cooking, which I realize is a little bit cheating. (For more on this, check out Michael Pollan's July 29, 2009 New York Times article Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch.) Despite the affect I may be having on the decline on American cooking, sometimes it's just a reality. And the reality I was faced with this week was onions.

Lots of onions.

So I turned to one of my favorite summer side dish recipes, Molasses Baked Beans, which I knew would use at least some onion. The ingredients I used weren't the most local, or the most high-fructose-corn-syrup-free, both of which I normally try to be very cognizant of. However, with scouting out the right ingredients you actually could make it both local and HFCS-free.

Molasses Baked Beans
Adapted from All You
6 slices bacon, cut into a 1/2-inch dice
1 onion, chopped
3 (18 oz) jars/cans baked beans
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
3 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T dry mustard
1/2 t kosher salt

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crispy, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain fat. Discard all but 1 T fat from pan. Add onion to skillet and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in beans, brown sugar, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard and salt. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 25 minutes.
For my second summer side, I really wanted to use as much of my fresh CSA produce and goodies as possible, so I decided to make an impromptu pasta salad. The real key for me in this dish was the fresh feta cheese from Bonnieview Farm in South Albany, VT, that came in my delivery. This cheese was surprisingly unsalty, which complemented nicely with the kalamata olives and Italian dressing I also included in the salad. To make this dish as healthy as possible I used a lot of fresh Pete's Greens summer squash and high fiber pasta (I'm partial to Ronzoni Smart Taste). I just scaled the ingredients to the portion size I wanted, making sure to use serving sizes on any boxes/bottles for ingredients that were not fresh produce.

Summer Pasta Salad
Scaled for 3 servings
3 oz high fiber pasta (such as Ronzoni Smart Taste)
1 summer squash, sliced
1 small jar quartered marinated artichokes, rinsed
8 kalamata olives, sliced
2 T lite Italian salad dressing
Fresh basil or other herbs
Feta cheese to taste

Boil the pasta according to the package directions. Add the sliced zucchini during the last couple of minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water.

Dice the cooked zucchini and toss in a bowl with pasta, artichokes, olives and Italian dressing. Top with fresh herbs and feta right before serving.

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