Farmers Markets. ‘Tis the season.

Bean and Bacon Salad

I live in San Francisco and have my choice of about 20 farmers markets, but in 2008, farmers markets are pretty much everywhere. Besides the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, I’ve shopped at Farmers Markets in San Rafael, Berkeley, Oakland, Sacramento, Healdsburg, Boston, Newton MA, Portland ME, Belfast ME, Columbus OH, and yes, even Lancaster OH. Look around on Saturday or Sunday, you can find one.

This is a farmers market meal. You could make it with stuff from the supermarket, but fresh, local stuff just tastes better.

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Let’s go down the list.
WHITE BEANS. I used Marrow Beans from Rancho Gordo and cooked them the day before. I cook beans half-a-pound at a time. That yields about 4 cups of cooked beans. Well I work at home, so I can cook the beans anytime, you say. I say, put your beans to soak in the morning before you go to work. When you get home, pour your bowl of beans into a saucepan, water and all (you want to change the water, be my guest). Make sure the water covers by at least an inch. (I use a clay pot, which I think is better, but it’s an investment.) Now, bring that to a boil and let it boil for 4 or 5 minutes, cover and turn the heat as low as possible. That takes about 20 minutes. You want the beans to barely simmer. If you have a heat diffuser, that’s good. Set your timer for 45 minutes and do something else.

When the dinger dings, give the beans a stir and taste one or two. They’ll probably have a bit of a bite. You want them to be nice and creamy, but not falling apart. Set your timer for another 10 minutes and when it dings, taste again. When the bite is gone, take the pot off the fire, add 2 teaspoons of salt, stir, cover, and set aside until you’re ready to use or store. Store in the refrigerator in glass jars, in their juices, for up to 2 or 3 days. After that, the juices get gooey (like the juices on canned beans).

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MIXED SALAD GREENS are available at several stalls at the Farmers Market. Usually, they’re nice and clean; if they’re not, go to another stall. They have been washed by a person, not a machine. They haven’t been sealed in a bag. If they have, go to another stall. You can see that they’re fresh, because they were probably picked the day before.

Small story: My son worked for a while as a research entomologist at the USDA facility in Tifton, Georgia. We were talking with the guy that runs the car pool there. Knowing I was from San Francisco, he said, “My family went to San Francisco once. My daughter ordered a salad and they brought her a plate of leafs.”

My BACON is from Marin Sun Farms. The pigs were raised in Sonoma County on pasture land, not in Iowa.

Tomatoes aren’t in season yet, you say. My TOMATO is from Bruins Farm, grown in a greenhouse in Winters, California. They have tomatoes in April; by June, everybody will have tomatoes. Supermarket tomatoes just now are probably from Mexico. If it’s dead winter, leave the tomato out, but you probably wouldn’t make this salad in dead winter.

SPRING ONIONS are in season right now. In a few weeks, they’ll be gone, so eat lots now.

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warm the beans, onions and tomatoes

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fold the bean mixture into the greens

Bean and Bacon Salad
Created 5.08

ingredients
2 cups cooked white beans, drained, juices reserved
about 4 cups mixed salad greens
5 slices bacon, cut into squares
1 tomato, peeled, seeded and cut bite size
2 spring onionssalad dressing
bacon fat from rendering the bacon (about 1 tablespoon)
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1. Trim and halve the spring onions along their equator and quarter each half.
2. Cook the bacon in a sauté pan to your favorite crispness and remove to a paper towel. Pour the rendered fat into a small jar to begin the dressing (you’ll have about a tablespoon).
3. Put the remaining salad dressing ingredients in the dressing jar and shake vigorously.
4. Trim, wash and dry the greens as necessary, put them in a big bowl and toss with the dressing.
5. Put your pan on medium heat, add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the beans, bacon, tomato and onion. Stir and heat until nice and warm, 2 or 3 minutes. The mixture should be moist — not dry, not soupy. If too dry, add a little bean juice or olive oil.
6. Dump the bean mixture into the salad bowl and fold all together.
7. Serve immediately.

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THAT is a great dinner for one, with enough leftover for lunch.

Bean and Bacon Salad II
Created 5.08

After making the above Salad, I still had two cups of cooked Marrow beans, some leftover dressing and lemon juice, which I combined. Needing lunch a couple days later, I put that stuff together with other stuff to make a new salad.

ingredients
2 cups white beans, drained, juices reserved
2 cups sorell leaves, roughly chopped
5 slices bacon, cut into squares
4 black olives, quartered
1 head endive, sliced
1/4 cup chopped celery.
1 spring onion

salad dressing
about 2 tablespoons of the previous dressing and two tablespoons lemon juice, mixed together
3 tablespoons garlic olive oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1. Trim and halve the spring onion along its equator and quarter each half.
2. Put the salad dressing ingredients together in a jar and shake vigorously.
3. Cook the bacon in a sauté pan and just before it reaches your favorite crispness, add the celery and sauté for about 2 minutes to soften.
4. Add the vegetables, except beans, to the pan and cook for a minute or so to soften a bit.
5. Add the beans to the pan and stir to mix everything together. Season with salt and pepper. Add the dressing and stir to combine. The mixture should be moist — not dry, not soupy. If too dry, add a little bean juice or olive oil. Taste and correct seasoning.
6. Serve immediately.

This was equally good, but different. I would have used more olives, if I had them, but otherwise, the dish was well balanced. Now that I have the basics; beans, olive oil, bacon, some kind of greens, I’ll vary to my heart’s content. I love beans, and they work in combination with many, many things.

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