From the Locavore…

Sustainable Sides
By Suzanne Cope

After the first frost, when some farmer’s markets shut down for the season, and the taste of fresh corn and vine-ripe tomatoes seem like a lifetime away, it might seem as if there is little alternative to shopping the big grocery stores for produce trucked or flown in from across the continent – or further – away. However, in the fall, there are sustainable, local veggies that can be found at one of the year-round green markets and stored throughout the winter to be turned into side dishes so delicious that you will forget that the first big snow storm is just around the corner.

Sweet potatoes are a fine storage tuber that can be kept in a cool room or basement (around 55 degrees) for a month or more. These can be served countless ways: sauté-ed with eggs, baked whole or roasted with other root vegetables. However, if you have a little extra time, consider making the Savory Sweet Potato Crumble (recipe below) that uses caramelized onions and bacon fat in place of a in a traditional sweet fruit crumble.

Brussels sprouts are another vegetable that can last through a milder early winter. A bite-sized cousin of cabbage, these vegetables taste best after a frost – which makes them ideal for a winter side dish when you find them. They also freeze well and can last a few weeks stored, with their outer leaves left on, in a paper bag or uncovered bowl at around 35 degrees. Easy to slice and pan fry or roast, brussels sprouts can be gussied up with a quick toss with olive oil and parmesan cheese (recipe below).

Finally, beets are an amazing source of antioxidants, fiber and vitamin C and come in a rainbow of beautiful colors and patterns, from golden to deep red to the painterly pink and white stripes of the chiogga variety. These root vegetables are dense and easy to store in the fridge for up to a month or in a 32 – 36 degree root cellar for a few months – just remove their greens first (and sauté them up and eat them!). Excellent steamed or roasted, a more unique use of this root is to grate it into orzo while cooking to add a sweet earthiness to an otherwise run of the mill pasta dish.

Dressed up for Sunday dinner with friends or family – or whipped up for any Tuesday night in front of the television – these sustainable sides are a great way to eat locally grown vegetables while snow is on the ground.


Sweet Potato Crumble

8 c chopped sweet potatoes (about 3)
1 c caramelized onions
½ lb chopped cooked bacon
2 T chopped fresh sage

1 c bread crumbs
1 c fat (suggestion: half bacon fat, half softened butter)
1 c chopped walnuts
½ lb chopped cooked bacon
¼ c maple syrup or brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine sweet potatoes, onions, ½ pound of bacon, sage and salt & pepper into a baking pan.
Combine all topping ingredients and mix until it resembles large crumbles. Spread evenly over the contents of the baking pan, cover with foil.

Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Take off the foil and bake another 20, or until the topping is lightly browned and the sweet potatoes are cooked through.

Brussels Sprouts Tossed with Parmesan
5 cups of brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved
½ c grated parmesan, asagio or pecorino cheese
½ t each dried oregano & dried basil
1 T olive oil (or to taste)
salt & pepper to taste

Place the brussels sprouts in a covered pan or baking dish with half cup of water and roast at 350 degrees.
After 10 minutes remove the top or foil and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Remove from oven after twenty minutes or when lightly browned.
Let cool for 10 – 15 minutes, or until a bit warmer than room temperature.
Combine cheese and herbs. Toss with the cooked brussels sprouts and serve immediately.

Beet Orzo
1 medium beet, grated. (The darker the beet, the more beautiful the color of the final dish.)
2/3 c dried orzo
half cup crumbled feta cheese
salt & pepper to taste

Add the grated beet and 1 ¾ cup water to a sauce pan and bring to a boil. When at a rolling boil, add the orzo and simmer, uncovered, until the pasta and beet are just cooked through. Add more water one tablespoon at a time if needed to fully cook the pasta, and drain excess liquid if the pasta cooks faster than the water evaporates.  This will depend on your pasta and cooking temperature.

When done, top immediately with crumbled feta and serve.

Chopped dill or a drizzle of pesto would also be a great addition to this dish!

About compostforbrooklyn

Compost for Brooklyn empowers city residents to sustainably reduce waste and cultivate healthy urban ecosystems.
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