I do enjoy winter. Aside from the holidays, which can be as stressful and maddening as they are glorious, there is a natural exaggeration of the contrast between “outside” and “inside,” between the biting cold and isolation of a Michigan winter and the warmth and community to be found at home. There are very few experiences I prefer to that of coming into a warm house after spending time outside shovelling, sledding or taking a walk with the dogs; my body naturally melts into the ambient warmth, and (with a little luck) there can be hot chocolate or a cup of tea in my immediate future.
Its good to come in from the cold, but I can ratchet my pleasure level even higher if there is something delicious in the oven, scenting the house and promising good things to come. Winter is not about the quick, refreshing fruits and vegetable of spring and summer which often require just a knife and maybe a little kosher salt. Winter is a time for the slow, deep flavors that come from long cooking of root vegetables and cuts of meat too tough and complicated to be thrown on the grill. It is a perfect time for braising and stewing, which let you begin with tough (but flavorful) protein and thick, starchy vegetables and end with tender meat and vegetables as well as sauce or gravy infused with the flavors and scents of meat, vegetables, and the aromatics of your choosing.
First you pick a Jaboticaba... Bill and I had mango and papaya trees once – fine adult specimens – all lost in a hurricane (along with five Royal Palms). Now that we live on the ocean, those days are past, but the joys of going into one’s backyard and picking something exotic is a most pleasing experience.
Here in South Florida unbelievable exotic fruit trees flourish. Besides the aforementioned Jaboticaba – and Florida’s famed citrus trees – there are, to name a few: Jackfruit, Tamarind, Loquat, Lychee (Oh do I love fresh Lychees) Mango, Muscadine Grapes, Papaya, Passion Fruit, Calamondin, and the mighty Avocado.
Local avocados are quite large, creamy in texture and I have been told of fewer calories than the California Hass. Since little grows in our salt-sprayed gardens, meeting inland friends with fruit bearing trees was a stroke of luck, and with just a bit of old fashioned obsequious sucking-up, we got on Ray Wakefield and David Millers home made exotic jams and chutney Christmas gift list. What, I asked; does Ray do with his big beautiful creamy low-in-calories Avocados besides Guacamole lite?
Waking up is hard to do. Really hard. For some, a strong cup of coffee or tea helps. Not for me. I wake up slowly and after being up for at least an hour or two I tackle breakfast. Left to my own devices, I would probably just eat brunch and save the real breakfast food for dinner, but Lee prefers something a bit more traditional.
The big problem with breakfast for me is always--what to have? Savory or sweet? Both are appealing but if I eat something sweet I may not get enough protein and as a result I'm ravenous barely an hour or two later. Nutritionists recommend a "balanced" breakfast meaning both carbohydrates and protein. Easy to do with eggs or cheese but harder to do with sweets like pancakes. Having sausage or bacon on the side is another way to go but probably not the best choice everyday. French toast or crepes are both sweet and have protein but I'm always looking for more protein-rich sweet options.
Ricotta pancakes are a perfect way to go. The ricotta gives you plenty of protein, they only have a couple of tablespoons of flour so you're not filling up on carbohydrates and best of all they are really delicious and cook up in a flash. Of course, serving them with bacon is up to you...
So far I have kept my New Year’s resolution to eat healthy. (Okay, so maybe except for the wine and a little chocolate.) This commitment includes a granola breakfast. (Later in the day, the menu gets very green.)
I have been obsessing about making the perfect granola to support my resolution. I have played with ingredients such as coconut (all formats: oil, sugar, shredded), millet, dried apricots, wheat germ, quinoa, etc. and I intend to continue messing with the recipe just to keep things interesting.
But as of today, I’m eating the one described below. It’s tasty, and makes me feel almost good about the fact that I’m not eating a croissant with jam.
Try it, knowing you can substitute almost everything with something else, if you are feeling granola obsessive. (This may not be the case for you if you, say, have a life.)
I bake and make desserts all winter. It might be something to do with cocooning or comfort or simply loving desserts, but this winter especially I have been baking up a storm. To change it up a bit, I made a pillowy-soft cloud of star anise scented espresso custard and piled it on top of crisp Italian lady fingers. A spoonful alone transported me to Italy…….to a little cafe where I stood at the bar and spooned anise froth into my mouth from an espresso cappuccino.
So simple. So wonderful.
It starts with steeping anise seeds and star anise in milk. You add egg yolks and sugar to begin making the custard. Whip cream till stiff, fold it in, and there you have it.
It was luscious. Light. Frothy. And less expensive than a plane ticket to Milan, a car drive to Turin, and a memory to remember where that wonderful little cafe actually was.
Is there another name as fun to say as "kumquat"? Yes. Lemonquat, limequat, and orangequat (also called mandarinquat). I didn't make these up; they are citrus hybrids -- part kumquat and part lemon, lime, or orange, respectively.
A soft-spoken, affable farmer named George T. Schnurer, who owns and operates Betty B's Ranch in Ramona, California, sells a wide variety of cheerful citrus, including orangequats, lemonquats, and di rigeur Meyer lemons.
Though the juicy sweet-tart orangequats have a robust orange flavor that I love, I am positively smitten with the lemonquats. You might expect given their name that lemonquats are overly sour or acidic. They aren't. Like lemon drops, they're rather sweet with hints of tartness.
Lemonquats like kumquats are entirely edible. Though wonderful raw, they're simply amazing in baked goods. Despite their playful name and unique flavor, there aren't too many recipes for lemonquats, that is, except for hard drinks. Since this is G- rated blog, I figured I'd do something more wholesome, like cake.
How can anyone resist tart and tiny kumquats, sitting so cute and bright in the produce department at the grocery store? They just look happy. I buy them every year as soon as they make their first seasonal appearance. I never have a plan for them when I set them in my basket, but it doesn’t matter. I buy the organic kumquats, rinse them well and, after I’ve cut the stem ends off, I pop them into my mouth one after the other, as if they were orange jelly beans.
Yes, these little cuties are totally edible, although they do have seeds hiding inside that seem large for such a tiny fruit. To remove seeds, slice kumquats in half and squeeze them gently and the seeds will pop out.
The skin is tender and sweet, while the flesh can be dry and very tart, compared with oranges. Kumquats that are soft will be less juicy, but they are perfectly acceptable for most uses. Store them in a plastic bag in the fruit drawer of the refrigerator for up to three weeks. One kumquat has about 12 calories and is a good source of vitamin C.
You have about a month to make these before Clementine season is officially over. Don't miss it.
Have you ever had a Clementine? They are tart, tangy and have a slight sweetness to them. A cross between a mandarin and a sweet orange, they are easy to peel and taste slightly different than both. It has distinct enough flavor that I always make sure I enjoy them throughout the season.
And here's the thing, they are supposed to be seedless, however I am having a hard time finding seedless Clementines. I've heard they lose their desirable seedlessness when they are cross-pollinated with other fruit, bees are the usual culprit.
My latest batch of Clementines was full of seeds, which made them a much better vehicle for making margaritas than just peeling and eating them.
Some drinks are just good. Some drinks are good stories with provenance. Some drinks are all the above!
My Mimi’s people are from the southwest corner of Georgia. Many of her Bainbridge cookbooks are part of my treasured library of culinary literature. Mimi loves to read them and be reminded of all the loved ones she knew growing up and the delicacies they served from their sideboards. This recipe comes from one of these beloved bindings of culinary delights.
But like any good Southern dish, there is a story with this one. Mimi has made this drink for us many a time while growing up and particularly in the wintertime. With truckloads of Florida’s citrus crop crossing the state line and popping up for sale on street corner, farm stands, and markets, oranges and other various and sundry citruses are at their peak. This drink is fantastic with the freshest of Florida’s finest, and I now serve it with a bit of history too.
If it wasn't for citrus fruit, winter's selection of produce would be pretty sad and boring. Once you've had your share of squashes and root vegetables, it's time for something different. Citrus offers a welcome respite. When markets begin to overflow with oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit, things finally get exciting. You may even see unusual citruses, such as blood oranges, tangelos, and pomelos. I love them all, but I particularly adore the sweet-tart flavor of grapefruits. This time of year, they replace my apple-a-day routine. But grapefruits aren't just for a dessert or snack, they shine in savory dishes, like this salad.
The classic fennel and grapefruit salad is a wonderful combination. Crunchy and sweet anise-flavored fennel goes well with the tart citrus flavor of grapefruit. This recipe reinvents the salad by adding wheat berries for a wholesome twist. The actual grains of wheat—the berries, as they are called—come in hard and soft varieties, where the hard is higher in protein and the soft higher in starch. Both work fine in this recipe. Once cooked, the berries are chewy on the outside, but tender on the inside. Enjoy them as a side dish like a pilaf or add them to any salad. They are especially nice in this recipe as they absorb the vinaigrette and grapefruit juices.
Homemade vinaigrettes just taste better and it's really worth the extra few minutes it takes to shake up a batch in jar.
I like to use this recipe during the winter, when there are lots of great citrus fruits to choose from in the grovery store.
Blood oranges, clemetines, or any favorite orange make a nice additiion to this simple green salad and compliment the marmalade in the vinaigrette.
About 6 weeks ago my friend Mary, emailed me to say that her blood oranges from her tree(yeah-she has a tree) were almost ripe and wanted to drop some off for me to enjoy. I was elated and anxiously awaited the bag.
One morning, upon arriving home from a yoga class, there on my doorstep, was HUGE bag of blood oranges and their leaves. I washed and dried the oranges and put them in a vessel and placed them on my dining room table. It took me days to figure out what I was going to make with them, but I wasn’t in a rush. I was merely enjoying their abundance.
by James Farmer III
Baby, its cold outside! I’ve found myself sippin’ and savorin’ a warm drink of sorts all day – Earl Grey this morning, Orange Zinger later on, the latter two combined and then for my nightcap, this warm cider was just the ticket.
Every year, my fair peach state yields the last of its famed crop towards summer’s end. Afterwards, apples from our...Read more...
by Joseph Erdos
Warm yourself from head to toe with a hot drink on a blustery day like today. Mulled wine does that and more. Popularized in Germany and Scandinavia, mulled wine has been a holiday favorite for hundreds of years. Christmas markets in cities and towns all over Europe swell with shoppers who turn to mulled wine when they want to warm up their...Read more...
by Matt Armendariz
Because our holiday parties tend to revolve around themes and menus of yesterday (I blame my house, it’s terribly 1950s to the extreme, and no, I wouldn’t change a thing), I wanted to experiment with a category of drinks that are probably better suited to Patagonia rather than Sunny Southern California: hot cocktails.
Regardless of the outside...Read more...