Lentil Soup

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by Joseph Erdos

lentilsoup.jpg In many countries it's tradition to eat good-luck foods in the first few days of the new year or sometimes in the last few seconds of the old one. People in Spain stuff their mouths with grapes as the clock counts down the last twelve seconds. In the United States, Southerners eat collards and black-eyed peas because they symbolize money. My Hungarian heritage is not without its new year's food superstitions.

To celebrate, we eat pork and lentil soup. Supposedly because pigs root forward, they are a forward-looking bunch of animals. Chickens are not since they scratch backward. We eat lentil soup because the little lentils resemble coins. So the custom of eating good-luck foods is all to gain prosperity for the new year. Believe me I'd eat all these foods all the time if it meant prosperity for the entire year.

Tortilla Soup for a January Summer

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by Matt Armendariz

tortillasoup.jpgLet’s pretend for just a tiny moment that it has not been in the 80s here in Los Angeles over the past few days. We can also pretend that I did not lay outside in shorts and no t-shirt in the sun on a big madras print blanket with a book and three small dogs who insisted on standing on my back, butt and head. And let’s also pretend that yesterday I didn’t get home and fight the urge to run straight to the grill with a beer in my hand.

Winter Fruit

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by Laraine Newman

tarte_tatin.jpgSounds funny, right? “Winter fruit”. It’s a sorry state of affairs, especially in California where we can get so many splendid things almost all year round AND believe it or not, we DO have winter.

The Farmers Market web sites list what’s in season and during winter the list looks like it’s trying too hard.  With un-enticing things like Gogi and Ground Cherry (what the…?) it looks like a parent making excuses for their untalented child. When I clicked on the Fruit icon at it showed an array of exciting things like apricots and melons, only to find out that they were hocking the seeds to grow them with for ‘sweet goodness grown at home.’  Jesus!

The one fruit that gets to shine during winter is the apple.  I love apples. I’m so glad the growers of Delicious got it together and stopped growing that mush bomb. Red Delicious has returned to the apple of my childhood. Hard as a rock, crisp, juicy and sweet.

Allowing Citrus to Add Sunshine

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by Mark Bittman

From the New York Times

citrussalad.jpgGood citrus can almost make you glad it’s winter. When it’s in season — that’s now — it’s equal or superior to anything else you can buy in the plant kingdom. Any way you can devise to eat it, you’re taking advantage of something at its peak.

This citrus salad requires only that you overcome the notion that salads must be green; it’s a novel and wonderful antidote to sorry-looking lettuce.

If you’re lucky and can find blood oranges, use them; same with the odd, supremely delicious and usually quite pricey pomelos.

The idea is a combination of grapefruit (I like pink), oranges (navels, though common, are still terrific) and tangerines or clementines: pretty much any citrus fruit that’s more sweet than sour.

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Blood Orange Marmalade

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by Jeanne Kelly

orangejam.jpgI love Orange Marmalade—the sweet jam accented by the slightly bitter bits of rind is the perfect topping for buttered toast. My brother Brad used to keep me in a good supply of his tart homemade version, but now that he’s traded his orange grove in for a pear orchard, I’ve found myself wanting, and I set out to make my own.

I have a Morro Blood Orange tree in my garden, and I have made blood orange marmalade before. Of course I can’t remember how. So I looked at all sorts of recipes, and gee whiz, what a pain! Some call for boiling halved oranges, then soaking, then chopping. Some call for removing the peel with a peeler, then cutting away all the pith, then slicing the denuded oranges and then finally cooking—but I was looking at roughly 6 pounds of juicy fruit. I finally found one that seemed good: juice the oranges, thinly slice the peels—that I can handle, but then it called for wrapping all the seeds and membranes in 4 layers of cheesecloth and cooking the bundle along with the juice—forget it.

Winter Citrus

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by Matt Armendariz

copia-blog-citrus-bowl.jpgI know many of you love winter so I shall do my best not to disparage it. However, it’s not my most favorite time of year as I’m a creature of warm weather and open-toed shoes. But if there’s one bright shining spot to the season it’s most definitely citrus. Citrus in any form. When I begin to see the beautiful stacks of pommelos and meyers I can’t help but get excited and my mouth begins to experience sympathy pucker just looking at them.

Not many people realize this, but all citrus fruits come from over 4 million miles away in outer space and magically appear to make our culinary endeavors magical. Alright alright, I know I’m fibbing here but as far as I’m concerned that might as well be my reality. They are some of the most useful fruits on the planet. They preserve, they tang, they balance and they contrast. They do just about everything and anything you need them to do. And they’re equally at home in the savories as they are in the sweets. I told you there were magical!

It’s not unusual to find a big bowl of lemons and limes in my house at all times. I find that with a quick sprinkle of citrus zest even the most basic can be made to shine, not to mention the fact that they’re just so damn gorgeous and cheery, don’t cha think?

The Joys of Florida Fruit

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by Nancy Ellison

lextropfruit.jpgFirst 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?

Inspired by Pomegranates

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by Nancy Ellison

pomsalsa.jpgWe cannot let November pass without a pomegranate!

I love to cook and I love cookbooks, for they seem to hold sorcerer’s spells between their pages. I don’t use them when I cook, however. 

I may glance over the ingredients list or temperature/time chart, but the book closes when I begin preparation. Nothing I do gets done exactly the same way twice as I cook by feel and what is in my kitchen at the time.

I say this only to encourage you to treat the following recipes casually – more as an inspiration than as a contractual obligation.

How To Get Rid of a Rutabaga

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by Susie Middleton

rutabaga.jpgMe and my big ideas. Take rutabagas. I thought it would be just nifty to plant a row of these, late in the season, to use in our winter kitchen. (You can keep them right in the soil—how handy!) They’d be exclusively for us, not for the farm stand. Like the onions. Yes, but onions are a tad more versatile than rutabagas, you might point out. Duh.

There are only so many rutabagas one can eat. It’s not even November and Roy is already looking a little rutabaga-weary. And this despite the fact that miraculously, Roy, who is not a huge veggie lover, is not turnip-averse. (Rutabagas are basically big, purple-skinned, yellow-fleshed turnips.)

I guess I got all rutabaga-smug because I figured I knew a bunch of tasty ways to cook them. This week, in fact, I slipped some into a potato gratin, and that was a definite hit. (Couldn’t have had anything to do with the cream and cheese.) And one of my favorite techniques—slowly caramelizing root vegetables in a crowded pan—works wonders on rutabagas, so I’ve been using this trick frequently. And Fall Veggie Minestrone is another great destination for rutabagas. 


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