Winter

I Like Mine Extra-Crispy—Roasted Broccoli, That Is

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by Susie Middleton

roastedbroccoliWouldn’t you know it, I went skipping off to the grocery store yesterday, smugly thinking I’d pick up some fiddlehead ferns and/or baby artichokes and blog about cooking one or both of them this week. The grocery store had other plans. In other words, it had neither.

I swear I saw fiddleheads somewhere recently, even though I know the wild ones aren’t up yet around here. But I must have been imagining things (not surprising). I’m sure I didn’t imagine the baby artichokes; they’re at the other grocery store—the one I didn’t plan to go to yesterday. Oh well, soon enough for both.

Instead I bought broccoli. I know, broccoli. But it was, truthfully, the best looking thing at the store. And I think maybe I had a tiny cruciferous craving, as suddenly I had to have several of the perky purple-green crowns to roast for our dinner. (And a couple to put in a vase near the daffodils–weird but true.) I realized, too, that I needed something I could throw together pretty quickly, with a minimum of hands-on time, as I was probably going to be unloading the rest of my groceries all night!

What Fingerling Potatoes Want: Something Saucy

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by Susie Middleton

braisedfingerlingsIf you listen to conventional wisdom, you might think roasting is the only way to go when it comes to cooking fingerling potatoes. Now, I am usually the poster-girl for roasting (potatoes or anything else), and I’d like not to be burned at the stake for potato heresy, but I think fingerling potatoes are usually better braised or simmered, or, yes, boiled—any method that involves a little liquid.

I hate to generalize, because there are, in fact, many different varieties of fingerling potatoes. Fingerlings themselves aren’t a variety, but more of a type of potato, defined by their size and shape—small, knobby, and elongated. Their flavor is usually rich and concentrated, but the color of their skin and flesh, as well as their starch content, can vary quite a bit from variety to variety. (Popular varieties include Russian Banana, Purple Peruvian, Ruby Crescent, and French Fingerling.)

The varying starch level is why some fingerlings lean towards being fluffy and dry (like a Russet potato), while others have creamy or waxy flesh (like a Red Bliss potato).  Unless you cook with the same variety a lot, it’s hard to always know exactly what you’re getting at the store (or the farmers’ market) or how it will behave in the dry heat of the oven. While I’ve had bad experiences with Russian Bananas over-drying when roasted, I’ve never had a fingerling that wasn’t perfectly delicious when cooked with a wet-heat method.  

Time for Broccoflower

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by Susie Middleton

broccoflower.jpgIf it’s January, I must be cooking Broccoflower. I picked some up at the grocery the other day because, frankly, our vegetable larder of turnips, rutabagas, kale, and beets is starting to freak me out. Plus, I can never resist the lime-green color of Broccoflower, and I love its nutty flavor when browned, too. (Also, since we live in a small town and I shop at the same small grocery store every day after my post-office run, I’m beginning to worry that people might think we have a really unhealthy diet, since I rarely buy vegetables at the store any more. Checking out with Roy’s donuts, some Lucky Charms for Libby, and maybe some chocolate chips for me makes me a little self-conscious! Hence the need for the occasional head of Broccoflower.)

I’ve sautéed, roasted, stir-fried and quick-braised Broccoflower, but it’s very cold here today and I thought a ragoût would be satisfying. (When I say it’s cold today, I mean it’s calling-all-mice-inside cold. This morning a mouse was in the compost bowl in the pantry. He’d fallen in, obviously in search of yumminess, but since there was little more than coffee grinds and egg shells to feast on—anything green is going to the chickens or Cocoa Bunny right now—he’d tried to scamper back up the sides of the aluminum bowl. No luck. Roy switched on the light about 6:30 and left the little mouse to do a roller derby around the bowl until I got up. I put him back outside (tipping the bowl to let him escape), where he will most likely find his way straight back inside the house tonight. I feel a little bit like Fred Flintstone putting Dino outside the back door. Oh, well. At least Libby is not here to insist on a warm bed for Mousey.)

Sautéed Spinach with Garlic

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by Joseph Erdos

Image I would like to say that I loved spinach as a kid, but I mostly detested it along with other vegetables like peas and Brussels sprouts. But now I adore them all. I remember my mom using the Popeye cartoon as an example of why I should eat spinach: so I would grow up big and strong. I'm pretty sure that cartoon was created as propaganda by a team of spinach farmers and mothers. As children, we are all genetically programmed to dislike bitter flavors. That is why kids don't like most vegetables. As we grow into adults our taste buds develop to appreciate and enjoy bitter and even hot and spicy foods.

This simple recipe for spinach is almost too easy for me to include here, but it's my favorite way to enjoy it. It begins with sautéing thinly sliced garlic and a big pinch of red pepper flakes. The spinach is added and cooked until it wilts. For a bit of crunch, I garnish with toasted pine nuts. The flavor of the sautéed spinach is hardly bitter. There really is no excuse to boil or blanch spinach. Doing so just removes all the nutrients and blackens the leaves. Try this side dish with a wonderful dinner and you will see how rewarding it is. I recently paired it with roast beef, mashed potatoes, and Côtes du Rhône wine.

Homemade Mango Curd

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by Sue Doeden

mangocurd.jpgVelvety smooth, thick and creamy, soft and spreadable, sweet and tart — all characteristics of a good lemon curd. Every year around this time, I pull out my favorite recipe for lemon curd. Last week, I adapted that recipe to create a mouth-watering bowl of mango curd. A kiss of citrus from lemon and lime juices gives this creamy tropical curd just enough tartness to balance the sweet-as-honey mango.

Spread this Mango Curd on scones, banana muffins or bran muffins. Use it to fill tiny tarts or little thumbprint cookies. Sandwich it between butter cookies or spread it on shortbread.

Mango Curd is quite sublime with Tropical Mango Baby Cakes. I baked the cake batter in mini-bundt pans. The next batch of batter was baked in traditional cupcake tins. The cupcakes can be cut through the middle to form two layers. The Mango Curd is a perfect filling. Sprinkle the little cakes with powdered sugar and they are ready to eat.

Easy “Creamy” Leek Potato Soup

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by James Moore

Potato and leek soup is a classic French recipe that couldn’t be more comforting on a cold winter day. It’s an easy recipe that requires only a few ingredients. The addition of a bread slice is typical in gazpacho recipes and adds to the “creamy” texture of the soup without using cream. In addition to garnishing the soup with traditional croutons, Jacques Pepin - in his book Chez Jacques - recommends using chopped chervil as a garnish which adds a nice anise taste.

leeksoup 4 medium leeks, white and light-green parts halved lengthwise, washed, and sliced thin (about 4 cups), dark green parts halved, washed, and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped medium (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Table salt
1 small russet potato (about 6 ounces), peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 large slice high-quality sandwich bread, lightly toasted and torn into 1/2-inch pieces
Ground black pepper

Bring dark-green leek pieces, broth, and water to boil in large saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 20 minutes. Strain broth through fine-mesh strainer into medium bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; set aside. Discard solids in strainer and rinse out saucepan.

Melt butter in now-empty saucepan over medium-low heat. When butter foams, stir in sliced leeks, onion, and 1 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.

Increase heat to high, stir in reserved broth, potato, bay leaf, and herb sprig and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Add toasted bread and simmer until bread is completely saturated and starts to break down, about 5 minutes.

Remove and discard bay leaf and herb sprig. Transfer half of soup to a blender and process until smooth and creamy, 1-2 minutes. Transfer to large bowl and repeat with remaining soup. Alternatively, you can use an immersion blender to puree the soup directly in the pot (which is probably the best method if you have one).Return soup to saucepan and bring to simmer; season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with garnish.

– Recipe courtesy of Cook Like James

Sweet Potato and Pear Soup

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by Sue Doeden

boscpears.jpgNot too many years ago I was standing in the produce department at a grocery store, gazing at a variety of pears. I was planning to make a special dessert that involved poaching pears. I’d never poached pears. I had no idea what kind of pear to use.

Lucky for me, the produce manager recommended Bosc pears for poaching. He explained that their flesh is firmer than most pears, so they tend to hold their shape well during the poaching process. His voice took on a note of passion as he described their wonderful flavor, “Like the best white wine you could ever taste,” he said. “That is what a ripe Bosc pear tastes like.”

The cinnamon-colored skin of the Bosc makes them stand out in a crowd of Anjou and Bartletts. Their elongated neck flowing down to a rounded bottom gives them a look of regal elegance. The produce manager helped me choose Bosc pears that were ripe, but still firm. I tasted one as soon as I got home. That man was absolutely right. The juicy pear was divine. That was the day I fell in love with the Bosc pear.

Orange Spooner

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by James Farmer III

orange spoonerSome 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.

Salmon in Pomegranate Sauce

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by Elaine McCardel

salmonpom.jpgEvery spring I order real wild Copper River salmon from Alaska. I get enough to last us all year and put it in my freezer. It's so much better than the farm raised salmon in the grocery store and fresher than the wild salmon they sell that's been sitting out, for who knows how long, defrosted in the fish case. Some of that stuff looks pretty sorry.

I order my salmon from this place and it comes on dry ice, each fillet individually vacuum sealed so you can take out from the freezer just how many pieces you need at a time.

These are absolutely gorgeous fish - so fresh and firm with bright silver skin.  I order two kinds, the cheaper Sockeye salmon and a little of the more expensive King salmon. The King salmon fillets are thicker than the Sockeye and and are a little higher in fat, which contains all those great Omega-3 fats.

How To Make Homemade Cordials

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by Cat Cora

From the Huffington Post

cordials.jpgNow that fall is in full swing and you're trying to figure out how to bring back the flavors of the bountiful herbs and produce from the warm summer months, consider using them to infuse alcohols by making your own homemade cordials.  

Infusing your favorite alcohols and liquors with herbs and seasonal fruits lends an incredibly aromatic and flavorful combination that really enlivens the palate. To dig a little bit deeper into the world of culinary herbs outside of the conventional ways of using them for savory dishes in the kitchen, you can go out in your own garden, farmer's market, or even the herb section of the market, and "harvest" your own herbs to mix up unique blends and herbal infusions, creating your own personal herbal-infused liqueurs and cordials, using everyday herbs and berries that are readily available in a new and unique way.

When you get the hang of it, try hosting an "herb-harvesting and cordial-making session" with your friends, family, and/or neighbors, and make an entire fun-filled afternoon out of it! Set out pretty colored glass bottles with labels that everyone can infuse, create, and fill to their liking with their own cordial combinations.

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A Visit to the Merrion Hotel
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A Night in Provence via Tavern LA
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