Winter

preservedlemonsMy one favorite thing about the winter season is citrus fruit. When I have a good lemon or orange in hand, I almost forget about the mountains of snow and the blistery weather. I always seek out unusual citrus fruits, from Meyer lemons to blood oranges. But the one citrus fruit I use most is the standard lemon. The ones available in the supermarket are typically the Eureka variety. I use those juicy yellow orbs in practically every recipe. Salad dressings, baked goods, and stews all benefit from a little lemon, be it the juice or zest. The aroma and flavor of lemons are what make them so special and revered in many cuisines.

Luckily we can get lemons year-round in the supermarket, but there are also ways to preserve them. Many cultures preserve lemons when they are in season for later use during the rest of the year. North African cuisine, particularly Moroccan, and even Indian and Southeast Asian cuisines utilize preserved lemons in many savory recipes. They are added to the famous Moroccan tagines. They are also great in standard stews, braises, and roasts. Just as with the fresh citrus fruit, the possibilities are limitless with preserved lemons.

Read more ...

butternutsquashsoupYou usually see this around Thanksgiving – it makes a great first course – but it’s also perfect on a cold winter day. I think the most impressed I’ve ever been with this soup was the first time I had it at Spago’s in Beverly Hills. Wolfgang Puck serves his signature soup with a cranberry relish and cardamom infused cream.

I love the taste of cardamom – though a little goes a long way – it definitely adds a new dimension to both sweet and savory dishes. When I make this at home, I skip the relish and cream, but I do garnish the soup with sugar-spiced croutons – a worthy substitution!

Spago’s recipe also uses baked squash that is then pureed, but I opted for the method in Cook’s Illustrated which uses the seeds and fibers to build flavor, then steams the squash in a flavorful liquid.

Read more ...

ImageI'm not much of a coffee drinker but I love hot chocolate and I love tea. I enjoy the richness of hot chocolate, but sometimes it's a bit too much. I certainly couldn't drink it everyday. I have tried quite a few chocolate flavored teas and while some of them are pretty good, I've discovered a more satisfying solution. I make hot cocoa with equal parts tea and milk.

On the surface this might seem like a weird thing to do, combining cocoa and tea but it's really quite delicious. I learned from chocolate authority Alice Medrich that the fat in dairy products coats your tongue so the flavor of chocolate is sometimes muted in very creamy preparations. She said you can make cocoa with hot water, but I have found that tea provides an amazing addition of flavor. I like a little bit of milk to add some texture.

The result is a beverage that is richer and more viscous than tea and milk, but not quite as cloying as hot cocoa can be. In the Winter, I could drink it just about everyday!

Read more ...

ImageOh this little butternet squash tarte tatin, how much do I love you? Enough to have you three times over the past few weeks, all for the sake of “recipe testing”, you know.

And honestly, this upside-down tart is probably one of the best things I’ve had all season, if I do say so myself.

Sweet butternut squash is roasted and then placed on top of caramel in a baking pan. The whole thing is covered with puff pastry and baked, and when it’s ready you invert the whole thing onto a plate and just go for it. I’ve tried to be nice when eating this but you can’t, it just disappears so fast. It was a hit during our Friendsgiving last month, but in a quick misfire of timing and communication it landed on the table during the meal and not as dessert. You know what? It didn’t matter. It was sweet and buttery, perfect with Gaby’s stuffing and just about everything else that afternoon.

Honestly, I do think you’ll love it.

Read more ...

kalesoup.jpgNew Year's resolutions. They're nothing but bunkum.

"Resolve to lose weight." It sounds real enough. It's a statement made in the dark of winter when we are most vulnerable. The holiday season romanced us with its twinkling lights, sparkling cocktails (can you say 400-calorie-martini?), and carb-heavy desserts. We indulge. We regret. Then on January 1st we commit to a diet.

By January 10th, most of us (read I) rummage through the pantry closet for something, anything chocolatey, salty, sweet, or preferably all three. We spot the bag of blue corn tortilla chips hidden behind the oatmeal and tell ourselves, "These are pretty healthy." We eat a few. Close the bag. Re-open it. Eat a few more. Next thing we know, half the bag is gone. Then we're thinking, "Well, hell, I already ruined my New Year's resolution. I might as well eat 'em all now."

If any diet worked, then why do magazines promote them on their covers every month, every year? Because they know that we are fallible and that living a life of extremes isn't attainable for most. Consider some of these weight loss claims from popular women's magazines: "Melt 10 LBS Fast!" "Shed One Size!In Just 2 Weeks!" "Shrink Your Belly!" And these are just the ones on my coffee table.

I say, "No." No to fast fixes, unrealistic goals, and tasteless foods. No to diets.

Read more ...