Winter

cauli-pic-1 01The savage weather has reached Biblical proportions. Yes, I am exaggerating, but today it is blowing so hard that I am fully expecting Auntie Em to ride by my window on her bicycle at any time. Frankly, I’d rather look out and see her than some random farm item that was once tethered to the ground.*

Well, there is no antidote to all this other than good warming winter food. (And chocolate—I have my new favorite, a 77% percent cocoa bar from Chocolove, by my side.) In the kitchen today I am making a cauliflower gratin, because I am still having cruciferous cravings. Don’t worry, I am not eating the chocolate and the cauliflower at the same time.

Because of my sweet tooth, I prefer cauliflower roasted, rather than prepared any other way. So today I was thinking about taking the extra step of putting roasted cauliflower into a gratin with Gruyère and rosemary—and then I realized I’d already developed a recipe like this for The Fresh & Green Table.

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There’s nothing better than hearty soups during the winter months. When I don’t have time for long simmering stews, I like to turn to this recipe for a super fast soup with lots of flavor. It’s worth using homemade chicken stock, but if you don’t have it on hand, store bought low-sodium broth will do.

pastasoup 2 tablespoon vegetable oil or chicken fat
1 store-bought rotisserie chicken (about 4lbs), skin discarded, meat shredded into bite-sized pieces (about 3 cups)
2 medium onions, cut into medium dice
2 quarts chicken stock (preferably homemade)
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 medium ribs celery, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 medium zucchini, cut into medium dice
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained (I use Muir Glen)
1 cup pasta shells (small or medium)
1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves
Salt and ground black pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Heat oil (or chicken fat) over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, carrots, celery, and zucchini; sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add thyme and tomatoes and sauté for 1 minute. Add chicken stock and shredded chicken; simmer until vegetables are tender and flavors meld, 10 to 15 minutes. Add shells and cook until just tender, about 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings, stir in basil, and serve with parmesan cheese on the side.

– Recipe courtesy of Cook Like James

kalesalad.jpgSince I require bright color to keep me happy, I make up for the weather with vegetables. One of my favorite color combos is deep green and bright orange. This week at the grocery I spotted big bunches of leafy Tuscan kale right across the aisle from a bin of blood oranges, and thought bingo! What a great combo—a truly colorful wintry mix.

Unlike many leafy greens, Tuscan kale doesn’t bolt (go to flower), so you can keep harvesting from one plant for many weeks. It’s even better in the kitchen, because it has a much silkier texture and a less mineral-y flavor than regular curly kale. It’s lovely in soups, pastas, and gratins, but makes a versatile side dish, too.

If you want to cook (or grow) Tuscan kale, there’s just one problem. You will have to memorize a roster of names this green goes by so that you don’t miss it. When I first encountered this kale a few years back, I understood it to be Cavolo Nero, or black kale. Now it seems to be marketed most often as Lacinato; though you will also see it labeled Dinosaur kale to appeal to kids. I just stick with Tuscan kale. The good news is, despite the name confusion, it’s relatively easy to identify this kale by its looks. The leaves are long, straight, and quite narrow—and they have a distinctive webby, bumpy pattern on them.

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24carrotsoupThis is a delicious fall/winter soup that makes a perfect first course at Thanksgiving. It’s packed with carrot flavor that’s enhanced by a double dose of ginger.

Cook’s Illustrated suggested adding fresh carrot juice to enhance the flavor of the soup which really appealed to me. I’ve been using my Hurom Slow Juicer to create all types of fresh, nutritious vegetable and fruit juices, so making fresh carrot juice is quick and easy.

If you don’t have a juicer, bottled carrot juice will also work just fine.

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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?

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