Monday, January 17, 2011

Inspiration - Winter Week #6

In this week's box:  butternut squash, green cabbage, mixed potatoes, carrots, white daikon radish, kale, dried sage

I have been back from vacation for about five days  and am finally getting into the kitchen swing of things again.  Don't you just hate post vacation re-entry?  The giant pile of mail was bad enough, but the mostly empty refrigerator was a downer too. And I was out of the habit of cooking every day.  Restaurants do have their charms.

Thank goodness I had a quart of chili, a loaf of homemade bread, a quart of turkey gravy and some leftover turkey in the freezer.  Plus a pile of winter vegetables, which do store so well.  Saved the day for sure.  Tonight I just added a few cups of chopped celery, carrots, onions and potatoes and some turkey to the gravy.  Whipped up a little biscuit dough, plopped it on top of the simmering gravy and veggies - cooked with the cover on for about 15 minutes and voila - dinner.  Refrigerator pickles on the side helped make up for the fact that it was really cold, gray and sloppy outside.

This is the time of year that can challenge even the most dedicated seasonal cook.   Yes, the cabbage, potatoes, carrots and squash in your box are fine plump specimens -- but one does yearn for some green beans or lettuce or sweet corn.  All I can say is -- patience.  All in good time.  Meanwhile, you have some good food to deal with and I will share a few of my secrets for the midwinter culinary blahs.

First - soup

Full flavored, long simmered soup is a blessing in the winter.   Pair soup with some excellent bread and butter or olive oil.  If you have been intending to try your hand at yeast bread now is the time.  You can also indulge in some apple pie or bread pudding or carrot cake - hearty desserts that might seem like too much in the summer.  But if you are eating a soup made with mostly or all vegetables for dinner - then by all means enjoy a little dessert.

You can try many soups with this week's vegetables - like cream of potato or carrot or squash.  Or try this recipe from a recent New York Times article - it uses squash, cabbage, carrots and sage along with other items.  It calls for farro - but you could use another grain instead.

I am going to make borscht tomorrow.  I have some beets to use up - and I also can use some of my cabbage, carrots and potatoes in the borscht.  I think this soup is best if you make a good beef and/or pork broth first.  If you use meaty pork ribs and chuck roast you can add the meat to the soup. This soup is best if refrigerated and eaten two or three days after it is made.

Borscht -

Make about 10 cups meat stock - use soup bones or lean meaty ribs or chuck roast.  Add a little onion, carrot, celery and bay leaf to the water.  About one pound meat and bones to 5-6 cups water is a good proportion.  Simmer several hours and strain.  Cut up meat to add to soup later.
Add vegetables to the stock and simmer until all are tender - about 2 cups chopped onion, 4 cups shredded cabbage, 3 cups each chopped carrot and potato.  If you have some parsnip or rutabaga a little of that is good too.  Add about 3 cups chopped cooked and peeled beets near the end of cooking.   I also like to add a can of whole or diced tomatoes and their juice- about 3 cups.  If you are lucky, you will have a row of beautiful home canned tomatoes in your larder - now is the time to break out a jar.

Seasonings - use salt and pepper to taste.  A handful of fresh chopped parsley and dill is nice.  Near the end of cooking, add about 1/2 cup red wine vinegar or lemon juice and 1/2 cup sugar.

Serve topped with some sour cream or creme fraiche.  Good with rye bread.  Also good with a full flavored red wine or some dark beer or ale.

Second - vinegar  Cook or season with vinegar.  Try different kinds.  Make coleslaw with a mustardy oil and vinegar dressing.  Shred or slice radishes and marinate with a little vinegar and sugar.  For more about vinegar see this 2010 blog post:

Third - pizza
Learn how to make homemade crust.  Or buy prepared crusts.  Experiment with different toppings.  How about butternut squash puree instead of tomato sauce?  Sprinkle it with some chopped garlic, crumbled dried sage, and grated parmesan.  Bake.  Serve with sliced plain raw radishes on the side. Maybe make a little dipping sauce for the radishes with some soy sauce, sugar and a little rice vinegar.

Or try beet pizza.  Really.  I would make a crust with a little whole wheat or rye flour.  Spread some caramelized onions and sliced roasted beets on the crust.  Dot with goat cheese.  Maybe add some walnuts.  Bake.

Fourth - comfort foods  Don't forget classic old favorites like colcannon - which is just potatoes and cabbage bound together with a generous dose of butter and milk.  You can use kale instead of cabbage to make colcannon if you like.
Add some roast chicken and maybe an apple for dessert and you have a great simple meal.

Or how about macaroni and cheese with some glazed carrots or braised cabbage on the side?   Or scalloped potatoes with a little ham and a raw carrot and radish salad?  Who needs fresh tomatoes and green beans when you have such excellent cabbage and carrots?

Save some of your cabbage and in few days I will tell you how to make your own sauerkraut at home.  It is easy.  Really.  And fermentation is the next new (old) thing.


  1. Would sage be good with Colcannon? I've never heard of it before, but am thinking of trying it this weekend. Basically, it's just mashed potatoes with some steamed cabbage, right?

  2. I think sage could work. I think I would add some onion to the cabbage too -- sage and onion are quite compatible.

  3. Best I could do was a recipe I found for parmesan crusted chicken. Mixture had parmesan, paprika, thyme, pepper, eggs and milk. Tried it tonight on Lynne and a friend who was over for dinner. They didn't declare they were poisoned. (The bottle of wine may have had something to do with this view.)

    For me, that's not too bad. Maybe I should have used sage instead ...

  4. I got a great pizza crust recipe from foodlushblog. We must eat it weekly and if the dough rose faster we'd eat it more often (mostly a weekend meal). We like spinach, garlic, crushed red pepper and cheese. Yummers!