Tag Archives: Winter Cooking

The Root Of The Matter

26 Feb

Isaac has been protesting of late that we haven’t been eating enough winter vegetables.

In his perfect world, winter would mean an endless parade of dinners featuring cabbage, squash, hearty greens and root vegetables.  Apparently, I have been depriving him of these things this winter.  So last week when I had a craving for lasagna, I knew how to get him to agree to it.  I suggested we have squash lasagna.

I know squash lasagna sounds a little weird, but it’s not. In fact, it’s awesome.  A few years ago I made a vegetarian lasagna that featured a thick, fragrant layer of spaghetti squash mingled with ricotta cheese and herbs.  Sometimes, when Isaac is dreaming about it, he’ll walk up to someone on the street and just start telling them about it.  Sometimes I suspect he keeps me around solely in case I decide to make that again … Kidding! But honestly, it was very good and I have no idea why I never wrote about it before, maybe because it’s a little complicated, and well, a little weird.

So, squash lasagna was on.  A layer of garlicky, herby butternut would replace the thick layers of cheese and bechamel.  And there would be a spicy, aggressive layer of chard.  And a topping of caramelized mushrooms and lots of fresh mozarella.  And then, while I was thumbing through the latest Bon Appetit and saw Molly‘s recipe for clereiac salad, I knew we had  a complete meal. When I asked Isaac what he thought, I think he actually did a little jig.

Head below the fold and take a jump with us.

A Leite Dinner

20 Jan

I’ve been thinking a lot about my colleague‘s recent conversion to what he calls “mostly veganism.”

Now, before we go quibbling about his choice of terminology I should tell you that this gentleman is an older, highly conservative Republican, red meat-eating, god-fearing capitalist and that he came to this state not out of any sense of environmental obligation but rather through sports physiology.

But, no matter the route, the destination is the same: A diet that is better for him and for the world.

I’ve been thinking a lot about vegetables too and how much I miss them and can’t wait to start pulling them out of our garden again.  This is the season that tries my soul.  I want to eat lots of unhealthy things like beef and pork and cheese and Christina’s Mama’s lemon sour cream pie, while I know I should be eating vegetables and grains and fish.  I want to be planting plants and digging around in the dirt but rather I’m stomping through slush and standing by the sink and staring at the fluffy, puffed-up birds while clutching a cup of tea, absorbing every last hint of warmth from it.

It’s a hard season to eat, and despite the insistence by the journalist and author Tom Standage at the AMNH’s recent lecture on curry economics that at some point getting your food from half-way around the world costs less in terms of carbon than raising it locally in a greenhouse, I still find eating at this time of year difficult.

It was all these complex thoughts that were rattling around inside my head as I was thumbing through David Leite‘s excellent cookbook The New Portuguese Table.  It was a Christmas gift from Isaac’s  mom and had sat sadly neglected on the ottoman since its unwrapping.  But on Saturday morning I was finally able to give it a good look.  And boy is it a beauty. So many wonderful recipes for interesting meats and creative ways to cook fish, but I was looking for simple, vegetable-centric ones.

You need to know about two recipes; a bread and a sauce below the jump.

Pork Store

7 Dec

Are there any two more beautiful words in all the world than “Pork Store”?

If there are, I’m unaware of them.  And it was these two magical words that came out of Isaac’s mouth early Saturday afternoon as we were bandying about what to cook for dinner.

I wanted a pork roast, he wanted a roasted chicken, and then somehow in searching the Internet, Isaac stumbled upon Rolf’s and all our wants and needs were forgotten.  All we could think of was sausage.

So we jumped in the car and headed north and as we drove it became snowier and snowier.  But we didn’t care! There were wursts and schinken at the end of the highway!

Sausages and schiken and snow oh my! More after the break.

Legendary

5 Mar

The land around our house (which also happens to be near where I grew up) is shrouded in legend.

There are famous legends, like the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, with it’s headless horseman and hapless teacher.  And then there’s the legend of the school named for that teacher, which always manages to close for a snow day regardless of only a few flakes having fallen from the sky.

Then there’s the legend of that great adventurer Henry Hudson, and the naming of a little town, Kinderhook, for its wealth of little children.  The town is also, according to legend, the source of one of the world’s favorite terms, O.K. It either has something to do with apples, or with the eighth president of the United States, Martin van Buren.

Speaking of old MvB, according to my mom, who had a friend (or possibly a friend of a friend) who lived in his house before it became a national park, there was a legend that, every year on his death day and on his birthday, the legs of the bed in which he died would fly off at high speed.  Apparently she had to stop using the bed for this reason.  Personally, I would have stopped using any bed made prior to 1862 for reasons other than that, mainly involving comfort.

Also in the realm of the spiritual world, there was the legend of the ghost that haunted my friend Alison’s house.  It was a very quirky ghost, taking vengeance on those in her very large family who were bad, and bestowing gifts upon those who were good, like my friend and her favorite brother and sister.  One year it even gave her a Christmas present; wrapped up in a very grubby old box, tied up with grubby old string was a beautiful, very old Dutch coin.

Don’t believe in ghosts? What about mobsters? Click here for some legends of the underworld.

That’s A Wrap

29 Jan

Cling film is out to get me.

Morning Light, Through My Window

Every time I open the drawer where the Saran wrap lives, I break out in a cold sweat. I know there’s going to be a fight, and I know who’s going to win. Hint: It’s never me.

I marvel, absolutely marvel, at the men and women on TV who can wrassle the stuff. I see them in commercials, on cooking shows and sometimes even in sitcoms and movies. They deftly grab the box, open the lid (without cutting themselves), pull the wrap from the roll with a sure hand, and cloak their leftovers in a layer of plasticky protection in one fell swoop. The wrap sticks to itself or to the bowl and never tears. I sit on the couch and seethe with jealousy.

It’s the dirty little secret of my kitchen. I can’t use plastic wrap.

Morning Rain

For a while I was very excited by that press & seal wrap (you know, the stuff that’s really just co-opted lab film). I remember it so fondly from 10th grade Advanced Biology. We’d use it to seal Erlenmeyer flasks full of fun experiments, and to protect Petri dishes from contamination. I embraced the press & seal and it hugged back. But, I can’t use it for everything.

My battle with cling film is decades old, but has recently become more heated. I suspect the plastic wrap has escalated because I won’t let it live in the “wrap & roll condo.” Some of you might have one of these, or remember them from your childhood.

Wrap & Roll Condo

They’re wall-mounted metal containers in which aluminum foil, wax paper and paper towels can live free, independent from their hateful boxes. You just pop the roll into the little cradle and use at will. No flimsy cardboard, no plastic ferrules popping out of place. They’re genius. Why no one makes them any longer is a great mystery to me (just like the song, I got mine on eBay).

I would love to forgo cling film entirely, but it does serve one purpose. It abets my pasta-making mania. On the rare occasion that I remember to pull a piece of the hateful stuff out of the drawer (before I get my hands all covered in flour), it is inevitably blown by a draft into an origami-inspired shape, the one and only time it ever sticks to itself. It forces me to stand at the counter, hands covered in sticky goo, in a desperate race to pull the layers apart before my dough forms a dry crust.

A more reliable scenario, however, is that I forget the wrap entirely. I will have just formed my perfect dough into a perfect little ball when I remember I’ve forgotten the stupid stuff and swear loudly. Not wanting to scatter flour all over the kitchen I try pulling the drawer open with my elbows. Fail. Try rinsing the dough off my hands. Fail. Capitulate, pull the drawer open with my now supremely gooey fingers, fight with the box, fight with the wrap, shower dough all over the cabinets, cut myself on the lid, swear a lot more, get the film off the roll, watch it all stick to itself, fight to pull the layers apart and then finally, wrap the film around the dough, at which point it choses to adhere to all of Murphy’s rules at once, but not to itself.

But, it is the struggle which makes the fruits of victory taste that much sweeter, don’t you think?

Seagulls, Tornado-Batterd Church Roof

Saturday was cold here. Bitterly cold. Stew weather. So we picked up some venison meat at the greenmarket and headed home. I didn’t want to go back out there and didn’t want to send Isaac either, so even though we were out of red cooking wine and had no fresh vegetables in the house, I decided to make do with what was inside, where it was warm. I thought adding some Cynar would add a nice flavor, and, thus inspired settled on a venison and artichoke stew.

Two things got in the way of this plan: 1. I was out of frozen artichokes and 2. I was unprepared for how much of the of the Cynar’s bitterness came through after a bit of cooking. So I improvised. I added sundried tomatoes and honey and jelly to mellow out the liqueur and tossed in whatever was green in the freezer; peas and garbanzos.

Venison Stew with Cynar and Csipetke

While the stew was burbling away in the oven, I made Hungarian dumplings.  The dough was easy enough, but once again,  I had to fight the wrap.  Despite all that, these are fabulous, toothsome, hearty little guys, like spätzle on steroids, and the perfect foil to this profound, mysterious and deeply flavored winter stew.

Mmmmm... Dumplings

While it’s true that the cling film waged a fierce and ruthless battle, I persevered and won the day. It was a personal victory, a victory for men and women everywhere, but most importantly it was a victory for my belly.

Those were some damn fine little dumplings.

Head below the jump for the recipes for Venison Stew with Cynar and Hungarian Dumplings.

Continue reading