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Eating Seasonally: Entering Winter

December 13, 2011

Last month I wrote about Cooking out the Cold at All Over Albany.

You may want to give that a reread as it’s getting colder and colder outside. This may be too much information, but last night the dry skin on my knuckle started spontaneously to bleed, and I had been moisturizing all day. The day before I went to the Schenectady Greenmarket and noticed a dwindling number of produce vendors.

Next Saturday is the last winter date for the Delmar Farmers Market.

Despite the produce drying up I was able to buy some parsnips, kale and a winter squash at the market. The kale didn’t look its best. But the fussy little children wanted kale chips. Who was I to deprive them of their favorite vegetable treat?

Just because there isn’t a lot of fresh produce around doesn’t mean you get a pass from eating seasonally. In fact, now it’s more important than ever. Because you are going to be paying through the nose for fresh lettuces, and they aren’t going to be worth it.

For those in need of ideas, here are a few of the dishes we’re making besides beans:

Pasta
Not only does it take a large pot of boiling water, everyone loves it. Sunday we traditionally have aglio e olio. But as winter drags on, and we are in need of heartier fare, I’m looking forward to picking up some guanciale for a traditional carbonara. Well, almost traditional. It’s not kosher to use 100% whole wheat spaghetti.

Polenta
Again, there is that big pot of hot water. I’ve really relaxed with this dish over time, and am very happy doing this in the background. In fact, if I can make a cheesy polenta early in the day, by dinner time I can slice it and fry it for a decadent treat. But it also goes great with mushrooms, either fresh or dried, or as a base upon which to set some slow braised meat.

Fried Rice
Well, really this is just for me. But with all the beans we eat, there is always extra rice around. I picked up a jar of kimchi and a jar of Korean red pepper paste. It’s oil, onion, garlic, rice, kimchi and seasoning, topped with a fried egg. I could eat this every day.

Soup
I’m going to count split pea soup here and not with beans. After all, the legumes totally break down to form a hearty stew, punctuated alternately by sweet orange carrots and smoky bits of pink ham hock. But even chicken bones with some carrots, onion and celery make an amazing base for just about any vegetable you like.

Winter Squash
Peeling these things are a pain in the neck. So I halve them, scoop out their seeds, oil them up, and slap them on a foil lined baking sheet for the better part of an hour. When they are done, I’ll scoop out the soft flesh, mix it with a bit of butter, salt and pepper (maybe a smidge of brown sugar if the squash isn’t sweet enough). Leftovers can be combined with chicken stock and blended for a delicious squash soup.

Noodles in Broth
Speaking of that chicken stock, little is more comforting than noodles in broth. I read somewhere that Anthony Bourdain said something along those lines, and he’s totally right. The Asian markets have all kinds of fun noodles made out of every starch imaginable. Slurpilicious.

Potatoes and Sausage
This has quickly become one of the family’s favorite easy meals. Cut up some potatoes and other root vegetables, and toss lightly with decent olive oil, salt and pepper. Chunk up a few raw sweet Italian sausages and throw them on top. The whole baking dish gets thrown in the oven for about 40 minutes, depending on the size of the vegetable chunks. Embarrassingly, the kids eat it with ketchup.

These are the basic everyday dishes. There are more. But right now, I’m sure most of you are still running around looking for presents. That means you are too busy to take the time to cook any of this stuff. Don’t worry, this post will still be here when you need it in January.

In the meantime, if you do have some spare time, feel free to share some of your staple dishes below.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. ashallann permalink
    December 13, 2011 10:45 am

    I really enjoyed the cooking out the cold post, hoping to try the Chana Masala recipe soon. We live on squash and soups throughout the winter. Nothing better than homemade soup to warm everything right up.

  2. kathleen permalink
    December 13, 2011 11:34 am

    I like to make butternut squash apple soup using Molly Katzen’s recipe from Get Cooking.
    I also enjoy making Shepherd’s Pie topped with Sweet Potatoes from a recipe found at dinnerwithjulie.com.

  3. December 13, 2011 11:41 am

    I tried both the Chana Masala and the Cuban Black Bean recipes you posted and they were delicious, thank you. I cannot believe how much flavor was in those black beans with so few ingredients.

    I love roasting a chicken for a nice dinner and then making a stock with the carcass, veggies and a bottle of white wine. Nothing smells better on a Sunday afternoon than a simmering stockpot.

    Beef stew is also one of my favorite dishes. Not all beef stews are created equal but I have one or two recipes that are unbeatable. They take about 3 hours so I’ll cook them one night and have them for dinner the next (besides, they always taste better the next day).

  4. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    December 13, 2011 9:04 pm

    Squash=blecchh.

  5. mirdreams permalink
    December 14, 2011 6:34 pm

    Butternut Squash Risotto. It takes a while to make but you get a lot of leftovers and I think it reheats well.

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