Winter Food

Winter often seems characterized by what it doesn’t produce — no peaches or corn, no fava beans or string beans — than what it does. But there’s still so much to eat in winter, at least in California. (Pay no attention to the silly New York Times article that implied that there is only kale to eat in Northern California this time of year. There’s so much more than kale at the market.)

I started taking pictures of our weekly farmers market purchases to remind myself how much there is to eat in winter. The picture below is just an example of what we brought home most Saturdays: a few different vegetables (pictured below is chard, broccoli rabe, romanesco, and potatoes), cheese, bread, eggs and a little meat (in this case, Fatted Calf’s life-changing bacon). We are also lucky enough to have local almond butter and cornmeal at our market (pictured).

One of the things I like about eating what’s in season is that it gives me time to focus on foods that I might otherwise overlook. In the winter months, I’m not distracted by crisp fall apples or ripe summer tomatoes, and I learn to better appreciate chicories, cabbage and collard greens.

Cabbage was a surprise treat this winter. After years of considering cabbage merely a satisfactory topping for tacos or a cheap way to bulk up a soup, I finally discovered a cabbage recipe I loved in Chez Panisse Vegetables: a warm slaw with sauteed onions and end-of-season apples, brightened by a little vinegar. I talked so much about this salad that I exasperated Mr. WholeHog. If I so much as mentioned cabbage, he’d cut me off, “If you even say onions and apples…..”. So I waited for the evenings when he wasn’t home for dinner and I’d make it for myself. Now, of course, I’ll have to wait until next fall, when apples are back in season — and hope I remember this preparation.

This can be a frustrating part of eating seasonally, that just when you’re starting to enjoy a certain food or find a new favorite recipe, an ingredient goes out of season and you’re left to find something new to cook. It pushes you to be flexible, to change what you’re cooking every few months or every few weeks as ingredients come and go. Last summer, zucchini was on its way out just when I’d remembered to slightly undercook it to prevent it from getting mushy and when I’d been inspired by a dish at Nopalito that cooked summer squash with a little fresh tomato. All I could do was hope that I’d remember next summer when squash was available again.

With that in mind, I decided to write down some of what I’ve enjoyed this winter, so that next year, I can remind myself what to cook.

  • Beef Bolognese – It takes 3-4 hours to make but what else are you going to do when it’s raining all day long? I use this recipe from the New York Times.
  • Brisket – Did I turn Jewish in 2010? This unfortunately named cut o’ meat was so easy to make (we followed this Rancho Gordo recipe) and really delicious. Tacos will never be the same.
  • Warm cabbage, apple, onion slaw from Chez Panisse Vegetables
  • Collard greens cooked with Fatted Calf’s picnic ham and chiles
  • Puntarelle salads with anchovy dressing
  • Meyer lemon pasta: My go-to, home alone meal. A bright taste in the midst of a season of heavy meals. Butter, shallots, zest and juice of a lemon, crème fraiche and arugula, if you’ve got it. Toss with hot pasta.
  • Chard, barley and chickpea soup: The cinnamon and lemon really makes this soup special (the recipe is on the Rancho Gordo blog).
  • Heirloom Beans Posole (pictured above): An easy, although somewhat time consuming recipe if you choose to cook the beans, the posole (hominy), and poach a chicken for meat and broth.
  • Il Cane Rosso-inspired salad: This Ferry Building restaurant also shops and cooks seasonally and is a real inspiration to me. We attempted to duplicate their roast cauliflower salad with capers, pine nuts, currants and arugula. It’s like Zuni’s bread salad but with roast cauliflower in place of the bread.
  • Butternut squash Israeli cous cous salad: I was sad to discover how much I enjoyed this simple recipe right when butternut squash is on its way out.

One last note to myself next winter: start every New Year with crab for dinner and pie for dessert.

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2 Responses to “Winter Food”

  1. sarah Says:

    I’m still waiting for the day you guys move in next door and start cooking for us every night.

  2. Spring Food « Whole Hog Says:

    […] So before spring fully submits to summer, here’s some of what we enjoyed these last few months. (A companion post looking at what we ate in winter is here). […]

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