Posts tagged winter
Wednesday, February 24, 2010

citrus salad with cilantro and mint

citrus salad

Ok, there’s no way of getting around this. This post. Well, it’s just sitting down, looking me squarely in the face and refusing to budge. It’s taunting me, taking its time, making me carefully search for each word. I hate writing like this: arduous, painful, unnatural. There are days when these posts practically write themselves; my excitement is usually so hard to contain. But today, I’m just out of my element. Which is quite opposite of how I feel about this salad. I think my ardor for this salad is inversely proportional to my ability to convey it.

the suspect line-up

This salad is officially my cure for winter doldrums. Gray skies and snow banks, you’ve got nothing on me as long as I’m armed with this little burst of sunshine on my plate. It brings a smile to my face even as I type this because this salad is so delightfully happy, you can’t possibly be in a bad mood once you bring a forkful of it to your mouth. The fragrance alone is sparkling, giddy and invigorating. And to say I’ve become obsessed, would be a slight understatement. Minutes after I served this at book club, it was gone, second helpings and all. And pretty looks aside, this salad’s got looks and “brains” so to speak. It delivers on flavor even more than it delivers on looks. And just look at it – isn’t it a stunner?

citrus salad

I should also confess that had I not fallen for this salad hook, line and sinker, I would still have been forced to make it given that I’ve about twenty pounds or citrus sitting at home, on the account of getting a wee bit overzealous in ordering citrus for my grocery delivery. I sort of lost track being so excited to have some in-season fruit, and when grocery boxes arrived and half of them were oranges, lemons, grapefruit and clementines, I initially thought of starting my own juice bar. Vitamin C and I are such BFFs right now – we’re tight like you wouldn’t believe.

My zeal for all things citrus can be easily explained – what other fruit, besides bananas, looks good right now? None! The apples and pears are looking sad and taste uninspiring. Our local grocery store is carrying cherries at a price that made me gasp and price aside, they weren’t looking so great either. Berries are bland, as are melons and stone fruit. This leaves citrus looking quite attractive. And pretty too. My dining room table looks so much brighter with these orange and yellow orbs sitting pretty in a bowl. If nothing else, they cheer me up visually. But as these citrus guys are at their peak right now, they taste amazing as well.

citrus salad

All this salad needs is a little shallot, some slivered mint and cilantro, and a light vinaigrette sweetened with maple syrup to highlight the sweetness of the citrus. What you get is bright, clean, uplifting flavors full of sunshine. I eat this salad and I can’t help but grin from ear to ear; it makes me downright giddy and inspired. Much unlike this post.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

thai red curry with root vegetables

Thai Red Curry with Root Vegetables

Well hello there, lovelies! Are you sick of winter yet? If you’re reading this and you live someplace warm, like LA, where I am told today is supposed to be a balmy 79 degrees, we, the East Coasters, are very jealous and wish you all the best, but please don’t rub it in. We just might start crying. We’d kill for some sun dresses and flip flops right about now. Am I right? I’m ready to take my Uggs and my sweaters and my puffer jacket and pack them away for at least 10 months. I look like a black marshmallow making my way down the streets of New York. No matter how you slice it, winter wear is just not that flattering – it can be pretty frumpy. Also, I’d like to stop using cups of tea as ways of warming up my hands at the office. A girl can only take so much.

vegetables, awaiting their fate

But, though I’ve prepared quite a soliloquy about my winter discontent, I realize that what I’m about to tell you cannot possibly be appreciated unless you’re bundling up this month. Do you really want to eat Thai coconut curry in balmy weather? I didn’t think so. And even if you did, doesn’t it taste so much better when there’s snow falling outside your window and you’re enveloped in warmth and stillness of your home? Perhaps, these cold winter months are an opportunity for us to appreciate these comforting stews. There is some joy to hibernation, to puttering around your home, inviting a friend or two over and lazing around on the couch wrapped up in blankets.

onions, curry paste, cumin

Winter is also a time when few vegetables are in season – and mostly, these are root vegetables. Much like my winter get-up, they, too, are rather frumpy looking. Have you ever looked at a parsnip or a turnip and thought to yourself, “My, what a looker?” I didn’t think so. And frankly, neither have I. But, given a chance, these little guys can truly transform themselves. They clean up rather nicely. Typically, they are roasted with salt and pepper, and maybe a glaze of sorts, to bring out their sweetness. Sometimes, they’re added to soups. All these things are great and wonderful, but there’s an opportunity to let them shine in an unlikely place – a Thai-inspired red curry made with coconut milk!

red curry paste - gluten-free!lemongrass
turnipscoconut milk

This curry brings me such joy that I think, for all my complaining, I can tolerate winter a bit better, snow, sleet, wind and all. Armed with this dish, some sweaters and strong coffee – I can take winter with all its elements. The curry is so delicious, that I can’t get enough of it, and in fact, I’ll be making it for the book club ladies this Thursday; not to mention, this was a permanent weeknight dinner fixture throughout most of November. And so I must say this to you – drop whatever it is you’re doing, and make this without delay! Unless you have a really good excuse tonight, this should be on your dinner menu. Really, I insist. You’ll thank me later, I’m pretty sure. I’m so smitten with this curry, that each night you might delay making it – I’ll feel personally responsible.

simmering

This curry has everything going for it that you’d want in a weeknight winter meal: ease, taste, leftover potential, scalability, function. It’s as unfussy as they come and once all the ingredients are in the pot, you put the lid on top, reduce the heat to low and go about your business doing whatever it is you want to do at night – be it catching up on emails or tidying up your living room, or kicking back with a beer. Here’s the best part – this curry comes together in about the same time it’ll take you to dial and wait for take-out. Any leftovers you have will freeze beautifully, saving you time in the nights ahead. Winter’s bite might not even seem that bad. Who knows – your LA friends might even get insanely jealous of your cold-weather meals and wish for sweaters and mittens themselves. Probably unlikely, but please don’t burst my bubble.

Thai Red Curry with Root Vegetables

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

stuffed cabbage

stuffed cabbagge

No one ever tells you this, but the week after you get back from vacation is impossibly busy. For all you know, you come back, relaxed and tan, full of those lovely umbrella drinks, sand in your bag – and then wham, you get knocked down by work and life that apparently had the audacity to go on without you. You return to a full mailbox, bills to pay and laundry to do. I mean, the nerve, right? Shouldn’t the world stand still while you’re exercising your right to a bikini and a beach chair every day for a full week?

hollowing out the cabbagesteaming the cabbage
riceonions & celery

Oh and don’t get me started on the cold. The bone-numbing, soul-sucking, stop-you-in-your-tracks cold. I mean, I can’t even properly describe my dismay. Someone at work mentioned today that New York average temperatures around now were always in the mid-thirties and, well, we’ve certainly dipped below that just about every day. As luck would have it, my flight got into Newark on the same day that security breach took place and the airport was in near lock-down mode. I suggested to the pilot we turn the plane around and got back to Dominican Republic and he gave me a stare. I thought to myself, “Fine, but it’s either this, or an umbrella drink, buddy – you choose.”

stuffingall mixed
lining the potremoving the vein

We’re not even a month into this winter and already I’m whining. I swear, as the years go by the cold gets to me more and more. I complain about it bitterly, but get very little sympathy. Russians are supposed to tolerate these temperatures without so much as a shrug, I am told. But since I’ve not lived in the blustery St. Petersburg winter in over 21 years, I really can’t claim high tolerance for cold weather. Even if you do give me a vodka shot to quell the pain.

how to rollhow to roll
how to rollhow to roll

What I find myself doing, however, is craving Russian food. Badly. I like the heartiness and honesty of it; the way that it fills me up and makes me feel warm as if wrapped in a blanket. A food version of Snuggie, if you will, but far more attractive looking. And for me, in moments like this, stuffed cabbage really hits the spot.

a view from the top

In Russia, we called this dish “golubtsi”, and I’ve heard my Ukrainian friends refer to them as “holubki”. My friend Ryan took it one step further and referred to them as “pigs in blankets” and when I made fun of him and told he confused the name with another dish, quickly proved me wrong. But whatever you call them, they are amazing. In fact, they’re even better in the next few days as flavors develop more, and, if that weren’t bonus enough, they freeze beautifully too. Which is a great asset when you arrive home from the airport at 1 o’clock in the morning, starving and cold. A few minutes of defrosting in a microwave and you have a comforting, warm, soothing dinner. And if my week is busy, I can manage it, because I can have dinner ready in mere minutes, and focus on those other pesky things that took place in my absence, clearing my schedule for more important things like editing vacation photos. Clearly, more of a priority than paying bills.

stuffed cabbagge

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Monday, December 14, 2009

guinness stout ginger cake

guinness stout ginger cake

This is not a cake for the faint of heart. No, this stout ginger cake is bold, serious, intense, brooding. Yes, brooding. A cake can brood; this one does. Trust me. And if you’re the kind of person who only likes yellow cake (not that there’s anything wrong with that, I love yellow cake myself) then this might give you pause. Because this is a cake for those who like their sweets scaled back. It balances bitter notes with the spices, and adds a doze of restrained (we like our sweets restrained), mature sweetness. It’s complex, yet comforting; dark, yet not heavy and, unlike its last year cousin which goes much better with tea, this Guinness ginger cake is the perfect candidate for your Christmas morning coffee, making it a perfect accompaniment to opening presents. Besides, if you make it the over Christmas eve, you’re in luck–the cake tastes better the day after you make it. And who doesn’t love a make-ahead cake?

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

pear compote poached in vanilla bean and star anise

poached pear compote in vanilla bean & star anise

Oh mid-December with your mercurial weather–I cannot figure you out! Are you freezing cold with temperatures nearing zero or are you the kind of December that lingers in the forties, rainy and damp, like this morning? Do I warm up some soup and curl up with a book dressed head to toe in fleece, or do I just go into deep nesting mode and emerge outside when asparagus arrives to the greenmarket? Either way, I want to stay indoors and make lovely things in the kitchen and then eat them. Not terribly ambitious, am I? You see, inside my head, I am cooking all kinds of things for the holidays: cookies, and cupcakes, and brittles, and toffees. But in actuality, I can’t even bring myself to put the book down and wash my dirty pot from last night. I promise, I’ll do it as soon as I post this. Or after I eat some pear compote I just made.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

turkey chili

onions instead of sour cream

Ever since I read “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” I’ve been rather preoccupied with eliminating high-fructose corn syrup from my diet, and trying to get my hands on grass fed meat and true free range chicken. Yes, I’ll eat whatever meat is being sold in Whole Foods from time to time, but when I can, I will try to get the stuff from small family farms, and by small, I mean small.

welcome, fall!

In general though, we’ve been trying to decrease the red meat consumption – for health reasons more than anything. And as temperatures suddenly dropped last week and we all felt a fall chill, my mind turned to chili. Everyone marks fall in their own way and for me, nothing signals the change of seasons more than crisp, fall apples (preferably Cortlands) and a steaming bowl of chili. And yes, chili con carne is the traditional way to go, but I’m making a few alterations.

dried poblanos
without planning and in a hurry, canned beans will do turkey for me, turkey for you

And if anything, seeing King Corn this afternoon with KS and his younger sister made me feel a lot more vindicated for abandoning the classic oldie-but-goodie and sticking with something slightly healthier (nevermind the whole Topps debacle). For the record, the film is great and I was (for the most part) engaged and entertained. I’ve learned little new as Michael Pollan has obliged in educating me in this matter, but it did drive the point home yet again – we are what we eat and for the most part, Americans are children of the corn.

oh the goodness!

I have to confess that eating this batch of chili made me realize that I actually prefer the turkey version to its original “con carne” one. I suppose that “chili con gobble” doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as easily as “chili con carne” does, but I’ll get used to it – my palate has already.

Since we’re decreasing/limiting dairy consumption in our household, we chose to top our chili off with some chopped onions and added some hot sauce (when do we not). But I think that the most preferred way is to give your generous bowl some sour cream, sprinkle with cheddar cheese and green onions and award yourself with a heaping spoonful!

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