Thursday, January 26, 2012

Winter Snapshots

I've long been awaiting the snow.  It finally made its appearance, blanketing the ground and coating tree limbs.  Yager's relentless barking at the back door prompted a snowy walk with my camera in tow.  Sure, I had other plans.  They were of the tediously awful variety; vacuuming, tossing in loads of laundry, putting away dishes drying on the counter formed into a mountain sized peak.  But strapping on my boots proved much more therapeutic.  I needed to be in the thick of winter.  Yes, the wind was whistling and I could barely feel my fingers on the camera, but listening to the snow squeaking beneath my feet felt pretty great.  There's nothing like a good chill to the core to make you feel alive.  Winter is such a hauntingly beautiful time of year.  It's cold; it's quiet, and serene.  The vacuum, the laundry, and dishes would still be there tomorrow.  The sun may not.  We chose the sun and the cold, immersing ourselves in crisp white images at every turn.

"I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape-the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter.  Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show."-Andrew Wyeth

In case you missed it, here's a look back at some previous photos from this year.
Fall Snapshots
Summer Snapshots

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Satsuma Spinach Salad with Roasted Beets

Being petite and easy to peel, I'm likely to grab a clementine far more often than an orange.  They're so darn cute.  I can certainly work my way through those wooden crates in lightening speed.  Clementines signal the arrival of citrus season; bright displays of vibrant oranges and tangerines make me long for sunny Floridian skies.  As a kid, I spent many winter weekends at my aunt's house in Pinellas.  There are a few things I remember vividly about this house.  I remember football-sized pinecones collecting in the yard, and picking ripe oranges out back in the morning sun.  We ate them on the patio sitting in lawn chairs.  I sat with my feet up because the third thing I remember about this house was the chameleons.  Those little lizards running beneath the table fascinated me.  I kept my feet up just to be sure they couldn't quite get to me.  I admired them up high; watching their skin change from brown to green, green to brown.

Donny's childhood trip to Florida also involved chameleons.  However, he got much closer to the action.  His story has more bravado and flare.  In fact, he decided to bring the chameleon action with him, successfully transporting one home on a flight to Boston.  That wouldn't fly today.  Pun intended.  The audacity of that boy, I'll tell ya.  That poor lizard accompanied him in his sweat suit for a good thousand miles, probably turning black with fear.  Once home, he managed to keep him alive for a few months on a substantial diet of flies and lettuce, telltale signs of a future caring husband.  Then there was an unfortunate run in with his cat Cuddles, a misleading name.  There was no cuddling involved.  We'll let the story end here.   

But let's get back to the citrus, shall we?  Biting into a clementine is like biting into sunshine; my thought process being that if I bite into enough of these, the cold winter chill will give way to warmer spring weather.  Citrus is a bit of a tease like that, or a bit of hope, depending on your perspective.  So when I walked into these satsumas the other day, I was instantly drawn to them.  They resemble my darling clementine and still had their leaves attached.       

A citrus salad was in order, composed of spinach, roasted beets, thinly sliced red onions, deeply toasted walnuts and goat cheese.  If you like beets, this salad should be right up your alley.  It does take a little planning ahead as the beets take quite some time to roast.  I happened upon red and golden varieties and roasted them off one morning.  When lunch rolled around, all that was left was some chopping and assembling.  No satsumas?  No problem.  You could certainly substitute clementine or orange segments.  This salad is a looker.  Such a flirt.  I warned you about the citrus tease.  The vinaigrette is bright, zesty, and clean tasting.  If winter has you feeling cold and heavy, this salad should lighten up your load and lift your spirit.  Bite into some sunshine.

~Satsuma Spinach Salad with Roasted Beets Recipe~

2 medium beets, roasted and sliced into wedges*
8 cups loosely packed baby spinach leaves
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 satsumas or clementines, peeled into segments
1/3 cup toasted walnuts, chopped**
1-2 oz. crumbled goat cheese

*Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Remove stems and leaves if attached (save for juicing, if you juice) and scrub beets.  Place beets in a foil packet with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.  Roast in oven until cooked through, approximately 40-60 minutes.  You want them to be fork tender.  Remove from the oven and let cool.  Once they are cool enough to handle, peel and slice into 1/4 inch slices.  From there, you can cut into wedges.

**To toast walnuts, place in a dry cast iron or frying pan over medium heat.  Watch carefully and stir frequently until they start to brown.  Your nose will tell you when they're done.  It should take about 5 minutes.

Assemble the salad by layering spinach, red onion, beet slices, and satsumas.  Crumble with goat cheese and top with toasted walnuts.  Prepare vinaigrette and dress salad before serving.  Serves 4.

~Citrus Vinaigrette Recipe~

zest and juice of 1 orange
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives (optional)
pinch of sea salt

Whisk ingredients together and drizzle over salad.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Green Envy Juice

How are those resolutions going?  Although I haven't made one myself, I thought I'd provide a little inspiration for those of you resolving to adopt healthier habits.  Drinking my green envy juice is one habit that has become part of my morning routine, but this wasn't always the case.  When I first began juicing, I played it safe with fruity combinations.  It took me time to delve into vegetable juices.  Green vegetables were the last stop on the juice train.  My first attempts tasted a lot like salad, which in my opinion, should always be eaten with a fork and drizzled with a nice vinaigrette.  I've since remedied that situation by introducing lemon, ginger, and apple into the mix.  The result?  A zesty, clean, vibrant juice, which just so happens to be green.

I'm now at a place where I happily drink my greens most mornings because I realize the importance of keeping my body in balance.  Green juices like this one are super alkalizing and cleansing.  An instant dose of vitamins and minerals first thing in the morning is great for your digestive system, and ginger works wonders for circulation.  It's a perfect way to use up what's in your fridge as well.  I always save broccoli stalks, celery leaves, and use up any odds and ends that are limp or overly ripe.  If you're not into the green thing just yet, revisit my carrot apple ginger juice until you're ready to take the plunge.  Why not guzzle down some veggies as you steer towards greener pastures?  You have my support.

~Green Envy Juice Recipe~ 

6 lacinato kale leaves
1 cucumber, peeled if not organic
1 celery stalk
1 broccoli stalk
1 small green apple
1" ginger root
1 lemon, peeled

Adjust juicer to appropriate settings before adding ingredients to juicer.  Stir and pour into a glass.  Serves 1.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Kohlrabi Slaw

Slaws don't have to be made with shredded cabbage.  And in my book, they don't have to include mayonnaise.  I've expanded my definition of slaw to include a host of interesting vegetables.  If I can shred it and dress it, it's slaw.  Many vegetables can benefit from this shredding and dressing idea; fennel, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and beets.  Slaw isn't limited to summer picnics and barbecues.  I think the best slaw is made from a short list of seasonal ingredients, especially in winter.  Here I chose kohlrabi, the light green vegetable pictured below.  The name stems from the German word for cabbage, kohl.  It's delicious raw.  If you've ever had jicama, you'd be in the right ballpark as far as flavor comparisons go.  It's similar to cabbage or a broccoli stem, but sweeter; though not nearly as sweet as an apple.  The outer layer gets peeled away revealing a mild pale green, almost ivory flesh.  There's something very clean and appealing about kohlrabi.  

I let my senses guide me on a trip through the winter market as I picked up a few other additions that would play nicely off the kohlrabi.  This included my favorite carrots, an enormous orange and stumpy yellow guy, and the most lovely baby radishes.  Have you ever seen something more delicate looking?  I ran my knife over a few handfuls and created whisper thin slices to add texture, color, and crunch.  After all, we eat first with our eyes.  I tried out a few dressings before finally deciding on a Dijon vinaigrette.  Be sure to use good quality white wine vinegar.  I'm glad I was fussy about this process because the dressing worked out to be just tangy enough with a touch of lemony sweetness.  Some snipped chives add a mild onion flavor.  You can also make this slaw ahead of time.  In fact, it allows the flavors to really come together if made the day before serving.

I believe I'm onto something here and I hope you'll think so too.  It's crunchy, light, and refreshing.  I'm actually eating my third bowl as I write this post.  The first I had standing over the stove while cooking a black bean burger, and the second alongside it.  The more I eat it, the more I find myself falling for it.  I think this vibrant slaw would be a welcome addition to any winter spread.  I hope you'll seek out kohlrabi and expand your slaw definition to include this recipe.  Leave the mayo behind and let the lusting begin.

~Kohlrabi Slaw Recipe~

1/2 medium kohlrabi julienned (4 cups loosely packed)
1 cup tightly packed grated carrots
8 baby radishes, sliced paper thin
chives for garnishing

1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp honey
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 pinches of sea salt
a grind of fresh black pepper
1 tbsp fresh snipped chives

Use a vegetable peeler or knife to remove the outer layer of the kohlrabi.  Using a mandolin or knife, carefully slice the kohlrabi into thin sheet slices.  Julienne each slice into matchsticks.  In a large bowl, add kohlrabi, grated carrots, and baby radishes and give a quick toss with your hands.  Make the dressing in a small bowl by whisking together Dijon, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, and honey.  Stream in olive oil and whisk until combined.  Season with sea salt, black pepper and fresh snipped chives.  Pour over slaw and give it a good tossing.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Serves 4-6. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Orange Rosemary Cauliflower

For me, there's something about cauliflower that echoes winter.  Maybe it's the pure white raw color.  Maybe it's the clean crisp stalks.  Or maybe it's the idea of snow-covered treetops.  Whatever the reason, I think about cauliflower when it snows.  But I haven't been thinking about cauliflower. And I haven't seen any snow.  Last year Boston got hammered with eighty-one inches of snow, just shy of seven feet.  So far this season, we've had one measly inch.  It's bizarre really.  Winter, where are you?  I miss the anticipation that ensues on the brink of a predicted nor'easter; the empty milk and bread aisles, the communal commotion, snow blowers and shovels sold out for miles.  I miss seeing waist deep newscasters reporting with yardsticks and kids sledding in the center of town.  I miss tough city guys guarding their shoveled parking spots, marked with orange cones and lawn furniture.  Mostly, I miss the snowy treetops.  

It wasn't until I stumbled across a recipe in The Splendid Table's How to Eat Weekends that jolted thoughts of the forgotten cauliflower.  Tara Austen Weaver had a series of giveaways during the holidays, and I just so happened to be the lucky winner of this cookbook, which arrived right before Christmas.  You can read her lovely description of How to Eat Weekends on her blog Tea and Cookies, a long time favorite of mine.  I've bookmarked quite a few recipes that immediately stood out, including Golden Pie of Winter Vegetables in Cinnamon Pastry.  It's a beautifully photographed and fun read, laced with quotes, trivia, and humor.  I'm excited to add it to my growing collection and certain it will serve as continued inspiration.  A big thank you Tara.

The Splendid Table's cauliflower recipe involves a puree with rosemary and orange zest, an interesting new stand in for mashed potatoes.   I haven't tried this pureed version just yet, but did opt to roast my cauliflower with orange and rosemary.  I hope you'll forgive me for all this roasting business.  It's an irresistible method for preparing most any vegetable, especially the winter varieties.  I also appreciate the extra warmth emanating from the oven in the cold months.  Besides, pulling brown and tender cauliflower florets from the oven is fairly rewarding.  The flavor is unique; just a hint of woodsy citrus in the background.  A fresh splash of orange juice finishes it off at the end. I'm going to continue eating my cauliflower and longing for snowy treetops.  But you know what they careful what you wish for.

~Orange Rosemary Cauliflower~
Inspired by The Splendid Table's How to Eat Weekends, Kasper and Swift

1 head cauliflower, cut into segments
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1 tsp orange zest, finely grated
1 tbsp melted butter
sprinkle of sea salt
1 tsp freshly squeezed orange juice

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a small bowl, combine olive oil, rosemary, and orange zest.  Place cauliflower on a baking sheet and pour the mixture down over top.  Use your hands to combine and coat the cauliflower.  Once well incorporated, add the melted butter, tossing and coating again.  Sprinkle with sea salt.  Roast for 30-35 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender and browned.  Toss occasionally around 10 minute marks or so.  Remove from the oven and add fresh squeezed orange juice over the cauliflower, turning with a spatula and scraping up any brown bits at the bottom of the pan.  Serves 2-4 as a side.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Raw Kale Salad with Miso Curry Dressing

I'm home from a quiet weekend spent in Ossipee, New Hampshire.  A girl could get used to waking up to a lake view each morning, even in the dead of winter, and even if it happens to be frozen.  We had no real agenda, a rarity for me.  I reveled in a few lazy mornings making breakfast while peering through a kitchen window that boasted mountain views in the distance.  I walked our dog along the icy beach, and took the back roads into North Conway on Sunday afternoon for a lazy drive.  We walked the quaint side streets, passing the railroad station and a little white church.  There's a general store downtown called Zeb's that I can only describe as reminiscent of walking onto the scene of an old black and white movie.  It's a place with old-fashioned cream soda in glass bottles and a candy counter the length of a football field.  Shelves are stocked with maple syrup, honey, jams, jellies, and hot sauce.  Local soaps, beauty products, and candles can be found in the back room and pots and pans upstairs.

After careful consideration, I decided on some Lake Champlain chocolates and a giant homemade peanut butter cup for a friend, which has taken a serious dose of restraint on my part to keep my hands off of.  We strolled along the streets in the midst of some unseasonably warm weather, which was unfortunate for the ski resorts, but fortunate for us.  We left our coats in the car and soaked up some sun along the way.  The typical snow capped mountains were covered in slush.  Even the local skating rink was melted.  We passed the Eastern Slope Inn, a place my brother and I stayed in as kids, which is now home to Flatbread.  I've been to quite a few of their locations both back home and in Vermont, and it never disappoints.  I couldn't leave North Conway without having this pizza.  The concept here is simple and commendable.  They pride themselves on creating partnerships with the local community in each of their locations.  Cheese and organic produce are from local farms and beers on tap are from local breweries.  Pizzas are made in a wood fired clay oven and sauce in a giant black cauldron, much like I would imagine how a witch crafts her potion.  I love a place that let's it all hang out, the whole process on display.  I happily polished off a pesto pizza with sliced tomatoes and local goat cheese.  I rode home to Massachusetts with a tuckered out dog on my lap and a full belly.  I hope to make my way back there soon.

When I got home that night, I sat with a cup of tea and a few new cookbooks that have been demanding my attention since opening them on Christmas.  There's nothing I love more than a new cookbook.  I devour them much like I do a good novel, in linear fashion from start to finish.  Many take up space in the wooden bookcase in our office, but the ones that really win me over reside in my kitchen.  They are the well-worn standbys, covered in stains and splotches, and tagged with neon sticky tabs.  Perhaps there is no better compliment for a cookbook author.  Since the year has come to a close, I have to say, there is no other book that has captivated me quite as much as Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day this year.  I'm sure you own it, drool over the photos, and have worn it down just as much.  Each time I open it, I notice a new detail and feel inspired to cook something beautiful or perhaps pick up my camera and start exploring.  One of my favorite recipes from this collection is her Miso Curry Delicata Squash.  If you have not tried this, it's a must.  It involves a miso and red thai curry dressing that single handedly converted me to eating raw kale.  Well, it wilts every so slightly after the warm squash combination hits it, but it got me turned onto the idea of raw kale.  And I should let you in on a little secret; it took me months to eat kale cooked, let alone raw.  I have a big crush on this dressing.   

So after a few attempts; three to be exact, I created a similar dressing for my kale salad the following day.  The dressing is a gorgeous vibrant orange.  It's a curious sort; sweet, zesty, and has a bit of kick.  Thick and bold, it's downright delicious.  If you have reservations about eating kale raw, fearing its bitter taste, fear not people.  This dressing will change your mind about all that.  I use this white miso for it's sweet mild flavor and smooth texture.  It works perfectly and stands up well against the hearty kale.  Best of all, this winter salad won't wilt on you.  I've topped it simply with avocado and sesame seeds.  This is the only way I will eat raw kale...for now.  In fact, I find myself craving this salad on many occasions.  Try it for yourself and maybe you'll start craving raw kale too.  It felt great to gorge on some greens after a weekend of indulging.  However, my indulging has not lead to any resolutions this year.  I hope I haven't given you the wrong impression.  I never make any.  They sound so permanent and matter of fact, with no room for budging.  They're not for me.  I need wiggle room.  I am however, always hopeful.  I'd like to replace resolutions with hope.  I certainly have hopes for 2012 and I'd like to share a few, including my hope to continue walking in places like this; places that are quiet and calming, entrenching myself in nature, getting lost in its sounds and surroundings.

I hope to make my way back to this space to devour fiction, getting lost in the twisting turning plots, laughing out loud, and having a good cry.  A good book will do that.  I really enjoyed these, this, and this this past year.  This is on deck.  I've missed this space.  It's so peaceful looking beneath the clothes that are usually strewn upon it.  Most days it resembles a bulky monster, draped in mismatched sweatshirts and pants, straight from the depths of a horror movie.  It tries to intimidate me, mocking my quest for organization and tidiness.  I try to push him back into the closet, pleading with him, but he laughs and relentlessly comes back the following day.  Certainly, this space has room for improvement.  I'll work on it.

I hope to continue writing here in this space I've created, sitting at my desk and watching my words spin into stories.  I hope to become a better writer.  I will keep at it, here with all of you; you who are kind enough to follow along, read my weekly thoughts, try a recipe, and send kind words my way.  I'm grateful for that.  Here's to a quiet weekend getaway, an old time country store, memorable pizza, new cookbooks, old favorites, kale salad, and a touch of hope.  Welcome, 2012.  I'm ready for you.

~Raw Kale Salad Recipe~

1 bunch lacinato kale, stems removed, chopped or shredded (approximately 8 cups)
1/2 avocado, chopped
1 tbsp sesame seeds

~Miso Curry Dressing Recipe~
Inspired by Super Natural Everyday, Heidi Swanson

2 tbsp sweet white miso
1/2 tsp red thai curry paste
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Add chopped kale to a large bowl.  In a small bowl, mix together miso, red thai curry paste, and lemon juice.  Use the back of a fork to spread and combine the mixture together.  Slowly stream in extra virgin olive oil and combine.  Add dressing to large bowl with kale.  Use your hands to massage and incorporate the dressing into the kale.  Transfer the kale to a serving plate.  Top with chopped avocado and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Serves 4.