Seasonal Design with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook
Winter has a lot going for it, but fresh produce is usually not one of the benefits. Eating locally through the winter can be downright challenging in cold regions. There is some good news: Every meal doesn’t have to revolve around potatoes and onions until April. With a bit of inspiration, advanced planning and creativity, it’s possible to eat fresh fruits and vegetables with plenty of nutrients and flavor all winter long. Sautéed, roasted, braised or in salads, robust winter vegetables are the perfect way to round out an entree or make a meal on their own. Colorful foods, as in “Eat the Rainbow”, can be concocted in many winter dishes if you spend a bit of time planning some vibrant color along with richness in nutrients.
Italian Soup with Escarole and Chicken Sausage
Escarole may not be a familiar green to you but give it a try. It’s a leafy green vegetable, member of the chicory family and very popular in Italian cooking where it lends a gentle earthiness without being overly bitter.
There has been an ongoing debate whether the rind of Parmesan adds any character to a soup or was it simply a trend? You’ll find proof in this soup recipe: Rind of grating cheese makes for divine soup…It does absolutely add another degree to the flavor!
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
- 1 head escarole, roughly sliced (about 1 quart)
- 1 large red onion, diced
- 2 medium stalks celery, finely chopped
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon toasted fennel seeds, crushed
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 quart homemade or store-bought low sodium chicken stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 (3- to 4-inch) chunk Parmesan rind
- 1 pound chicken sausage links (I used spicy Italian)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Garnish: olive oil, shavings of Parmesan cheese
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add escarole, onion, celery, carrot, fennel seed, garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened but not browned-about 15 minutes. Add chicken stock, bay leaf, and Parmesan rind. Bring to a boil, reduce to a bare simmer, and cook until vegetables are fully softened and flavors are developed, about 45 minutes.
Brown the sausage in a medium saucepan with additional olive oil. Let cool and slice into rounds.
When soup is cooked, add the sausage slices, bring soup backto a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Discard bay leaf and Parmesan rind, season to taste with salt and pepper, drizzle with more extra-virgin olive oil and shave the cheese over each serving.
Tom Kha Gai: Thai Butternut Squash Coconut Soup
When I made a soup similar to this with roasted heirloom pumpkin, everyone begged for the recipe. Here you go. If you use vegetable broth and omit the chicken, you have a vegan dish. I would recommend adding additional fresh grated ginger at the end.
- 1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 1/2 cups coconut milk
- 1/4 teaspoon dried chile flakes
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
- 3 cups cooked (very soft) butternut squash
- juice of 1 lemon
- sea salt to taste
- 1-2 cups pulled or cubed cooked chicken (optional)
- chopped cilantro (optional)
- 1-2 green onions, thinly sliced
Bring the stock to a boil, skim any foam that rises to the top and add coconut milk, lemon juice, chile flakes, ginger, and butternut squash. Cook until squash is falling apart tender. Puree by inserting an immersion blender or in a blender. Return to pot, add chicken and simmer for about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt. Ladle into soup bowls or mugs and garnish with cilantro and green onions.
(Inspired from Sally Fallon Morell’s Nourishing Traditions)
Kale ‘Slaw (Overnight kale salad)
You can’t help but see kale stealing the limelight everywhere from baked crisp as chips, in quiche…basically anywhere a ruffly green veggie could go. The trick here to making the kale tender is to wilt it under the weight and acid of a vinaigrette. The colorful ingredients add nutrients and vibrancy.
- 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons finely minced red onion
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 bunches kale, center ribs and stems removed, leaves sliced into thin ribbons (4-6 cups)
- ⅓ cup fresh pomegranate seeds
- 1/2 cup orange or clementine sections
- ¼ cup grated Manchego or pecorino romano cheese (optional)
- 2 tablespoons toasted walnuts
Whisk together the vinegar, red onion, honey, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Toss kale in dressing to coat evenly. (The dressing will seem light, but the kale will
wilt down to half its volume overnight.)
Refrigerate covered, overnight. To serve, divide the kale among 4 plates and top with pomegranate seeds, clementine segments, grated cheese and walnuts.
Tip: Bold winter greens, like vitamin and fibre-rich kale, escarole and cabbage benefit from marinating because the salt and acid in most vinaigrettes tenderize the leaves. The trick is to use a light dressing and let it steep overnight.
photo credit 1st vegetable grouping: The Self-Sufficient Living