Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Warming up the Winter

As I said recently, the winter season makes me yearn to cook soups and stews. Our New Year rang in with relatively mild weather, so I started off with a fairly mild dish. Today there is no doubt that winter is here, and the biting cold inspired me to bite back with warming spices!

And for January, I'm focused on using foods that are seasonal to my area, so I'm still working with local collards and winter squash. And to further inspire, locally based Roots Hummus has put out a recipe challenge using their extremely tasty hummus, and here's what all that inspiration produced:

Chipotle Curry
• One can (14.5 oz) of chopped tomatoes (better yet, use some you put up from your summer garden)
• 14.5 oz vegetable broth (just fill the can)
• 1 1/2 tsp curry powder
• 1 tsp salt
• 5 large Collard leaves (or 1 small bunch), torn into small pieces
• 1 small butternut squash
• olive oil
• salt
• curry powder
• 1 8 oz. container Roots Chipotle Hummus*
• Frozen corn kernels (put up from the summer market finds)
• Fresh broccoli florets
• Leftover roasted chicken, cut into small pieces

Bring the first three ingredients to a boil in a large saucepan, then reduce to a simmer.

Steam the collards above the simmering tomatoes until tender but not mushy.

Peel and cube the squash, tossing it with olive oil, salt, and curry powder. Roast on a baking sheet at 425 F. till just tender.

When squash and collards are done, set them aside.

Add the entire container of the hummus to the simmering tomatoes, then blend with an immersion blender just till hummus is incorporated (I left some tomato chunks). 

The last three ingredients are some I had on hand and decided to add - you can change this up to suit your tastes - various other quick-cooking vegetables, chick peas, etc.

Add the last three ingredients, along with the collards and squash to the pot, stir to combine and taste for seasoning. Simmer covered about 5 more minutes until broccoli is just tender and corn heated through.

I had a nice, whole wheat roll from Roots & Branches that was perfect for sopping up the extra juices. It's warming, it's spicy, and it's sooooo good on this cold, winter night!

*if you're not lucky enough to live in a region where Roots Hummus is sold, go ask your grocer to carry it! If that's not possible, pick your favorite spicy hummus to substitute.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Seasonal Recipe Fun: January

Since I'm getting a very nice day off, I get to play in the kitchen, so I decided to take my own challenge to make something with local, seasonal ingredients to heart when doing so. It's New Year's Day, and there are a lot of traditions associated with foods to eat in the New Year:

In Spain, revelers eat one grape for each stroke of the clock at midnight (and one for each month of the year), with the goal being to swallow the last grape before the last stroke of the clock.

Eating greens at the New Year is a tradition in many countries, mainly because the leaves look like folded money, so it's a symbol of hopeful prosperity in the new year.

Legumes are another symbol of money - here in the south black eyed peas are the big thing. In Italy, it's green lentils, often served with pork which has its own connections to progress, and being lucky.

curried lentil & collard soup atop mashed sweet potatoes

I've taken some of each of these traditions, in my own way. Granted, I don't have any grapes to consume during the count of midnight, but I am enjoying the fruit of the grape in a lovely bottle of Prosecco over the course of the day as a nod to that tradition (see my mimosa post from earlier today).

For the greens, I was able to find local collards, so that satisfied two cravings, both to start out the year with dedication toward more local, seasonal fare and to have collards on New Year's Day!

For the legumes, I prefer lentils over black eyed peas. I've had many a version of Hoppin' John, and they were all very tasty! I just like lentils more, and if you're going for symbolism in projecting prosperity, you can't get more coin-like than the lentil!

And with further seasonal eating in mind, I checked around to see what else was in season that would add to the New Year's Pantry, and I found some very nice sweet potatoes from the area.

Now what to cook? Well the weather today is practically balmy, but it promises to return to winter weather in the coming week, and I've really been in the mood to start working on soups and stews. So my New Year's fare is a lovely soup with collards and lentils, slightly curried in seasonings and served over a bed of mashed sweet potatoes. It suits the weather perfectly, with the warming spices but not too spicy reminding me that it is winter, but with a lightness that doesn't leave an overly stuffed feeling at the end.

While I can't predict my prosperity in the coming year for having eaten these foods, I certainly do feel a great deal of gratitude and appreciation for being here now.

The Soup:
(I didn't take notes to make this into a 'recipe', but the fun thing with soups is that once you make one or two, you get the feeling for measurements - so play around with it!)

1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
unrefined olive oil
4-6 cups broth or stock
1-1 1/2 cups green lentils
6 large collard leaves, torn into smaller pieces
1 can chopped tomatoes
optional: corn & green beans (I had some in the freezer)
seasonings (to taste, or somewhere between 1 tsp - 1 tbsp each):
curry powder
black cumin, ground
chili powder

saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil, and once softened, add the rest of the ingredients, making sure you have enough liquid to cover everything in the pot. Cover and bring to a boil, then turn heat down and simmer until lentils are tender, tasting for seasoning.

Happy New Year!

A little update to the blog look seemed appropriate, as things are definitely moving toward an emphasis on  the quality of food when made from scratch using quality ingredients, as well as the increased quality when served on handmade wares. Yes, the main blogger here has a bias, being one who loves to make both handmade wares and homemade concoctions to put on and in them.

To welcome in the new year, we're spending the day focusing on the intentions for the months ahead, and enjoying a lovely beverage throughout the day to inspire those meditations:

Cooking will follow later today, but starting with a good juice seemed like a good way to enter the year. Today we've juiced collards, as that's a new year's tradition, and finding local collards made it even better. To that we added local ginger for a bit of spice and flavor to motivate us in paying attention to the subtle flavors in life, as well as those more pronounced. Spanish clementines give sweetness and remind us that while there is an abundance of goodness all around us locally and regionally, sometimes necessity and sometimes indulgence leads us to make choices outside our region. These clementines seemed an appropriate match to the lovely Prosecco that helps us remember that one of our intentions for the year is to visit and explore the local and regional wonders of Spain. For our handmade component, a 'winter tree' cup is featured, acknowledging the winter and welcoming the slight respite from a more active hustle and bustle in warmer temps, and looking forward to a coming spring to bring new growth while our roots make deeper connections and our branches reach out even wider. And receiving a New Year's card that literally emphases "Joy" over those things that can distract us from more important priorities seemed the perfect accompaniment.

So much deep meaning and symbolism for a morning juice!  Fun with more collards and lentils later today - we wish a Happy & Healthy New Year to all, and hope it's filled with much sexy food!