Archive for December, 2009

Christmas menu for one

Salted caramelsI’m spending Christmas the way I generally prefer to: By myself. Least I sound like a latter-day Scrooge or some sad shut-in, let me state for the record that I love the winter holidays, every single one of them, that I spend most of December in the company of friends, and that I always wind up with multiple invitations to other people’s Christmas dinners.

But my own family – down to just us four siblings now – has never made a Big Family Deal out of getting together for the holidays. Since we’re scattered all over the Western US, that spares us foul-weather travel at the busiest time of year. And because I have a play in production that closes the Sunday after Christmas, my sweetheart and I decided to do our celebrating together at New Year’s, when I’ll take the train north to Seattle for a long weekend together.

So really, at the cost of protesting too much, I love having Christmas to myself. It’s a chance to wind down a bit from the madcap seasonal socializing. I can sleep in, turn on some rock-and-roll, and indulge myself in the pleasures of cooking for one, which are quite different from the pleasures of cooking for a crowd (for one thing, there’s a lot less worry about getting everything to the table at once. For another, I can dine in my jammies if I want.)

This year’s menu is still coming together in my head, but it’s bound to be full of locally sourced goodness, thanks to the new Corvallis Local Foods online market and my own freezer, which is full of good things I put up all summer and fall.

Here’s what I’m planning, although it could change on a whim.

  • Roasted duck, probably spatchcocked and roasted at high heat with a glaze of apple cider* syrup (a simple reduction of apple cider in a wide pan until it’s thick and syrupy). I’m pondering the notion of adding either ground chipotles* or smoked paprika* to the glaze for some smokey heat.
  • Roasted fingerling potatoes* (or perhaps roasted pumpkin* – or both!) and leeks*
  • Something green. Probably just a simple salad of Romaine dressed lightly with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a lot of pepper.
  • Pie. Because (a) there must be pie and (b) I have in the freezer five pounds of beautiful white lard* from ethically grown pigs, bought for the entire purpose of making the best pie crusts ever. I’m pondering a hazelnut pie, built on my canonical pecan pie recipe, since I also have a pound of lovely roasted filberts*. Maybe with the addition of chocolate and bourbon?
  • And, no doubt, I’ll sustain myself through the day  on more than a few of the buttery-sweet-and-salty sea-salt caramels I made this week for gift-giving.  Because what’s Christmas without a sugar buzz?

* Local ingredients (which, among other things, means I don’t have to throw out my filberts for fear of  salmonella, yay!)

And then on Saturday I’ll render off all that good duck fat for future cooking use** and use the leftover duck and the last of the chanterelles* to make a decidedly nonvegetarian version of my friend Whit’s amazingly good wild mushroom pie, with some chopped dried apples* and pears* in addition to the cranberries and sour cherries*.  That hearty, savory main-dish pie has become my post-Christmas staple, and it’ll feed me for a week. (If you’re meat-averse or feeding those who are tomorrow, consider the original version of this recipe. It’s a terrific vegetarian main course – even vegan if you use an oil-based crust.)

** New readers of this blog may be blinking at all this talk of animal fat. Isn’t that supposed to be bad for us? But I’m anything but a fat-o-phobe, and my primary motivation for eating close to the ground is neither health nor politics – it’s because I find locally grown, seasonal foods taste a whole lot better than most of what I can buy in the supermarket. And, as it turns out, the whole animal-fat-is-evil message is yet another of those overblown nutrition myths.  As in all things, moderation is a grand idea, but a slice of pie on a heavenly lard-based crust isn’t going to send you to the emergency room.

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December 24, 2009 at 11:41 am Leave a comment

Winter food: Local resources

Word comes through Rebecca Landis, coordinator of the farmers’ markets in Albany and Corvallis, of a nifty new food resource that ought to do a lot toward getting us through the dark, wet months when the outdoor markets don’t operate.

It’s Corvallis Local Foods, an on-line ordering service for produce, meat and locally made packaged foods based on (and hosted by) the Local Food Marketplace, a Eugene group set up to help farmers sell directly to consumers in a sort of virtual farmers’ market.

The way it works is simple: Sign up, browse what’s available in a given week, place your order online before Wednesday morning – and pick up your food on Thursday. The Corvallis pickup location, at Brooklane Orchards, happens to be a short drive from my workplace, so you can bet I’ll be taking advantage of the opportunity next week (I just missed this week’s ordering deadline, but I am all over it tomorrow…)

A bunch of local farms are selling their goods through the new site, most of them folks who work the Corvallis Saturday market in the summer and the Winter market (which just isn’t conveniently timed for me) in the winter.

Among them are Fraga Farm, with their wonderful certified goat cheese, my old friends Matt Borg and Cyndee Ross of Mat-Cyn Farms, whose many varieties of garlic and dried beans are among my kitchen staples, and growers offering everything from bison to honey to wild mushrooms.

The product list from their first week in operation  is drool-worthy:  Five varieties of apples, seven varieties of potato and eleven of squash; shallots and onions,  broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, fresh herbs and dried peppers, an amazing array of meat (beef, bison, chicken, heritage pork products), eggs, honey, walnuts and hazelnuts, cider, prepared mustard…) Makes me hungry just thinking about it.

Kudos to Eugene food activists food activists  Doug Frazier, Mazzi Ernandes, and Amy McCann, who came up with the idea, ground-tested it in Lane County and are now offering other communities a chance to set up their own online marketplaces.

December 9, 2009 at 4:10 pm 2 comments


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