Posts filed under ‘winter’

Of cabbages and …

Color SlawThanks to the recent increase in great local winter produce here, combined with my inability to resist it, I found myself staring at the vegetable bin this weekend and thinking, ” You know, I really need to eat this stuff up before I make another order – or worse, before it goes bad.”

So there I was with a big, beautiful head of purple cabbage, bunches of beets and carrots, and a half-dozen radishes left from the clutch I’d been nibbling at all week. Plus four lovely little boneless Red Wattle pork chops from Heritage Farms Northwest. And a couple of Liberty apples.

Apples, pork and cabbage are naturals together, and a rummage through my recipe collection turned up some traditional German dishes that provided the inspiration for a sweet and sour cabbage with pork that, while delicious, wasn’t terribly photogenic.

That still left me with half a cabbage, and I’ve been craving crunch, so: slaw, with beets and carrots and a fistful of parsley thrown in for vitamins. Talk about color!

My errant sense of smell (and thus taste) is mending, but slowly, so I decided to give all that crunchy color a horseradish kick. The result is absolutely delicious.

Spicy Winter Slaw with Root Vegetables


  • 1/2 large head red cabbage (or 1 small head), cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 1 medium beet, shredded
  • 6 large  radishes, shredded (that’s a lot of shredding – thank goodness for my Benriner Japanese mandoline!)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh Italian parsley, minced
  • 1/4 cup commercial cole slaw dressing (I like Marie’s)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp prepared hot horseradish (or more, or less, to taste)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


In a large, lidded bowl, combine all the vegetables and parsley. Blend remaining ingredients well, pour over vegetables and toss well (or, as I did, close the bowl and shake it for a while). Taste, correct seasoning. Cover and chill for at least a few hours to let the flavors blend. Makes 6-8 servings, depending on how hungry you are and the size of your vegetables.

Sweet-and-Sour Cabbage with Apples and Pork Chops


  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1-2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 head red cabbage, coarsely sliced
  • 2 tart apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, minced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 boneless pork chops (do not trim off fat)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 350F.

Cut bacon into 1/2 pieces; in a large skillet, fry over medium heat until most of the fat has rendered off. Drain off all but 1 Tbsp of bacon fat; return skillet to heat and add onions. Saute until onions start to go limp, then stir in the sugar, balsamic vinegar and wine. Add cabbage and apples and stir well to coat. Cover skillet and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, then add water and cook uncovered for another 10-15 minutes, until cabbage begins to soften and a good deal of the liquid has evaporated. Taste to correct the seasoning.

Transfer cabbage mixture to a 9×13 ovenproof baking dish. Add oil to the skillet and turn up the heat. Using oven tongs, hold the pork chops on edge to brown the fat, then lay them down and sear for about 2 minutes per side. Remove from heat.

Lay the pork chops on the bed of cabbage. Place pan in oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until chops reach an internal temperature of 160F (or are just barely pink in the center).  Serve immediately.

Serves four, generously (or in my case, one, four times). Goes great with mashed potatoes.

January 25, 2010 at 9:17 pm 1 comment

Local stew

There’s a big pot of lamb stew simmering away on the stove, and without any real effort at all, it turns out to be an almost entirely locally sourced meal. Ingredients include:

  • Lamb from the freezer , part of last season’s farm share from Wood Family Farm in Turner.
  • Potatoes, carrots, leeks and shallots purchased through the Corvallis Local Foods online market from Matt-Cyn Farm in Albany and Cinco Estrellas Organic Farm in Junction City.
  • Flavorings: A fistful of Italian parsley from Elemental Alchemy Farm and a couple of big, spicy/sweet, dried Bulldog/Boldog Hungarian Spice peppers from Matt-Cyn Farm, pulsed to a powder in an old coffee grinder.
  • Stock from my freezer (provenance mixed, but including lots of farmers’ market vegetable trimmings, since I always save them in freezer bags till I’m ready to make stock).
  • A hefty dose of Pinot Noir from Cubanismo Vineyards in Salem

The only ingredients that don’t come from around here: Olive oil, salt, black peppercorns.

I don’t have a recipe*, and I have no photo; brown food tends not to be very photogenic. But I’m still marveling over the fact that eating locally gets easier every year, even in what used to be thought of as the off season.

My stomach’s growling.

* I don’t use a recipe for stew, I use a method: brown the meat, sweat the onions and garlic, add vegetables, flavorings and liquid to the pot and simmer over low heat for a couple of hours until stew results. Taste, correct the seasoning, eat. It’s hard to go wrong unless you forget it’s on the stove. Which reminds me – time to go check the stew.

January 17, 2010 at 7:29 pm Leave a comment

Dinner is late tonight …

Winter Squash and Garlic Soup… but only because I decided last night to throw together a loaf of my favorite home-made bread, and it needed a couple hours resting time between shaping and baking.

Dinner itself, on the other hand, was a practically fast food, even though it was made from scratch.

Winter squash and roasted garlic were made for each other, and this easy winter soup (a simpler variation on one that was the subject of my very first post on this blog) combines the two in a bowl of delicious, creamy, savory-sweet goodness .

The original recipe calls for whole squash – butternut, acorn or even a small pie pumpkin – peeled, seeded, cut in chunks and roasted until tender and then pureed before combining with stock and roasted garlic. Which I don’t mind doing … but last summer I was smart enough to pick up a few cans of gorgeous, canned organic squash puree from Stahlbush Island Farms. I almost passed it by – after all, it was summer, and the farmers’ market was full of fresh produce; the thought of buying canned seemed almost redundant.

But I’m very glad I stopped at their booth, because the purees are terrific, besides being incredible time-savers. If they return to our market next season, I plan to stock up.

So while the bread dough rested, I put the garlic on to roast and caught up on my blog-reading. When the loaf went in the oven, I put the soup on to simmer. When the bread was done and cooling enough to handle, I threw together a simple salad of beautiful baby greens from Cinco Estrellas Farm in Junction City, topped with a bit of goat cheese from Fraga Farm in Sweet Home, two of the vendors taking part in the wonderful new Corvallis Local Foods online market that’s been supplying probably 75 percent of my food for the last few weeks.

The result: A dinner both simple and sophisticated, and utterly satisfying.

Easy Squash Soup with Roasted Garlic


  • 1 head garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups pureed winter squash (butternut, acorn, pumpkin, whatever you prefer)
  • 1-2 cups good stock (depending on how thick you like your soup). I used rich homemade stock from my Christmas duck, but chicken or vegetable stock is fine.
  • 1 tsp curry powder (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)
  • salt and pepper
  • Sour cream, creme fraiche or plain yogurt to garnish (optional)


Preheat oven to 350F. Rub the outer papery husk off the garlic without separating the cloves. Using a sharp knife, cut off just the tips of the pointy end to expose the garlic. Place in an ovenproof ramekin or very small baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until garlic is soft and caramelized. Allow to cool.

In a large saucepan, combine squash puree and stock. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the cloves into the soup. Add curry powder and/or cayenne, if you like it. Turn heat to medium low and simmer for 30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Taste; add salt and pepper if you want it. Ladle into bowls and swirl a spoonful of sour cream, creme fraiche or yogurt onto the surface (unless you prefer a vegan soup).

Makes about a quart of soup; the number of servings depends on whether you’re using it as a starter or the whole meal. Serve with crusty bread, a green salad and a nice glass of wine. Count your blessings.

January 12, 2010 at 11:04 pm 1 comment

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.

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

Winter food: Apples and sweet potatoes

Apples and baby sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes, apples, etc.

It’s turning out to be a busy January for me. Between work and play rehearsals, I have little time to cook most evenings, so I try to find time on the weekends to make two or three good-sized dishes I can reheat through the week to keep me from resorting to drive-through meals.

This weekend it’s a pair of roasted pork tenderloins and a hearty, aromatic side dish of apples and baby sweet potatoes that isn’t much different in preparation from good old apple crisp, except that it’s considerably less sweet. I use about one part sweet potatoes to three parts apple, but you can adjust the proportions to suit your own tastes.

Have you tried baby sweet potatoes? I first encountered them last winter, and was glad to see them at the supermarket again this year. Like most “baby” vegetables, they aren’t immature, they’re just a pint-sized variety of their bigger cousins. I love them; well-scrubbed, rubbed with a little oil and tossed in a hot oven, they roast up in under 30 minutes. Or try this recipe for salt-crusted baby sweet potatoes – delicious!

The bags I buy include both the sweet, creamy red varieties and their less-sweet yellow cousins (yes, these are both sweet potatoes, Ipomoea batatas, not yams. True yams are members of the Dioscorea family, and aren’t much found outside of South America). They are not, alas, local – they come from California – but the apples were!

Apple and Sweet Potato Crunch


  • 3 Granny Smith apples, or other tart variety, peeled, cored, cut in half-inch thick chunks
  • 5-6 baby sweet potatoes, or 1 (peeled) regular-sized sweet potato, cut like the apples.
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
  • 1/2 cup uncooked steel-cut oats (or regular old rolled oats, as long as they aren’t the instant kind)
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp each of cinnamon and allspice
  • a dash of cloves
  • a dash of nutmeg
  • 2 Tbsp of high-quality candied ginger (try Trader Joe’s Ginger Chips if you can find them!), chopped
  • 1/4 cup butter, cut in small pieces


Preheat oven to 350F. Place apples and sweet potatoes in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Mix remaining ingredients except for butter, and toss half of that mixture with the apple-sweet potato mixture. Place in a baking dish – shallow or deep, it’s your choice, and sprinkle the rest of the spicy oat mixture evenly over the top. Dot with butter.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the apples and potatoes are fork-tender and juice is bubbling up. Serve hot, as a side dish – or as a not-too-sweet dessert with cream or ice cream on top.

January 11, 2009 at 8:38 pm Leave a comment

From scratch: Creme fraiche

A reader looked at last night’s recipe and e-mailed me to ask:

“I see that the creme fraiche is optional, and I’ve never seen it in stores here. What purpose does it serve? Is the sauce as good without it?”

Creme fraiche is nothing more than cream that’s been inoculated with naturally occurring bacteria that thicken it to the consistency of sour cream. Besides adding a subtle nutty, tangy flavor to sauces, it has the added quality of helping sauces thicken up nice and smooth without curdling or separating the way commercial sour cream often does.

Like you, I have a hard time finding it in stores. I hear it’s a regular item at Trader Joe’s, but the nearest TJs is an hour’s drive from here. Locally, it shows  up in  the supermarket once in a while with the gourmet cheeses. But it’s really easy to make at home, and I do so when I have extra cream and buttermilk on hand – for instance, in the aftermath of a recent bout of holiday baking.

Here’s how:

Creme fraiche


  • Two cups of heavy cream (I try to avoid the ultrapasteurized kind, because it doesn’t seem to thicken as much).
  • 1/4 cup of cultured buttermilk


Have ready a clean glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Canning jars work great.

In a small saucepan, heat the cream until it’s just lukewarm – no more than 85 degrees (F). If it gets too hot, it’ll kill the friendly bacteria that do the work, so use a candy thermometer and if it overheats, let it cool to 85.

Stir in the buttermilk, and pour the mixture into the glass jar. Cover it with a piece of waxed paper held on with a rubber band. Set the jar somewhere warmish – I like to use the cupboard above my oven, which is one of those eye-height models. Leave it alone for 24-36 hours, until it’s nice and thick, like sour cream.

Remove the waxed paper, screw on the lid and refrigerate. It will thicken a bit more in the refrigerator. Use in sauces, soups, dips, or anywhere you’d use sour cream (it’s great on baked potatoes). I’m told it will keep for up to 10 days, refrigerated, but mine never lasts that long.

You can use active culture sour cream in place of the buttermilk, but in my experience, the flavor isn’t as good. My favorite cornbread recipe uses buttermilk, so I tend to have it on hand, especially during the winter.

I’ve been pondering how best to use this blog during the winter months, when local produce is scarce. I’m thinking of writing more entries like this one, talking about things we can make from scratch to stretch our cooking repertories. And perhaps some about garden planning, and interesting/unusual food crops you can grow at home to expand your range. What, after all, could be more local than your own back yard, patio or kitchen?

I’d welcome suggestions from readers (both of you!)

December 11, 2008 at 10:21 am Leave a comment

Crab season

Dungeness crab ...

Dungeness crab pasta in saffron cream sauce

The local farmers’ market may be closed till spring, but that doesn’t mean the end of locally harvested food. Here in the Willamette Valley, we’re just a hop over the Coast Range from the Pacific Ocean, where December marks the start of Dungeness crab season.

Say what you like about the scary-big Alaskan King crab, or the cute little crabs of the Atlantic coast: to my taste, nothing beats Dungeness crab for briny-sweet crab goodness.

Before the season’s over, I’ll make it to the coast to pick some up at my favorite crab stand, The Crab Pot, just south of the Yaquina Bay Bridge in Newport, where the catch is mere hours from boat to boiling pot. For now, I’m satisfied to buy them at the local supermarket, cooked and iced and ready to eat.

And inexpensive. With crab selling for under $5 a pound, little wonder that it’s something of a holiday tradition here. Lots of Oregonians feature crab cocktail as a prelude to Christmas dinner. Me, I prefer to enjoy it alone, simply prepared and lightly sauced. I’ve been known to spread newspaper on the dining table, tie a dish towel around my neck and sit down with a whole crab, some melted butter, a cut-up lemon and my indispensible crab-cracker and not get up from the table till all that’s left are the shell fragments.

But crab is also suited for more elegant fare, as long as the treatment is simple enough to let its flavor shine through. Served over pasta, for instance, with a delicate cream sauce scented with saffron, which has a real affinity for seafood. (I’ve been growing my own saffron crocuses for four years now, and each fall my neighbors can see me squatting by the front garden bed, carefully plucking the three red stigmas from each little crocus as it blooms. Like most bulbs, saffron crocuses naturalize easily, so every year my harvest grows; after drying, I wound up with roughly four tablespoons of saffron this year; at market prices, this stuff is worth more than its weight in gold.)

Dungeness crab pasta in saffron cream sauce


  • Meat from one fresh, cooked Dungeness crab, carefully picked over to remove shell fragments. (If you don’t know how to clean and pick crab, search YouTube for “crab cleaning” – you’ll find several great how-to videos).
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp chopped mild onion or shallots
  • A pinch of real saffron threads
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 Tbsp cognac (optional)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp lemon zest, minced
  • 1 Tbsp creme fraiche (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh Italian parsley, minced
  • salt, fresh-ground pepper to taste
  • Spaghetti, linguini or angel-hair pasta


In a small skillet over medium melt the butter; add garlic and onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent.

While the onion and garlic are cooking, sprinkle the saffron threads onto the wine (saffron is water-soluble, and letting it soak in liquid for a few minutes will release more of the flavor and color).

Put pasta on to boil according to package instructions. When done, drain and return to pot.

When onion and garlic are soft and fragrant, add cognac; raise heat and cook, stirring, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the saffron and wine, reduce heat back to medium and cook until reduced by half.

Stir in the cream, creme fraiche and lemon zest and simmer until the sauce is reduced enough to coat a wooden spoon (2-4 minutes). Stir in the crab to coat throughly; heat gently until warmed. Taste before adding salt – you may not need it.

Plate the pasta and cover with a generous helping of crab and sauce. Sprinkle with parsley and black pepper.

Serves two, but also makes great leftovers.

December 10, 2008 at 10:01 pm Leave a comment

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