Winter’s Week

The whole seasonal eating thing is fairly new to me, so this week’s wintry theme had me floundering at first. Not that I don’t understand the benefits of eating seasonally – especially how local, fresh-from-the-farm food generally boasts a higher nutrient content than food that has spent time in shipment from different climes half a world away. But I live in New England and come February, it seems like a bowl of snow covered in chocolate sauce is the best we can do for “winter seasonal.”

I’ve read about people in climates like ours gardening vegetables well into the early winter, but haven’t tried that yet myself. And I’m not lucky enough to live – like some Texans I know – in a climate where new vegetable crops are ready in January:

My parents' garden in Austin... in January

In need of some inspiration and guidance, I headed to Somerville’s winter farmers market at the Armory (Saturdays 10am-2pm through March 26; on Facebook). And hoo boy, did that place deliver: tons of produce from multiple farms; fresh-baked goods from local bakeries; fresh seafood; meat from Stillman’s Farm (aka our meat CSA farm); wines and plenty of other things. I started small and brought home a handful of things:

I picked up a parsnip and watermelon turnip from Winter Moon Farm in Hadley, MA (I couldn’t find a direct link for the farm, but did find this). The arugula & greens mix, celeriac and rutabaga were from Enterprise Farm – some from their own Whately, MA fields and some from their partner Sister Moon Farm in Florida. And I got a ½ peck of apples (mixed varieties) from Apex Orchards in Shelburne, MA. (There are pictures of the farms’ market stands on flickr.)

The apples didn’t last long – my son went to town on a Mutsu/Crispin immediately after I returned home and plowed through the others over the course of a few days. But I saved one from his gaping maw and put it to use alongside the watermelon turnip, rutabaga and parsnip in one of my favorite (simple, flexible, tasty) recipes, thyme-roasted vegetables:

I mean, look at that watermelon turnip! If that doesn’t get you excited about forgoing chocolate-covered snow in favor of warm vegetables, then I don’t know what would.

I also used these winter foods to recreate recipes featured in other people’s blogs. The celeriac, potato, Muenster cheese gratin from Cold Cereal and Toast was spot on: crispy-warm cheese on top of starchy potatoes with the added interest from celeriac’s clean flavor.

The mixed greens including arugula inspired me to try the fennel, grapefruit and arugula salad from Food and Fiction (Jane Ward). She’s a good 20 leagues ahead of me in the seasonal eating arena; definitely check her blog out. I loved her idea about the life-saving salad, and even learned a few things that dispelled my initial “wha?” reaction to fennel and grapefruit being in season (winter citrus, who knew?). I made mine a little larger than she did, and was too lazy to make the dressing from scratch. But it still turned out so well that after eating it two days in a row, I was a little sad I didn’t have enough material left for a third.

So for this week’s recipe list, I’m featuring those three farmers-market-inspired dishes plus several others from my favorites list that utilize winter’s seasonal bounty:

  • Celeriac gratin, from Cold Cereal and Toast (here)
  • Fennel, arugula and grapefruit salad, from Food & Fiction (here)
  • Thyme-roasted root vegetables (recipe follows below)
  • Acorn squash, arugula and gorgonzola pizza, from Smitten Kitchen (here) – Only change I’d suggest is to put the arugula on first, then top with the squash. Otherwise, the greens fly all over the place.
  • Butternut squash and chipotle soup with brown sugar paprika croutons, from Savory Notebook (here) – This is a standard in our house; super tasty.
  • Pan-fried turnips and potatoes with chili soy sauce, from Not Eating Out In New York (here)
  • Kale, roasted vegetable and white bean soup, from Simply Recipes (here)

Thyme-roasted root vegetables (text file here)

This is based on a recipe from CSPI’s Nutrition Action Healthletter (here) for roasted butternut squash and apples. The seasonings are roughly the same, but I swapped in root vegetables in this version.

(4 servings, approx. 180 calories each)

1 parsnip, peeled
1 rutabaga, peeled
1 watermelon turnip (or other large turnip variety)
½ large red onion
1 large apple, peeled and cored
6-8 sprigs thyme, chopped finely
1 Tbs olive oil
½ tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 450F.

Chop the parsnip, rutabaga, turnip and apple into small (1-1.5 inch) pieces and combine in a mixing bowl. Dice the red onion into small pieces and add to the bowl.

Add thyme, olive oil and salt to the bowl. Mix to distribute over the vegetables.

Pour the mix into a large baking pan, forming a shallow layer.

Bake in the oven for 35 minutes.

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