Saturday, December 12, 2009

Winter Wonders

A few weeks ago, Willi Galloway of DigginFood posted a picture of a beautiful head of red kale covered in frost. Then last week, temperatures dipped well below freezing in our good ol' rainy city and I woke up to find my kale in a similar state.
I have two raised beds still going strong right now in my winter garden. All my delicate varieties of lettuce are tucked into a bed covered by a cloche. When I checked on those, there was nary a frosty leaf in sight. The kale and frosty collards are in the bed of hardy greens, exposed to the elements. It's been a lot colder than I predicted it would be this time of year, so we'll see how long those little plants grow.
Jake and I both agreed that my sweet little pea blossoms looked pretty sad. I planted this crop of peas during our region's "second spring" in July and have been munching on sweet sugar snap peas since September. I'm afraid to say though, that after this cold snap, they may have met their end.
When the cold weather sets in, I start cooking and thanks to all the amazing food blogs I follow, I've had plenty of inspiration. The first recipe I tried, which I highly recommend, is Butternut Squash Salad with Cider Dressing from Sprouted Kitchen. If you follow my blog, you know about my love affair with butternut squash, so I won't try and sell it again. I will say though, that this is a different take on squash. It isn't pureed or served in soup, but rather is featured as a topping on a nice winter salad. Jake and I omitted the pomegrantes to keep it local and used a kale variety from the farmers' market for the greens since kale is abundant at the market in the winter. We also toasted pumpkin seeds in the skillet and tossed them into the salad instead of the pistachios.
I used these beautiful, local cranberries that I found at the farmers' market to make Gingerbread Tart with Cranberry Curd from the blog Not Without Salt. It looks pretty intricate, but it's really just three basic steps: making the gingerbread tart crust, making the cranberry curd filling, and making meringue to put on top.

I do have a couple of notes about the experience. The cookie crust was delicious, but really hard to roll out because it was so sticky. And when she says roll it out really thin, roll it out really thin. It puffs up a bit when it bakes, so my crust was pretty thick.

Also, be careful with the meringue. It says you should watch it carefully when it's broiling and that's the truth - it turns from snow white to golden brown (almost burning) in less than a minute. A few seconds of multitasking could result in a burnt topping.

Finally, I leave you with one more winter gem. I don't have any pictures of this, but you have to trust me when I say the recipe for Vanilla Roasted Pears from Smitten Kitchen is amazingly delicious and super simple. I took this dish to a girly dinner party last night and we devoured every bit of the sweet, caramel goodness. It only cost me $4 to buy everything I needed - local, organic pears, a lemon, and a vanilla bean and I was able to prep it in under a half hour. I put it in the oven when while we were eating so the pears would be warm. I served them with a few homemade gingerbread cookies and was thinking I probably should have served it with ice cream as well. But to be honest, it really didn't need it. This simple dessert is a wonder on it's own.