I think most people would agree that it’s easier to meet your vegetable intake quota in the spring and summer when sweet, crisp beans are bursting on their vines and the tomatoes aren’t mealy. But alas, winter comes and we fill up on steaks, stews, and casseroles. Before you go into meat and potato overload, and get too comfy in those oversized sweaters, get reacquainted with these winter gems.
Go to your roots
The winter greens
Just because you’re not craving a colorful salad studded with sweet corn and baby tomatoes doesn’t mean you should skip the greens altogether. Spinach, kale, collards, cabbage, mustard greens, and beet greens are hearty, some still growing locally and packed full of iron, magnesium, and calcium. They can be added to stews, baked in gratins, or simply sautéed with oil and lemon juice.
Their tough exterior can be intimidating to work with but it’s that hard shell that allows the rich flesh to survive harsh winters. And once you’ve got a technique to work with there are endless possibilities when roasting, mashing, pureeing, baking, or stir-frying your favorite winter squash. Lean on favorites like butternut, delicata, and acorn while keeping your eyes peeled for interesting varieties like blue Hokkaido blue (actually a pumpkin) and kabocha, which is ideal for soups and stews.
(From Brussels) I didn’t want to lose any readers by revealing this next vegetable’s true identity right off the bat because Brussels sprouts get a bad rap. And chances are if you’ve ever had them at their worst (boiled) you’ve sworn long ago to never eat them again. BUT there are plenty of other ways to eat these mini-cabbages and none of them include a pot of boiling water, (though steaming them isn’t the worst idea). Brussels sprouts are rich in vitamins C and K and a good source of vitamin B6, iron, potassium, and unlike most vegetables, protein! Despite their leafiness Brussels sprouts are hearty enough to be roasted and when in the company of sweet veggies like beets and squash they can take on a rich caramel-like flavor as well, especially if you add some maple syrup to the baking dish.
The following are two recipes using winter vegetables.
Adapted from one of my favorite food blogs, smittenkitchen.com.
¼ cup unsalted butter
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
6 cups day-old bread, crust removed, cubed
6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small red onion, sliced thinly lengthwise
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
4 cups peeled, seeded, and diced butternut squash
½; cup plus 1 ½; tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
Freshly ground black pepper
½ pound Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, then quartered
½ cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over moderate heat and cook until it foams. Add the garlic and thyme, and immediately add the bread cubes. Toss to coat well. Add most of the grated cheese and stir. Transfer bread to a baking sheet and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and salt and pepper and gently toss again while still warm to melt the cheese. Bake stirring once or twice, until the croutons are crisp and lightly colored on the outside but still soft within, about 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside and let cool.
Soak the sliced onion in the sherry vinegar and a pinch of salt for about 15 minutes. Set aside. Toss the squash with 1-½; tablespoons of the olive oil, sage, salt, and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until the squash is tender and lightly caramelized, about 15 to minutes. Let cool.
Coat a sauté pan with olive oil, add Brussels sprouts when the oil is hot. Sautee until lightly browned, stirring occasionally, 5-7 minutes. Set aside.
Into the reserved red onions and vinegar, whisk in remaining ½; cup olive oil, season with pepper.
In a large bowl combine the roasted squash, croutons, and Brussels sprouts. Add the vinaigrette and toss. Add the parsley leaves and toss again. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Garnish with grated Parmesan and serve immediately.
For a change from mashed potatoes try this, smashed turnips topped with crispy shallots, courtesy of my good friend and veggie-cook extraordinaire, Sarah Waldman at twobluelemons.com.
Smashed Turnips with Crispy Shallots:
1 large turnip, diced
1 tablespoon butter
salt & Pepper
For the shallots, you’ll need:
3 medium shallots, sliced thin
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
Peel the turnip with a vegetable peeler and dice it up into 1″ chunks. Put the chunks into a large saucepan filled with water. Bring the water to a boil and cook until the turnip is fork tender, about 20 minutes.
When soft, drain and return to pan. Mix in butter, milk, salt & pepper and mash it up. Mix in more/less milk to create the consistency you like. Make sure to taste and add more salt if you’d like.
Toss thinly sliced shallots in flour (the flour coating will make them extra crispy).
Heat olive oil in a sauté pan over medium / high. Shake shallots of excess flour and cook in oil until brown. When done, let drain on paper towel and sprinkle with salt. You may have to do 2 batches (don’t crowd the pan).
Warning: You’re going to want to eat all the crispy shallots right off the paper towel and you’re going to want to put these on everything you eat. They are good.
Top hot mountain of mashed turnips with crispy shallots and enjoy.
In other news:
Check out weekly cooking demos at the Tisbury Farm Market on State Road in Vineyard Haven, Saturdays at 12 noon.
Mermaid Farm and Dairy in conjunction with Slow Food MV is hosting a Kale Festival this Sunday, Dec. 4, at Mermaid Farm on Middle Road at 12 noon. Learn more about this winter green that can be grown all winter long.
The next Winter Farmers Market is Saturday, Dec. 3, at the Ag Hall in West Tisbury. As always there will be great food and live music. Go visit your local farmers and artists for dinner ideas as well as gift ideas, 10 am to 1 pm.
The Chilmark Coffee Company has launched a new website with a wealth of information about all things coffee, tea, and where you can get it. Check them out at chilmarkcoffeecompany.com.
Lastly, add an organic, home-grown accent to holiday cooking and baking projects with Vineyard Open Land Foundation (VOLF) cranberries. Carol Magee, VOLF director, who has spearheaded the organic bog project on Lambert’s Cove Road reports that, thanks to an abundant harvest this year, there are plenty of the plump red berries still available.
The homegrown cranberries can be used in a variety of recipes for sauce, relish, chutney, bread, pie, and more delicacies. Island organic cranberries also make a great gift for living local and healthy eating devotees and can be frozen for future use.
Price is $10 per pound, $5 for half-pound bags. The cranberries may be purchased at Morning Glory Farm in Edgartown and the Tisbury Farm Market, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or calling 508-693-3280.