The first day of spring is March 20, and honestly, that doesn’t seem so far off anymore. Somehow, we’re surviving this winter season, just like the ones before. One way people survive the colder temperatures and snow days is by immersing themselves in cooking and baking. During “the season,” no one has time to cook meals or bake treats just for the heck of it, but with the short days and long nights, along with the clawing hunger for winter comfort foods, we’re devoting more time to the art of home cooking.
It’s obvious in one of the Facebook groups I belong to, Cooking on the Vineyard (bit.ly/CookingOnTheVineyard), where Islanders share their recipes and photos of dinner, and ask culinary questions on a daily basis. One of my favorite shops for inspiration is LeRoux at Home in Vineyard Haven. Recently, I had a chance to tour the shop with manager Therese Giegler, as we discussed what people are cooking this season; below are my top five finds.
Fire cider: This is the first thing I grab once the weather gets chilly, because it’s a natural way to stay healthy and keep your immune system at its finest. Granted, it’s also the best medicine if you do get sick, because it’s packed with turmeric, garlic, fresh hot peppers, honey, and apple cider vinegar — the magical recipe to cure all ailments.
Stoneware tagines: North African cuisine is cooked in gorgeous earthenware pots; they’ve been on my list for way too long. Their conical shape always intrigues me as I walk by. It’s a good piece to consider if you’re looking to cook low and slow, as the tagine makes for a uniquely moist, hot cooking environment — perfect for stews. As the food cooks, steam rises into the top of the cone, condenses since it has no way out, and then trickles down back into the dish. You can cook rices, grains, beans, and roasts in it as well, so it’s not a single-use pot.
Teakettles and tea: How some people survive winter without drinking tea is
beyond my comprehension, so here I am pushing tea and teakettles like the old lady I feel like at times. Gorgeous Le Creuset stovetop teakettles are just what you need on those cold Martha’s Vineyard mornings, along with a lovely tea blend. As you peruse the tea selection, you’ll notice how far tea has come: such a simple staple, yet now the blends are more medicinal and curative, more than just a simple midday pick-me-up.
Fermentation crocks: Fermentation has gone from being a trend to becoming a way of life; it’s great to find these crocks locally. Whether you’re making sauerkraut or kimchi, these crocks are the way to go. I’ve been dreaming of fermenting a blend of apples and radishes for a take on a slaw, and I think I’ll be taking the plunge soon.
Wok cookery: This winter during one of my trips to Miami, I met Eleanor Hoh (eleanorhoh.com), a wok culinary instructor. We talked and talked about wok cookery, a type of cooking I have yet to master, or even explore. But at LeRoux you can kick off your exploration of this technique with their variety of woks. You’ll want to have a gas stove for wok cooking, since they need to get very hot to be effective in this rapid-fire cooking technique.
There you have it, folks — three techniques (fermentation, wok cookery, and North African cuisine) to tackle and master before the busy season begins, and two must-have items in your home to survive the last stretch of winter.
LeRoux hosts free cooking demonstrations throughout the season, so make sure to call and find out about upcoming classes: 508-693-0030.