As the January doldrums arrive, we crave hearty, warming meals. Soups, roasts and stews abound, but these heavy dishes can make us feel sluggish and want to hibernate even more.
I’m all for warming from within, but don’t forget the veggies.
Many farmers markets operate year-round, and if you don’t have one nearby, even grocery stores stock plenty of fresh produce. Wise shoppers eat seasonally; this is healthy and economical. You simply will not find a beautiful tomato or a locally grown strawberry in January at any price, so let’s embrace what may be available. Think hardy, robust, late-fall roots and cruciferous vegetables, or late-season apples and pears that farmers can store well.
These dishes bring interest and variety to the typical winter repast and, depending on your selection, can add plenty of vitamins, fiber and color to your plate.
Creamed Brussels Sprouts
A friend shared this recipe with me recently. She had been dining out while traveling and had a version of the dish at a restaurant. She tasted it and was totally overcome — “it’s like eating velvet.” She convinced the server to ask the chef to explain how she made the dish, and then my friend kindly shared the recipe with me with the caveat that you should always make more than you think you need because everyone loves this dish.
Her instructions suggest “hashing” the sprouts: cutting off the stem and then chopping the sprouts in quarters. I did that when I made the dish for a party of six. When I was hosting 16 over the holidays, the process was daunting, so I shredded the sprouts (stem and all) in my Cuisinart. It worked beautifully and, henceforth, shall be my method.
If you prefer a creamier (or less creamy) version, you can adjust the amounts of cream and broth according to personal taste.
- 2½ pounds Brussels sprouts, hashed, coarsely chopped or shredded (cook’s choice)
- 1 onion, chopped finely
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ¾ cup vegetable broth
- ¾ cup heavy cream
In a large skillet, melt the butter and oil. Add the onions and sauté until softened.
Add the Brussels sprouts, salt and pepper, and sauté until shiny and slightly softened.
Add the broth and cook, uncovered, over medium-low until the liquid is reduced and the sprouts are totally cooked through. (Add more broth if needed).
Add the cream, heat through and allow it to thicken slightly, and serve.
My daughter came home for winter break with a yen for these potatoes. She saw a photograph of them on a friend’s social media page and begged me to make them. I did some research and came up with the following preparation.
We were confused by the name — “fondant” is a French word derived from the word “to melt,” and it is a sugar coating used to decorate cakes. After we sampled the potatoes, we guessed that the name either referred to the appearance of the elegant spuds, which look a bit like miniature cakes, or to the fact that they melt in your mouth.
The preparation is slightly laborious (you may recall that I strenuously avoid peeling potatoes), but the presentation is dramatic and the results are delicious. Do these for a small- to medium-sized crowd.
- 6 russet potatoes, peeled and slicked thickly into 1-inch cylinders (with flat ends)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Plenty of freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons butter, cut in cubes
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary (or ½ teaspoon dried)
- 1 cup vegetable broth
Heat your oven to 450 degrees.
On the stovetop, heat the oil in a large, ovenproof skillet over medium/high. Place the potatoes in the oil in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, butter, garlic and rosemary. Check the potatoes frequently to make sure they don’t stick to the pan; scrape with a spatula if needed.
When the bottoms of the potatoes are beginning to crisp, flip the potatoes. When the second side is beginning to brown, pour the broth into the skillet and place it in the hot oven.
Roast the potatoes for about 25 minutes until they are brown and crispy around the edges. Remove them from the pan and serve immediately.
New Year’s Day Cabbage Salad
We were invited to a New Year’s Day open house this year. We arrived, and the hostess was buzzing around the kitchen in a bit of a frenzy. The family had gone to the Mummers Parade and returned home an hour later than she had planned, impacting her cooking schedule. I offered to help, and she handed me a bowl of chopped vegetables, along with some additional items, pointed to her spice cabinet, and asked me to make a salad. Here’s what I did:
- ½ head green cabbage, shredded or chopped
- ½ head red cabbage, shredded or chopped
- 6 carrots, shredded
- 4 handfuls fresh spinach, chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ cup good quality balsamic vinegar (aged, if possible)
- ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Mix all the vegetable ingredients in a large bowl.
Sprinkle in the salt, pepper and garlic powder; toss.
Drizzle the vinegar and oil over the mixture and toss again.
Smoky Apple Compote
This, like many other inventions, was the result of an error. I was making applesauce to accompany our Chanukah latkes and became distracted. The apples began to burn slightly, but I did not have any more in the house and guests were arriving soon. I figured I could market the burnt version as caramelized or smoky apple sauce, and I also figured that if it was totally inedible I would pitch it and serve sour cream as the sole latke topping. The results were fantastic, no one (except now the entire readership of the JE) was the wiser. We served it hot with the latkes, and the leftovers were divine with a cheese plate at a subsequent party.
- 4 apples, peeled and coarsely chopped
- Water to barely cover apples
- 1 teaspoon molasses or 2 teaspoons brown sugar
Place the apples in a saucepan with water. Heat the mixture to a boil and lower to a simmer.
Cook uncovered, allowing the liquid to evaporate. Keep an eye on the pot as the liquid reduces; let the apples burn slightly so that you just barely smell a slight burnt, caramelized aroma and remove the apples from the heat.
Add a bit more water, stir and add the molasses or brown sugar. Scrape the bottom, heat to dissolve the sweetener and serve hot or cold.
There are plenty of ways to enjoy winter vegetables that go beyond steaming or sautéing. Here are just a few:
Roast and spice them. Cut your favorite vegetable as desired, toss with oil, salt and pepper, douse it with your favorite spice, and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Try cumin, mustard seeds, red pepper flakes, dried rosemary or curry powder.
Mash them. Mashing isn’t just for potatoes anymore. Try mashed sweet potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, parsnips or carrots.
Spritz with citrus. Regardless of how you cook the vegetables, consider a sprinkle of lemon or lime zest and a squeeze of juice before serving. It adds a fresh, bright snap of flavor.
Add a sauce. This can be as simple as a sprinkle of bottled soy or hoisin sauce, ranch dressing, or balsamic glaze, or as complex as a homemade alfredo sauce or hollandaise.
No matter how you prepare them, though, it’s important to keep eating your veggies through the winter months.