There’s some relief in the end of January. It might be cold and snowy, but on days when the murk clears there are crisp, blue skies to make the chill seem less threatening. The days are creeping longer by a few moments–a welcome reminder that it won’t always be this chilly. Everyone is over their lofty resolutions, so now we can settle into 2014 with good, sturdy, satisfying foods, to nourish ourselves and each other.
Onions Don’t laugh. And don’t be tempted to think of onions only as a component in mirepoix–one of those foundational flavors that doesn’t stand on its own. Onions, though we think of them as having a sharp flavor, are actually quite high in sugar. Caramelize them low and slow for an onion soup recipe that contains little besides them, make a quick jam by cooking them with a pinch of sugar and a splash of balsamic, or pickle them to use as a tart, crunchy foil to slow cooked meats. Or on grilled cheese sandwiches.
Pea Tendrils Though typically a springtime treat, people are growing delicate little pea tendrils in hoophouses around here. When they’re big, they make a great, sweet sauté with garlic, like you’ll find at Chinese restaurants. The ones that you’ll find in January though are likely to be very small and tender, so don’t bother cooking them. Dress them simply and have a salad instead.
Sweet Dumpling Squash Very similar in appearance to delicata squash and in shape to acorn squash, sweet dumplings can be used as you would either. Starchier and not as sweet as your basic butternut, some people think they have a mild corn flavor. They’re small, so they’re a great option for halving and roasting with maple syrup, or for stuffing.
Crimini Mushrooms A few weeks ago we talked about fancy lions mane mushrooms, but sometimes simple flavors and old favorites are even more versatile in the kitchen. Crimini mushrooms (sometimes called baby bellas) are the same mushroom as portobellos, just harvested smaller. White button mushrooms are actually also the same variety (Agaricus bisporus, for those of you who were asking), and they’re the most juvenile of the bunch. Criminis are harvested in between the white button stage and the portobello stage, and in my opinion they’re the best of the three. They’re small enough that they’re not as watery as the big guys, but big enough that they have a pronounced flavor and a toasty color. These are what you want to use in quiche, in soup, and in a simple sauté.
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