‘Tis the season to stretch your creativity in the kitchen. Where some see it as the months where potatoes and squash are the only vegetables on the menu, you can now see it as a challenge for trying new things and in new ways to push yourself creatively in the kitchen.
Sure, it’s a daunting task to make root vegetables exciting 3-4 months straight, but I think we can do it. And really, what choice do we have? Whether we like it or not, strawberries and tomatoes just don’t like the cold (no matter how many mittens and scarves we urge them to wear).
Let’s look to winter to shake us out of the mundane and see it as the season to stretch ourselves; to give parsnips a go and seek out a few things we may never have tried otherwise.
Read on to discover the best produce for winter months
Roots + other veggies
They are hearty, get cozy in the dirt and love to sweeten up in a hot oven. Sure there’s carrots and potatoes but have you had parsnips or celeriac?
They look like a frightened carrot — white as a ghost. They have a sweet nuttiness to them, particularly the long, slender ones.
That’s all fine and good, but what does one do with them? Well, one of my favorite quick winter dishes is this Winter Herb Pasta with Roasted Vegetables. Parsnips love to be roasted. In fact, they can even turn into fries or mashed on their own or with some potatoes to add a bit of interest. After a roast, they can puree into a velvety soup.
This is one of my favorites in the winter. It’s the root of the celery and as such it tastes sort of like celery but in a subtle, more sweet and complex way. Like the parsnip it’s great roasted, mashed and pureed but my personal favorite it to thinly slice or julienned it once its knobby, sometimes hair and dirt laden exterior has been removed and add it to a salad. Salads can be scarce in the winter but actually there are many root vegetables that are perfectly lovely eaten raw and add an interesting flavor and texture.
My favorite salad is made of leeks, apple, fennel and celeriac tossed with no more than a bit of olive oil, lemon and fresh parsley leaves. If I’m feeling festive I’ll throw on some pomegranate arils. More on those soon.
Another raw winner — beets! Sliced very thinly (a mandoline is the best tool for this job) raw beets are sweet, tender and stunningly beautiful, especially the candy stripe or Chioggia variety.
One of my missions in life is to remove the horrific reputation that the poor unloved Brussels sprout carries with it. It has unfortunately become one of those targets of childhood that we all recall being forced to consume. We carry that bitterness with us into adulthood without giving this humble vegetable a fighting chance.
Well, guess what? Bathed in cream Brussels sprouts sing a new tune. Is that cheating? Okay, okay. Then try them raw. Again with the raw!
This is the beauty pageant winner of the winter season, if such thing existed. A hard, rough looking exterior opens up to hundreds of geometrically shaped ruby gems. They are tart, sweet and as my 4 year old says, “So juicy!”
Most often their novelty and flavor is enough to warrant them being enjoyed on their own. It’s actually a tradition in our family to start Thanksgiving with a pomegranate. But I also like them tossed in salads to add a bit of color, sweetness and crunch. They also make a lovely garnish to a glass of champagne, of which there should be many to ease us through these months.
This category just might be my favorite. Citrus is the sunshine of winter. We often make ourselves ill eating as many satsumas and clementines as we do but there are a few other varieties that I want to point out.
I adore kumquats. They may be hard to source but if you can find them, get them. They are completely edible – peel and all! They are delicious sliced in salads and absolutely amazing when candied. They make a great fragrant cocktail garnish or a nice addition to a holiday cheese platter.
More floral than regular oranges and the most stunning color you’ve seen. I love them juiced or eaten plain. They are an exciting alternative to regular oranges.
Grapefruit isn’t anything new but I’m urging you to try the segments in salads especially if said salad has avocado in it. Last year I discovered by happy accident that those two were made for each other. I even made a simple guacamole-type thing when I combined avocado, grapefruit, red onion and lemon juice.
Grapefruit is also a thing of beauty when broiled.
I really could go on and on about what is available in the winter! Keep exploring with these and other seasonal winter produce to keep your meals fresh, nourishing and exciting throughout even the coldest months of the year.
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