Braising Weather Calls for Long-Simmered Beef and Vegetables

There's a reason the French love braised beef, simmered slowly for hours until it's just short of falling apart. Whether you call it bourguignon or daube as the French do, or pot roast or beef stew, it's a sumptuous, belly-warming meal that fills the house with its luscious aroma and can feed a crowd or keep a couple in dinners and lunches for days.

It's also adaptable to different seasonings depending on what's in your pantry or still hanging on in your winter garden. A classic Provençale beef daube calls for red wine, tomatoes and herbs, while an Italian stracotto—translated as "overcooked" for some reason—calls for…well…red wine, tomatoes and herbs. One may lean more heavily toward bay leaf and thyme while the other includes rosemary, but it's poh-tay-toh, poh-tah-toh as far as I'm concerned.

Pasture-raised, grass-fed chuck roast is packed with nutrients and flavor.

Same for a beef stew or pot roast. One may include cutting the beef into chunks and browning first in a dusting of flour mixed with salt and pepper, or throwing in potatoes for the last few minutes, but as long as the meat is simmered until it's about to slip the bonds of structural integrity, it's good to go.

Fortunately it looks like the Pacific Northwest will have at least a few more weeks of what I like to call braising weather before spring temperatures begin in earnest, so don't put away your stew pot just yet. The recipe below is for my version of bourguignon, but don't be afraid to sub in other vegetables or herbs.

Pot Roast Bourguignon

This is extremely easy to make, but you'll need to get it in the oven four hours before dinner or make it the day before. Cutting back on the time in the oven makes for a less-than-stellar experience.

4 slices bacon, cut in 1/4" strips
1 3-5 lb. chuck roast
Salt and pepper
1 large onion, chopped in 1/2" dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 ribs celery, chopped in 1/4" slices (optional)
4 carrots, sliced in 1/4" rounds
1 lb. mushrooms, halved vertically and cut into slices
1 Tbsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 Tbsp. minced fresh rosemary (from two 6-inch sprigs)
1 qt. (32 oz.) roasted tomatoes
3-4 c. red wine

Preheat oven to 375°.

Put bacon in a large braising pot that can go in the oven and fry till fat is rendered and it starts to brown. Add onions and garlic and sauté 2-3 min., then add carrots and celery and sauté 2-3 min. Add sliced mushrooms and sauté till soft. Stir in tomatoes and herbs, then add wine. Sprinkle roast generously with salt and pepper add to pot. Bring to a boil, then cover and place pot in oven, baking for 2 hours.

Remove meat from pot and cut in 1/4" slices, then return the sliced meat to the pot, covering with sauce and vegetables. Cover and bake for another 1 1/2 hrs.

Remove to a serving dish. Serve with boiled or roasted potatoes or a rich, creamy polenta.

Make the Most of Citrus Season with Citrus Marmalade

While the occurrence of scurvy, a severe deficiency of vitamin C, has been relatively rare in the U.S. population during my lifetime, that never stopped my mother from bringing it up as she poured us our glass of orange juice made from frozen concentrate every morning alongside our cold cereal—Grape Nuts or Wheaties for me, Frosted Flakes or Cap'n Crunch for my brothers.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, most of our fresh citrus comes from California these days, aside from the rare hardy Meyer lemons that some regional growers are beginning to experiment with. And what a plethora, a symphony, a cacophony of citrus it is, from oranges—not just navels but cara cara, blood oranges, valencias and more—tangerines, tangelos and mandarins to lemons, limes, grapefruit, key limes and kumquats. Then there are the more rare but becoming-more-available bumpy-skinned makrut limes, kaffir limes and finger limes (a cheffy favorite with their tiny jewel-like beads inside), plus crazy yellow-fingered buddha's hands, yuzu, limequats and giant pomelos, to name just a few.

For me, the dark days in the depths of winter are brightened by their brilliant colors and sparkling flavor. I make a point of throwing together a batch of preserved Meyer lemons that will punch up everything from roasted vegetables to stews, salads and grain dishes. The last couple of years Dave has concocted a masterful citrus marmalade, combining a couple of recipes from the New York Times along with his own brushstrokes of genius.

I think we're going to be safe from scurvy's scourge this year—Mom would be relieved.

Citrus Marmalade

2 blood oranges
1 navel orange
3 lemons
4 c. granulated sugar
1⁄4 c. fresh lemon juice

Wash the citrus well under warm running water. Using a sharp knife, slice off the top and bottom of the citrus so it sits sturdily on the cutting board. Halve the fruit top to bottom and remove any visible seeds. Lay the half on the cutting board and cut each half crosswise into 1/8-inch thick slices (white membrane and all), removing any seeds you might have missed.

Measure the volume of sliced fruit and place in a bowl. Cover with the same volume of water, keeping track of the amount of water you add. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and let this sit for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. (This will help extract the pectin slowly as well as soften the peels.)

Place a small plate in the freezer to chill. (You’ll use this later.)

Place the peels, fruit and water in a large pot. Add enough water to bring the total amount of water added to 6 cups and bring to a strong simmer over medium–high heat. Cook the citrus until the peels have begun to soften and turn translucent, and the liquid has reduced by about three-fourths, 40-50 minutes.

Add sugar and continue to cook, stirring occasionally. As the marmalade cooks and thickens, stir more frequently. Continue cookinguntil most of the liquid has evaporated, another 40-50 minutes.

As it cooks, the liquid will go from a rapid boil with smaller bubbles to a slower boil with larger bubbles. At this point it's important to stir constantly along the bottom of the pot to prevent scorching. (Be sure to watch out for splattering.)

To test the jam's thickness, take out the plate you put in the freezer and spoon some onto the chilled plate and let it sit on the counter for 1-2 minutes. Drag your finger through it—if the jam is done it will hold its shape and not be watery or runny. If not, cook a few more minutes.

Divide among jars, leaving 1/4 inch of space at the top, and seal immediately. You can preserve the jars in a water bath canner (follow directions on the canner), or allow to cool on the counter, then store in the refrigerator or freezer.

Top photo: Marmalade on Dave's homemade organic rye sourdough, a match made in heaven!

Farming in Oregon's Winter Weather Not for the Faint of Heart

Ten days locked in ice. No water due to a break in a water main, with more than 100 animals, not to mention your livelihood, depending on it to keep them alive. Which means having to carry dozens of gallons of water by hand from the creek at the bottom of the property up a steep hill to the barn.

"Think about your farmers out in these situations and know that they're going through a lot," said Michael Guebert of Terra Farma in Corbett in a report on a local news channel. "It's really, really hard work during good conditions but under conditions like this it's really stressful and really exhausting."

Michael Guebert of Terra Farma in Corbett, Oregon.

Photos of hoop houses with their plastic coverings collapsed under the weight of ice and snow, fields of frozen vegetables, posts on social media about frozen irrigation lines and burst field pipes illustrated the hazards of farming in winter and the risks that farmers take this time of year.

"I've seen a lot of reports of collapsed greenhouses and barns from the weight of ice and snow, and also damage to structures, fences, and other infrastructure from falling power poles, {power] lines, trees and limbs," said Alice Morrison of Friends of Family Farmers, a statewide organization that advocates for small family farms.

Some field crops will survive the freeze, others, not so much.

In response to the damage caused by the extreme weather, Oregon Governor Tina Kotek declared a statewide emergency on January 18th, instructing agencies to begin working with counties to assess needs, as well as identifying federal resources that are unlocked by declaring a statewide emergency.

In answer to a query sent to the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) about disaster relief from storm-caused damage, Director of Communications Andrea Cantu-Schomus responded, "ODA is not aware of a state resource for farmers who have suffered damage in the ice storms as of today. Individual commodity groups are working on relief efforts" and, without naming the groups that might help, suggested contacting them directly.

Loss of income to farmers from damage to crops, buildings and irrigation could be devastating for some, not to mention the lost income from the many farmers' markets closed because of the freezing temperatures and ice. If they were able to get out at all, many farmers were unable to deliver to retail customers and restaurants because of road closures and dangerous conditions. Others had to hold off on harvesting or reschedule pick-ups with their CSA subscribers.

In some rural areas farmers were coping with ice buildup of six inches or more.

Josh Volk of Cully Neighborhood Farm wrote on its blog that when he puts together the winter CSA schedule he always thinks, “Well, if it freezes we’ll just delay a week since harvests are typically every other week anyway. It's still a bummer, though…I have my fingers crossed that some of the remaining heads [of radicchio] made it through that cold snap."

As they did when the COVID pandemic shut down many in-person farmers' markets, some farmers pivoted to holding local pop-ups with other farmers and producers to make up for lost income. It also gave customers an opportunity to stock up on fresh meat, veggies, locally roasted coffee and baked goods. Other farmers were offering discounts on home delivery of meat, bread, fish and pantry items.

Year-round farmers' markets will be reopening this weekend and farmers are looking forward to getting back to normal. If you can, make plans to get to your neighborhood market and wish your favorite farmers well. They've been through the wringer!

Get a statewide listing of year-round markets and a sneak peek at what you'll find when you get there.

Photos: Guebert and bucket frozen in ice from KPTV report. Frozen field crops from Stoneboat Farm's Instagram feed.

Sheet Pan Supper: Gochujang Root Vegetables with Chicken Thighs


synchronicity Noun; pron: syn·​chro·​nic·​i·​ty, siŋ-krə-ˈni-sə-tē; plural: synchronicities
1: the quality or fact of being synchronous.
2: the coincidental occurrence of events.


I love it when I'm walking with a friend—in this instance with my neighbor Ann, a professor of Asian art history, a professional soprano and an expert plantswoman—and we're talking, as we often do, about a favorite recipe. In this case, it was a sheet pan supper she'd made recently and, as we rambled behind our dogs through the neighborhood, I realized I had all the main ingredients in my fridge to make it that night.

Synchronicity, indeed!

When I arrived home I looked up the recipe online and found it was by New York Times writer Yewande Komolafe, who wrote "this recipe calls for a wintry mix of squash and turnips, but equal amounts of root vegetables like carrots, potatoes and beets, or lighter vegetables like cauliflower, brussels sprouts or broccoli will work well, too."

I treasure this homemade gochujang recipe.

I had two very large garnet yams and two medium-sized rutabagas on hand, so I had roots aplenty, plus some carrots I'd just pulled from my neighbor Bill's garden earlier that day. The rutabagas still had their hefty leaves attached, so I chopped those up into bite-sized pieces, too, and threw them in with the rest of the vegetables.

Of course I had the exceptional gochujang I'd made from my friend Denise's family recipe, and I tweaked the NYT recipe by adding several cloves of garlic, a spoonful of locally made Jorinji miso and a couple of glugs of fish sauce to the sauce, plus a splash of fish sauce in the salad dressing.

The real genius of this recipe—thank you, Ms. Komolafe, I'll now be doing this with other dishes—is topping the roasted vegetables with a salad of lightly pickled radishes and scallion greens just before serving. I lucked out there, too, by pulling from my veg bin a gorgeous black radish from that selfsame CSA share.

If you have all the ingredients on hand, so much the better, but this is worth shopping for, too, and comes together in about an hour, most of which is roasting time

Gochujang Roasted Root Vegetables and Chicken Thighs

For the roasted vegetables and chicken:
3 Tbsp. gochujang*
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated (about 1 tablespoon)
1 Tbsp. white miso
4 large cloves garlic, pressed in a garlic press
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 lbs. garnet yams and rutabaga chopped into 1-inch pieces, about 5 loose cups (see above to substitute other vegetables)
10 scallions, roots trimmed, green and white/light green parts separated, sliced into 3" lengths
Kosher salt
3-4 good-sized, bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

For the salad:
1 bunch radishes, about 10 oz., or 1 med. large black radish, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1/2 tsp. fish sauce

Heat the oven to 425°.

Combine the gochujang, soy sauce, fish sauce, miso, ginger, pressed garlic and vegetable oil in a zip-lock bag. Add the yams, rutabagas and scallion whites (reserving the darker greens for the salad), and shake to coat with sauce. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Season the chicken with salt and toss to coat in whatever is left of the glaze in the bag. Arrange the chicken pieces skin-side up between the vegetables on the sheet. Roast until vegetables are tender, chicken is cooked through and the skin crispy and browned in spots, about 40 minutes.

While the chicken cooks, thinly chiffonade the scallion greens crosswise. Cut the radishes into thin rounds. If using a black radish, cut into approx. 1" sticks and slice thinly crosswise (do not peel—that black skin is very dramatic). In a small bowl, toss the sliced scallion greens and radishes with the rice vinegar, sesame oil and fish sauce. Season to taste with salt and set aside to lightly pickle, stirring occasionally to distribute dressing evenly.

When chicken and vegetables are done, remove the chicken to a plate and transfer vegetables to a platter. Quickly top vegetables with the drained quick-pickled salad, then place chicken thighs on top.

The recipe suggests serving this with steamed rice, but to me, root vegetables are generally fairly starchy, so I didn't feel it needed the rice.

* If you don't want to make your own gochujang, I've found Mother-in-Law's is a decent brand, but won't have nearly the depth of flavor you'll get from homemade.

Crustacean Celebration: Dungeness Crab Mac'n'Cheese, Anyone?

Most cookbooks are divided into categories. Some go with the "meat, vegetables, seafood" format where recipes are slotted by main ingredient. Others divvy them up by course: appetizers, entrées, desserts, etc. I even have one that has separated the recipes into occasions, like picnics, parties, casual dinners and, of course, formal dinners. The pages of that last section, by the way, are as pristine as the day it was bought at a garage sale, giving you an idea of how useful its various owners have found it.

But I propose a different way to categorize a cookbook, and that's by how you feel. Happy? Make some small plates of your favorite foods, including simple salads and desserts. Depressed? You could indulge in a big ol' chocolate cake by yourself, or treat your mood with lots of fish and kale for their Omega 3s and anti-oxidants.

Then there's sinful, which I'm sure someone has done already and titled "Food for Lovers" or some such, full of unctuous (good word for that category, right?), creamy, rich or sweet flavors that beg to be licked off the plate or some other surface—but we'll stop there.

A perfect food for that category, though one I doubt would normally be thought of, is crab. It's certainly rich and has a delicate sweetness on its own…think whole pieces of leg or joint eaten right out of the shell. But it takes on a whole different personality when folded into a creamy sauce or warmed in a bisque, its sweet character enhancing the lushness of the dish and the warm meat melting when it hits your tongue.

Which is why, when I saw that cooked whole crabs had hit a ridiculously low price per pound, and knowing that early season crab is the sweetest, I bought two and fantasized about using it in macaroni and cheese. While I was only planning on using the meat from one of them for the casserole, the price and my lack of inhibitions made me throw the meat from both into the noodles and sauce just before I slid it into the oven, and it was so worth it.

This recipe would be terrific for a special dinner, served in individual ramekins which, depending on your mood and the setting—say, in front of the fire on a lambskin rug?—could make for a memorable evening. Champagne, anyone?

Dungeness Crab Macaroni and Cheese

1 lb. dried pasta (penne or cavatappi are my faves)
4 Tbsp. butter
4 Tbsp. flour
2 c. whole milk (or 1 c. cream or half-and-half plus 1 c. milk)
1/2 lb. extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
8 oz. cream cheese or sour cream
1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce (I use my homemade chile sauce)
Salt and pepper to taste
Meat from 1-2 crabs

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. While water is heating, melt butter in a medium saucepan. Remove from burner and add flour, stirring to combine until there are no lumps remaining. Return to burner and cook on low heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Increase heat to medium and add milk (or milk and cream) and stir until it thickened. Then add cheese in handfuls, stirring each in until they're melted. Add cream cheese and stir until sauce is thick and creamy, then add hot sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to keep sauce warm until pasta is done, stirring occasionally.

Add pasta to boiling water and cook till al dente or a little less. Drain and put back in pasta pot, pour cheese sauce and crab meat over tthe top and fold in briefly to combine, keeping crab from breaking up too much. Pour into baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes.

Farmers' Markets in Winter? You Bet!

In 2008, in an article for the Oregonian's FoodDay, I wrote, "I know the phrase 'winter farmers' markets' sounds like an oxymoron on the scale of 'open secret' or 'original copies,' but all you have to do is bundle up a bit, grab your market bag and you'll discover, like I did, a whole bunch of people who think this is actually fun, not to mention a way to eat fresher and more seasonally. Plus you can find great snacking on wonderful artisan cheeses and prepared foods, and warm drinks to keep the chill at bay."

When that article was written fifteen years ago, there were less than a handful of year-round farmers' markets in Oregon. Back then, mention of going to a winter farmers' market brought visions of sad, soupy bowls of boiled root vegetables. Even the Portland Farmers’ Market, the 800-pound gorilla of the state's farmers’ markets, took more than twenty years to finally get on the winter bandwagon in 2014.

My, how things have changed!

Chicories are the new "it" crop in Oregon.

Demand for year-round access to local produce has grown to the point that in 2024 there are 26 markets statewide that are open during at least part of the winter, with 12 in the greater Portland metro area, including Vancouver and McMinnville (see list, below). This shift has meant local farmers and producers have been able to take advantage of year-round production and a more stable income.

Find local cheeses galore!

"The Winter Market is hugely important for vendors because it provides them with income for more than six months of the year," according to Ginger Rapport, Market Master at the Beaverton Farmers Market, which begins its winter season on February 3rd. "An extended season improves their cash flow over the course of the year and allows them to serve their customers for a greater number of months.

"Loyal customers would often drive great distances to vendors during our off months to pick up products that they just couldn’t go without while we were closed," she said. "The extended season gives customers easier access to the foods they love while helping vendors with much needed cash flow at the same time. It is a win-win for all!"

Plus farmers have the opportunity to retain key staff members, bringing continuity to the farm's operations while providing those staff members and their families with stable year-round employment.

And what will shoppers find at these markets?

In Oregon local farms are growing a bounty of local fruits and vegetables in the winter.

Simply walking down an aisle packed with happy shoppers filling their baskets, bags and wagons brings a profusion of color and aromas, from towers of sweet carrots and radishes—root vegetable and brassicas like kale are at their sweetest in winter when the plants pump out sugars to act as antifreeze— to squashes and heads of lettuce so vibrant you'd swear they have a pulse.

Foraged and culitvated mushrooms are available year-round.

The maritime growing climate of the Willamette Valley is perfect for growing crops that do well in the cold all year long. So, in addition to year-round regulars such as fresh salad and braising greens, apples, cauliflower and broccoli, the winter markets starred things like fractalized chartreuse cones of romanesco and my choice for the ugliest, most delicious vegetable ever, celery root (aka celeriac). Plus root vegetables such as kohlrabi, beets in all colors of the rainbow, turnips, Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips and rutabagas. For omnivores of all stripes, there is sweet, start-of-the-season Dungeness crab and lots of lamb and beef available.

You'll find the latest "it" salad green isn't just green, but chicories—radicchio, the deep red softball-sized variety, being the best known of the species—come in colors from deep red treviso and tardivo to sunny yellow castelfranco with its splashes of rose to the peony-like pink Rosalba, and are being adapted by many Oregon farmers to thrive in our winters.

Potatoes are another crop at their best in the cold months.

Regular market-goers also know that they can find their favorite Oregon hazelnuts and berry jams at the market, along with fish caught hours before in our oceans and rivers. Pasture-raised meats and cured sausages, fermented sauerkraut and pickles of all kinds, local cheeses from pastured cows and goats as well as vegan cheeses containing no milk at all line the aisles.

Listed below is the latest list of our winter markets with links to their websites. Let me know if I've missed one!

Portland Metro

Beaverton Farmers Market. Opens Feb. 3, 10 am-1:30 pm. 12375 SW 5th St, Beaverton.

Farmer's Market at the Grange. Sat., 10 am-2 pm. 1700 SW Old Sheridan Rd, McMinnville.

Hillsdale Farmers' Market. Alternating Sun., 9 am-1 pm. 1405 SW Vermont St., Portland

Hollywood Farmers Market. 1st and 3rd Sat., 9 am-1 pm. 4420 NE Hancock St, Portland.

Lake Oswego Reunion Farmers' Market. Single market Sat., Nov. 23. 9 am-1 pm. 200 1st St, Lake Oswego.

Montavilla Farmers Market. Sun., 10 am-2 pm. 7700 SE Stark St, Portland.

Oregon City Year-Round Farmers Market. Every other Sat., 10 am -2 pm. Clackamas Community College Green Lot #1, 19400 S. Beavercreek Rd, Oregon City.

People's Farmers' Market. Wed., 2-7 pm. 3029 SE 21st Ave, Portland.

PSU Farmers Market. Sat., 9 am-2 pm. SW Park and Montgomery, Portland.

Shemanski Park Harvest Market. Wed., Nov. 27, 10 am-2 pm. SW Main St & SW Salmon St, Portland

Woodstock Harvest Market. Sun., Nov. 24, 10 am-2 pm. 4600 SE Woodstock Blvd, Portland.

Vancouver Downtown Market. Sat., 10 am-2 pm. 17701 SE Mill Plain Blvd., Vancouver, WA.

Elsewhere in Oregon

Brookings Harbor Farmers Market. Wed. and Sat., 10 am-3 pm. 15786 US-101, Brookings.

Clatskanie Food Hub. Thurs.-Fri., 2-6 pm; Sat., 10 am-3 pm; Sun., 2-6 pm. 80 NE Art Steele St., Clatskanie.

Corvallis Indoor Farmers Market. Sat., 9 am-1 pm. 110 SW 53rd St, Corvallis.

Garden Valley Farmers Market. Sun., 11 am-3 pm. 4855 Garden Valley Rd, Roseburg.

Hood River Farmers Market. 1st and 3rd Sat., 10 am-Noon. 403 Portway Ave, Hood River.

Lane County Farmers Market. Opens Sat., Feb. 3, 9 am-3 pm. Farmers Market Pavilion at 8th and Oak.

Newport Farmers Market. Opens Sat., April 6, 9 am-1 pm. On the corner of Angle and Hwy 101, Newport.

North Coast Online Farmers Market. Shop online Sunday-Tuesday for Thursday pick-up at 1152 Marine Drive, Astoria.

Oakridge Community Farmers Market. 1st and 3rd Sat., Noon-2 pm. 48137 E 1st St, Oakridge.

Rogue Valley Indoor Winter Markets. Tues., 9 am-1 pm at Ashland National Guard Armory.v1420 E. Main St, Ashland; and Sun., 1-5 pm at Village at Medford Center (near Tinseltown and Tap and Vine), Medford.

Salem Holiday Market. Fri., Dec. 13, 5:30-8:30 pm; Sat., Dec. 14, 10 am-6 pm; Sun., Dec. 15, 10 am-4 pm. State Fairgrounds, Jackman Long Building, 2330 17th St NE, Salem.

South Valley Farmers Winter Market. Sat., Nov. 2 & 16 and Dec. 7 & 21, 10 am-4 pm. Cottage Grove Armory, 628 E Washington Ave, Cottage Grove.

Umpqua Valley Farmers' Market. Sat., 9 am-1 pm. First United Methodist Church Parking Lot, 1771 W Harvard Ave, Roseburg.

Waldport Christmas Vendor Faire. Sat., Dec. 14, 9 am-2 pm. restview Heights Elementary School gym, 2750 S Crestline, Waldport

Top photo: Recent Gathering Together Farm display from their Instagram feed.

Call It Thai-ish: Curried Coconut Squash Soup a Winner Winter Dinner

Like stir fries or macaroni and cheese—see my previous post—soup is an ideal vehicle for making a simple, quick, warming winter dinner for a family out of what you have on hand, a skill that is increasingly necessary in a pandemic when dashing to the store for this or that isn't advisable.

Look around—dinner might be sitting on your counter right now!

Take a look around. Are there a bunch of odds and ends in your vegetable bin that are looking a little tired and wrinkly? Chop them up, grab a can of tomatoes and make a minestrone soup! How about those bits of leftover rotisserie chicken? Chop an onion and a carrot, pull out some stock and your soup pot, maybe add a potato or some dried pasta, and make chicken soup.

The other evening I had, as usual, no idea what to make for dinner but there was a smallish Sibley squash sitting on the counter that my neighbor Bill grew, so I roasted it and scooped out the flesh. Digging around in my pantry, I found a can of coconut milk, and I remembered seeing a baggie of curry leaves in the freezer that my friend Denise had shared with me.

With a quart of stock I'd made from the carcass of a roasted chicken earlier in the week and some zhooshing from my (admittedly) overflowing condiment shelf, the emerging Thai-inflected soup was well in hand.

I'd also run across a head of cauliflower in the fridge that was going brown in spots (easily remedied by simply scraping them off), so I threw it in the still-warm oven to get crispy and to provide some textural contrast to the creamy soup.

I'm hoping some of these skills will transfer to life after COVID when we won't have a second thought about making a trip to the store. (Promise me that time will come, though, won't you?)

Thai-ish Curried Coconut Squash Soup with Roasted Cauliflower

For the soup:
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped in 1/2” dice
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4 c. roasted squash*
1 qt. chicken or vegetable stock
1 15-oz. can coconut milk
1-2 Tbsp. Thai & True red curry paste or 2 Tbsp. curry powder plus 1/8 tsp. cayenne
1 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger
2 tsp. turmeric
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
6-8 curry leaves or 2 kaffir lime leaves or grated zest of 1 lime
Salt to taste

For the cauliflower:
1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets; chop any leaves into 1” pieces and stem into 1/2” dice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 400°.

In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then add onion and garlic and sauté until tender. Add curry paste (or curry powder and cayenne, if using) and turmeric and sauté until it bubbles. Add remaining ingredients and combine. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer.

Place cauliflower florets, stem pieces and chopped leaves into a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Stir to combine, then put on sheet pan. Place in oven and roast for 30-40 minutes until tender and well-browned. Remove from oven and set aside.

Take soup off heat and remove curry leaves (or kaffir lime leaves, if using). Using an immersion blender, purée the soup until smooth. (Pro tip from a chef friend: If using a blender to purée the soup, remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Blend in smaller batches, making sure to place a cloth over the lid of the blender and holding it down with one hand.) Replace puréed soup in pot and adjust seasonings, adding more fish sauce or salt as needed. Return to heat and keep warm until ready to serve.

To serve: Ladle soup into shallow bowls and arrange curry florets and leaves along one edge. You can also sprinkle with roasted pumpkin seeds, drizzle a few drops of sriracha, add a grinding of fresh pepper or whatever appeals to you.

* Pretty much any "winter" squash will do, including acorn, butternut, Sibley, kabocha or the like. Simply halve, scoop out the seeds and bake cut side down in a 400° oven for 30-40 minutes until tender. Scoop out meat. Learn more about winter squash here.

Find a myriad of soup recipes for inspiration, and even more here!

Two Sides: Roasted Cauliflower & Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Olives and Lemons

Thanksgiving is gonna be different this year, as every article in the country is noting. Duh.

Don't be like Casey.

You are staying home and not gathering with friends or relatives, right? Right? Because getting together for one meal this one time wouldn't be worth living with the guilt of killing your parents, grandparents, kids, relatives, friends or members of the broader community, right? Right.

Check the graph on the left if you don't believe me. (Full size version.)

So, anyway, just because there's a pandemic and you might not be getting together with the people you care most in the world about (see above) doesn't mean you can't eat well. Right?

For instance, Thanksgiving, to me, aside from spending time with those I love (but not this year, right?) is not so much about the turkey. Though Dave, who is hidebound in his compulsion to grill the bird regardless of snow, sleet, rain, freezing temperatures or any other calamities the gods may place in his path, and who must have his turkey enchiladas made from the smoky (and really quite fabulous) leftovers, will do it regardless.

Brussels sprouts with olives, lemon.

Myself, I'm all about the sides. From dressing to potatoes and gravy, to (this year) a chicory salad à la Nostrana and various seasonal vegetables roasted to perfection, they are what make the dinner for me. (Sorry, honey.)

Below are a couple of easy roast vegetable recipes that I think are pretty spectacular that you could make for the holidays or anytime, and that could even serve as vegetarian-friendly main dishes alongside a roasted squash.

Wishing you a safe and healthy holiday AT HOME. (Right?)

Roasted Cauliflower à la Sahni

This recipe is my adaptation of Julie Sahni's version in Classic Indian Cooking. Sahni, who, along with Madhur Jaffrey, brought Indian cuisine to the masses here in the US, steams her cauliflower then crisps it by frying. I found it's easier and faster to roast it.

1 medium head cauliflower
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 1/2 Tbs. fresh grated ginger
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped fine (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°.

Separate the cauliflower into small bite-sized flowerets and chop any stems or leaves into 1/2" pieces (seriously, they're great). Place in large bowl.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a small skillet until very hot. (Flick a drop of water into the oil. If it spatters, it's hot enough.) Add coriander seeds and cumin seeds and fry until the seeds turn dark brown, about 10 seconds. Reduce heat to medium-high and add ginger, stir briefly, then add turmeric and salt and stir. Pour over cauliflower and stir to coat. Place in 9" by 12" roasting dish (or roasting pan) and place in oven for 40-50 minutes until browned and very tender.

Taste and adjust salt. Garnish with chopped cilantro, if using, and serve.


Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Olives and Preserved Lemon

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, halved
10 castelvetrano olives, pitted and roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3-6 anchovies, minced
3-4 Tbsp. olive oil
4 Tbsp. preserved lemons, chopped, or juice of 1 lemon
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350°.

Place halved Brussels sprouts in a large mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Transfer to 9" by 12" roasting dish (or roasting pan) and place in oven for 35 minutes until browned and very tender. (I like the sprouts very browned on the edges.) Taste for salt and serve.

Coronavirus transmission graph from Licking County Health Department.

Classic Casseroles: Four Favorites That Bring The Comfort

In stressful times like we're in now, where even the smallest effort can seem strangely exhausting and where fear threatens to become a constant companion, I crave the familiar, whether it's my favorite sweatshirt—because, really, who bothers to get dressed up any more?—or the lovely aroma of good food baking in the oven, with the promise of a delicious meal soon to emerge.

Crab mac'n'cheese.

Anything hot and creamy and filling will do, and for me that often takes the shape of a casserole, that standby of my mother's generation that filled her three kids' bellies for a relative pittance. Classics like macaroni and cheese or tuna casserole would come courtesy of a box or with help from a can—we considered cream of mushroom soup part of the glue that held our world together—and could be put together in a few minutes. Then it was popped into the oven for a half hour or so, enough for her and my father to put their feet up and share a glass of wine.

Eggplant parmesan.

These days I tend to eschew the boxes or cans (so long, Kraft and Campbells!) and make my sauces from scratch, but I still duck into the pantry for staples like pasta or tuna or cornmeal. Knowing what goes into my food rather than trusting a giant corporation to look after my family's health over their bottom line means the preparation might take a few minutes longer, but I still get that blessed half hour while it bubbles away, coming out crisp and creamy and steaming to the table.

Below is my recipe for the creamiest macaroni and cheese I've ever had and a family staple made with cheddar from a local small farm. It's infinitely mutable: I've made versions with bacon and garlic (top photo), salmon and crab, and even a version with pimiento cheese.

Tuna Mushroom Casserole.

You can also check out my version of classic tuna casserole made with foraged mushrooms that works just as well with button mushrooms from the store. Then there's a fabulous eggplant parmesan that is so sumptuous it's perfect as a main dish yet extremely simple to prepare—and vegetarian, even! And another regular from my childhood, a tamale pie that I make from pasture-raised hamburger, corn I froze from the summer and cornmeal ground and grown an hour's drive from the city.

I hope you're staying safe and healthy, and that these recipes bring a measure of comfort to your tables and your lives. Enjoy!

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

1 lb. dried pasta
4 Tbsp. butter
4 Tbsp. flour
2 c. milk
8-12 oz. aged cheddar cheese, grated*
8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil large pot of salted water. While water is heating, melt butter in medium-sized saucepan. Remove from burner and add flour, stirring to combine. Place saucepan back on burner and cook on low heat for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add milk gradually, stirring/whisking until thickened, then add cheese in handfuls, stirring until melted. Add cream cheese and stir until sauce is thick and creamy, then add hot sauce with salt and pepper to taste. (The sauce should be slightly saltier than you'd normally make it, since when combined with the pasta it will tend to make it taste less salty.)

Add pasta to boiling water and cook till al dente. Drain and put back in pasta pot, add cheese sauce and stir gently to combine. Transfer to baking dish. Bake in 350 degree oven 30 minutes.

* I like a couple of sharp cheddars made locally, and recommend Face Rock Aged Cheddar and TMK Creamery Cheddar. Also Organic Valley Raw Sharp Cheddar and Organic Valley Grassmilk Cheddar are excellent.

Soup's On: Sopa de Carnitas

As often happens around my house, this soup recipe came about on a chilly winter night when I didn't have any particular plan for dinner. Which means I started rummaging around in the fridge looking for inspiration, hoping desperately that I wouldn't have to make a trip to the store.

Fortunately there was a smallish chunk of pork shoulder stashed in the meat drawer, a couple of potatoes in the veg bin and half an orange left over from a batch of granola I'd made earlier in the day. Hmmm…maybe carnitas…

The problem? Without that dreaded trip to the store, there wasn't going to be enough to make carnitas tacos for three hungry people. But then it occurred to me that adding pork stock to make a hearty soup—a go-to winter dinner around here—would be a cinch. With tortillas from Three Sisters Nixtamal alongside, this was a simple dinner-on-the-fly recipe that would be fit for company served with a big chicory or winter greens salad.

¡Buen provecho!

Sopa de Carnitas

1 1/2 lbs. boneless pork shoulder, sliced into bite-sized pieces
1 qt. pork or chicken stock
2 c. water
1 onion, cut in 1/4" dice
3 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 orange, cut in quarters
1 tsp. kosher salt plus more to taste
2 yellow potatoes, cut into 1/2" dice

Put all ingredients except potatoes into Dutch oven or soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cover. Simmer for 2 hours until meat is very tender and starting to fall apart.

Remove orange pieces and bay leaves. Add diced potatoes and simmer for 30 minutes until tender. Add salt to taste and serve.