Monthly Archives: December 2010

Winter Wonderland Arrives!

Winter has set in. The solstice was this week, so I shouldn’t be surprised. We had our first snowfall on Monday night and another last night (Wednesday); a few inches dusted my world. I always say, if it’s going to be cold, it might as well be pretty, and it is.

On Saturday, we picked up our second and final share of the Shared Harvest CSA. The pantry and extra refrigerator are now packed with bountiful vegetables, mostly ones that will store for a while. Our share included potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, beets, carrots, celery root, butternut squash, cabbage, parsnips, leeks, winter radishes, lettuce and kale. The share also included some popcorn (on the cob) and two pounds of locally grown beans: kidney beans and one other. I picked some crazy-looking brown and black marbled beans called Peregion. We had ordered an additional 10 pounds of carrots, 5 pounds of parsnips, and 10 pounds of beets. I suspect there is a least one pot of borscht in our future.


Cold weather calls for hearty meals. We had some people coming over for dinner, and I was in the mood for roasted vegetables, so I made a winter vegetable and chicken paella. The original recipe called for butternut squash and Swiss chard. I added extra squash plus a couple of turnips and parsnips. I also substituted the kale from the CSA share for the chard.

I am fortunate to have an actual paella pan that I brought back from a visit to Spain when my mother was living there (a couple decades ago). You can use a very large ovenproof skillet or sauté pan, but the paella pan makes for a gorgeous presentation. (Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of the paella in the pan, just some of the leftovers.)

Paella is a very flexible dish. I once borrowed an entire cookbook of paella recipes from the library and spent several nights browsing through. Each part of Spain has their own version which features local ingredients. The common element is the short-grain rice.

Here’s the version I made this weekend from my CSA share vegetables:

Winter Vegetable-Chicken Paella
Serves 6 – 8
Adapted from this recipe from Food and Wine magazine, December 2002

1 large leek, white and tender green parts only, halved lengthwise
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small butternut squash, about 2 pounds, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
2 turnips, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 lbs chicken thighs, with skin
1 large onion, chopped
¼ teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 cups Arborio rice
3½ cups hot chicken stock
1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 bunch of kale, stems discarded, leaves coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 425°. In a large bowl, toss the diced squash, turnip, and parsnips with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper. Spread onto one or two baking sheets in one layer. Brush the leek with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil and arrange on a portion of one of the baking sheets, cut side down. Cut the leek into 1-inch lengths. Roast the vegetables for 20 minutes, or until golden and just tender.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 14- to 16-inch paella pan or skillet. Season the chicken with salt and pepper; cook over moderate heat until golden, 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate. If there is a lot of fat in the pan, carefully pour off all but 2 tablespoons. Add the onion to the pan; cook over low heat until softened. Add the saffron and smoked paprika; cook over moderately high heat, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the rice and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in the stock, tomatoes, kale, and roasted leek, squash, turnips and parsnips.

Nestle the chicken into the rice, skin side up. Simmer the paella over low heat for 5 minutes. Transfer to a 350° oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the stock is absorbed, the rice is tender and the chicken is cooked through. Remove from the oven and cover with a towel; let stand for 10 minutes. Serve at once.

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French Fridays with Dorie: Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Nuts

CocktailNuts-med

This week I decided to make the Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Nuts. This recipe provided practically instant gratification, or, if not instant, within an hour. I had all the ingredients in the pantry, and it was so easy to put together.

The recipe could be made with any mixture of whole or half nuts. I chose to make my version with all almonds. First of all, they’re my favorite. Secondly, I’ve been fixated on almonds since my book group meeting earlier in the week. I sat next to a bowl of almonds coated in sugar and cinnamon. I munched on them throughout the evening. Now I can continue the binge with a batch of sweet and spicy almonds.

As I mentioned, this recipe was super simple. The one step that I questioned was placing the nuts on the baking sheet one by one. I’ve made many batches of nuts like these and usually just spread the nut mixture on the baking sheet without much care other than making sure they are in a single layer. I thought I’d take that same shortcut with this recipe. Then I decided that I’d follow this recipe and see if it made a difference.

After the stressful week I had, both work-wise and personally, putting those nuts down one by one turned out to be a meditative and calming exercise. The goo on the nuts still melted and connected them to each other, but they still broke apart easily after they baked. I think you could just spread the nuts into a single layer with a similar result.

As for spices, I made the basic recipe in the book, no variation. For chili powder, I used medium hot chili powder from Penzeys Spices. Even with the pinch of cayenne, I think I could have used a hotter chili powder to give it more of a kick. Nevertheless, this recipe was still quite successful.

For the holidays, I usually put together little gift packs of assorted homemade treats. These would be a good addition. I might make another batch this weekend, with a slight alteration to the spices.

As a side note, if you like this kind of nut mixture, I suggest checking out a favorite cookbook of mine, Party Nuts by Sally Sampson. This book contains many creative combinations of nuts and seasonings. Every recipe I’ve made from Party Nuts has been a resounding success.

If you want to read about my fellow cooks’ experiences cooking from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table this week, check out their links on French Fridays with Dorie. Even better, you can buy your own copy of the book, and join in the fun.