Every winter, my passion for cooking intensifies, and it’s usually around this time, right at the beginning of February, that I fall in love the hardest. I discover new spices. I resume my ardent affair with my cookbooks. I research ingredient availability. And every night as we sit down to dinner, with the kitchen steamy, my fingers smelling like garlic, I feel a soul-deep satisfaction.
Happily, I’ve picked up a few tricks this year that have made my cooking life even happier. I’d love to share these with you.
The hardest thing about cooking in the winter is that the produce, in general, blows. That means tomatoes you could play hockey with. Strawberries with white hearts.
But don’t despair. Citrus is in season in the winter and, truly, that’s terrific news. After all, is there anything sexier than a blood orange? Anything better than lime-spiked guacamole?
Happily, the recipe possibilities are endless too. Consider: orange sesame chicken. Catfish with brown butter citrus sauce. Salad with Cara Caras, avocado, feta and pepitas. Creamsicle pie. Orange cardamom cake.
Simply Google “orange recipes” and you’ll be amazed what comes up.
HALF BAKED HARVEST
My favorite citrus recipe I’ve found so far this year (whipped ricotta toast with lemon thyme honey) is from Half Baked Harvest, which I discovered last year but didn’t fully explore until recently. Holy guacamole, Tieghan Gerard’s recipes are reliable, interesting and, bonus, often healthy. I’m finding new keepers on a weekly basis, many of which purport to only take 30 minutes to assemble. While I can’t say they happen that quickly for me, dinner is definitely ready in under an hour. And dinner is good, like go-oood-good. Think: coq au vin chicken meatballs. Coconut milk-braised chicken with sweet potatoes and rice. Tonight, I’m trying some Turkish eggs with chile butter and whipped feta. Yum, right? Different, right?
Happily, Gerard’s website is extremely user-friendly. If you’re like me and like to skip the column and head right to the recipe, she has a button that allows you to do that without scrolling.
SHARE RECIPES WITH A COOKING FRIEND
Over the past weeks, Dale Crockett and I have spent a lot of time recently praising HBH over Facebook Messenger. Dale is my friend Jessica’s mom and owns a business cooking and delivering from-scratch lunches to local professionals (isn’t that smart?). As such, she is truly a cook’s treasure trove, and I’ll fully admit to mining her mind for ideas.
It’s reminded me how nice it is to talk cooking with other cooks, whether you’re confirming that a recipe worked or discussing how much cream and butter you got away with not using in a dish (she’s better at this than I am). We also share pictures, which spurs my motivation to try new things and explore different approaches.
MASHED POTATOES: RE-INVENTED
For example, mashed potatoes. Yes, I’ve already written a column dedicated to them in the past few months. And yes, I’ve already tried a thousand different ways to make them. BUT. Dale introduced me to a recipe in which you boil two garlic cloves along with your potato chunks. Then, when you mash your potatoes, you mash the cloves right along with them.
Ah, my foes and oh, my friends, what a neat trick! The potatoes were as easy to make as ever but were infused with the gentle flavor of garlic. Definitely a game changer.
VISIT YOUR ASIAN MARKET
As was my first visit to our local Asian market, which took me way too long to visit. Do yourself a favor and don’t make the same mistake I did.
Because now I can get incredible ingredients without waiting on Amazon and without leaving my small town. I’m talking noodles. Sauces. Pastes. And Asian candy and soda, which your teens will love. When I went to our Asian market in Somerset, I found fresh enoki mushrooms (RIGHT?) and ginger root that was much nicer than what I found at Kroger.
So give it a go. I promise you won’t be sorry, and you’ll instantly feel more connected to the rest of the world.
If you’ve gotten to the end of this list, you are a foodie indeed. As such, I hope you’ll share some of your own foodie finds and discoveries with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you want the link to that delicious ricotta toast, which is also topped with prosciutto and blood oranges slices, drop me a line. Until then, bon appétit!