Embracing Seasonality Part II: Winter Kale Salad with Blood Oranges & A Pomegranate Vinaigrette + Thoughts on Winter

Winter can be a rather bleak affair. When you’re in the thick of it, it feels like there is no escape; homes dimly lit by the winter sun and cold that envelops your whole body. If I’m honest I would rather be transported to a warmer climate, maybe sitting on the beach enjoying a summer salad and some fresh seafood too. I don’t much care for winter, I simply endure it (hopefully without too much grumbling!). Seeing as I’m not sitting on a beach but in southeastern Ohio, I must embrace even the bleakest of winters.

There’s something about winter, maybe the lack of sunlight and cold temperatures, that can put our bodies and minds into a depression and dormancy. It’s important that we not let our eating habits fall victim to this. I think most of us turn to our comfort foods as a consolation for the cold. Although I don’t tend to crave many processed foods anymore, I am a sucker for raw cookie dough! I can always take the hint when afterwards my belly starts hurting. I’ve never had an upset stomach from eating fruits and vegetables.

The biggest thing I notice about winter eating is a feeling of scarcity. In the spring we get to enjoy a plethora of fruits and veggies – tomatoes, watermelon, cucumbers, strawberries, blueberries, and the list goes on. It is very easy then to come up with a delicious spring or summer salad. If you are at all concerned about seasonality you may get to winter and think, “Well, there’s nothing to eat now.” The good news is there’s still wholesome food to eat while being food conscious at the same time.

winter citrus display

Citrus is a saving grace in the winter months. It is packed with vitamin C, antioxidants, and the pop of color alone is enough to cure even the most pervasive winter blues. Surprisingly enough, the peak growing season for oranges in the U.S. is December to March – in California, Florida, and to a lesser extent Texas and Arizona. So this time of year you can find different varieties of oranges far cheaper and in greater supply. These include blood oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, pomegranate, etc. It’s very easy to throw these in a salad, include them in your favorite dessert, or make a juice drink out of it.

winter pomegranate salad

The good news is you don’t have to be a master chef or buy expensive ingredients to eat well this winter. Just make sure your plates have plenty of color. Like this organic purple kale salad that I enlivened with some blood oranges, apples, walnuts for protein, and blue cheese for added decadence. I then topped it off with a pomegranate vinaigrette. I used fresh pomegranate juice from a pomegranate fruit because you can get them for really cheap right now! Although I have not yet perfected the vinaigrette (It turned out too runny for me. Because you’re getting more water here than with a traditional vinaigrette, I would try using balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, or honey to thicken it up), here’s a great recipe for you to look at in the mean time!

Just because the weather is bleak right now doesn’t mean your diet has to reflect that. I can tell you this salad is packed with so many antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients that cookie dough can’t hold a candle to this. It is possible to eat seasonally well this winter it just takes some thinking outside of the box and the willingness to go beyond your food comfort zone. Your body and the environment will truly thank you for it.

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Embracing Seasonality & The Flavors of Winter

winter lunch

Growing up, I was unaware of the complex workings of our food system. I had no idea that oranges were an unnatural thing to see in the supermarket in the dead of winter. And that tomatoes were prematurely ripened so they could look like a tomato and trucked thousands of miles to end up on our shelves. I grew up eating strawberries in the middle of winter, unaware of the consequences. How could I have known any better? After all, no one told me this. It wasn’t until my college education that I began to question the “normalcies” of our food system.

If you strive like I do to eat seasonally, then I know you can relate to the feeling of pure torture as you walk through the produce section of the store. It’s all laid out, as in a smorgasbord waiting to be devoured. I crave the flavors of spring and wonder when we’re going to get out of this winter. It’s one hard pill to swallow when you realize you can easily reach for that $5 container of blueberries (ouch!) but your conscience wouldn’t allow it.

But as I delve more into the food culture, I find myself craving winter root vegetables. Maybe it’s my body trying find peace with the natural earth… or maybe because roasted acorn squash is incredibly delicious (I’m thinking it’s the latter ;)! The truth is there is a delightful array of options available to us during our winter hibernation. Of course nothing grows in the winter, but we can eat vegetables and fruits from the fall all thanks to modern storage methods. Even limiting your grocery trip to seasonal produce can greatly reduce your carbon footprint. (<< this is a wonderful article on carbon footprints on the Economist. It even talks about carbon footprint labeling. It’s worth a read!) Even better, subscribe to a CSA and you can reap the benefits of a local farmer’s fall harvest (more on CSAs later)!

Acorn squash is my favorite root vegetable by far! With a tough skin, it’s harder to cut but the work is well worth it! All you have to do is roast it and it is perfection! Butternut is the sister squash and it’s perfect to use as a soup. Any other vegetable like carrots, leaks, onions, and potatoes will do. Winter and fall fruits would include apples, grapes, and even certain varieties of raspberries and strawberries! If you’re looking to create a delicious winter salad, try kale, collard greens, or spinach. Kale is my personal favorite. And, if you’re looking for a different take on kale you can try kale chips – delicious and nutritious.

Seasonal eating doesn’t have to be difficult but it does take some willpower. It becomes easier after a while and you might even find yourself starting to crave these foods! When we eat in balance with the seasons, we lessen our environmental impact. And yes in kind of a hokey way, we’re more in balance with the earth’s natural patterns. It makes us healthier, happier individuals.

Roasted Acorn Squash

– preheat oven to 350

– cut the squash into small pieces and arrange on a baking sheet

– drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper

– bake for 30-40 minutes, or until soft

Kale Chips

– preheat oven to 300

– arrange chip-size pieces of kale on a baking sheet (removing any stems)

– drizzle with olive oil and salt

– bake for 30 minutes or until crispy

A Recipe | Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Galette With Thyme and Goat Cheese

As the cold weather sets in, I’m hunkering down for the winter. I don’t much care for the cold, but I do like to be cozy in the midst of it. By all rights, I should be tucked away in a cabin writing away the remainder of my life. But I digress. My thoughts have turned to all things Christmas – putting up the tree, decorating, doing countless DIY projects, working with real pine and florals, and figuring out what I’m going to buy (or make) for the special people in my life.

My thoughts turn to food too during this time of year not only because it is our daily sustenance, but also because it is an exciting time in the culinary world. My mind drifts off to warm and hearty soups and stews, beans and lentils, or roasted butternut and acorn squash. Buying seasonally from a farmer’s market is truly a beautiful thing. Even if you choose to buy seasonal at the grocery store in a sea of “variety” well, that’s beautiful too – if not more so. Seasonality livens us, sustains us, makes us whole.

mushroom galette prep

 

cremini mushrooms

 

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A galette is a rustic french pastry that is both simple and classic. The nice thing about galettes is the combination of ingredients and flavors is truly endless. Create a savory galette like this one, or a sweet one with apples, pears, or cranberries – whatever suits your fancy. This was my first savory galette, including my first recipe I developed on my own – that tantalizing but scary plunge every cook knows they must take sooner or later. I must say I think it turned out very well for my first round.

Mushrooms have been used a lot in savory dishes, especially galettes; and with good reason. Mushrooms have many health benefits and give off incredible flavor when cooked. Sauté them in a little butter or olive oil, or grill them (I think I can taste it now). I could eat cooked mushrooms by themselves, but it’s the accompaniment of herbs and cheeses in this galette that takes it to the next level. Add to that the caramelized onions and you get a note of sweetness. I had debated between ricotta and goat cheese for this but I’m glad I went with the goat cheese. The tartness of the goat cheese lends for an earthy finish to this rustic galette. This is a recipe you can turn to on those cold, winter nights, for a morning brunch, or simply because you want to use up some ingredients in your kitchen. Whatever it is, throw it into a galette and hope for the best. I did. Enjoy!

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Recipe: Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Galette With Thyme and Goat Cheese

Ingredients:

For the crust

1 cup of flour

5 1/3 tablespoons vegetable shortening

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup water, or more as needed

For the filling

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1 clove garlic, minced

1 lb. Crimini mushrooms

2 medium shallots, cut lengthwise and caramelized

1/2 tablespoon thyme

2 tablespoons goat cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Combine ingredients for the pastry and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes. Meanwhile, start caramelizing the onions. Heat 2 tbsp butter in a 9 inch skillet. Caramelize the onions until they are translucent and golden in color, about 15 minutes. Once they are done, set aside.

Heat 1 tbsp butter in the same skillet. Add garlic, mushrooms, and a dash of salt and pepper. Once the mushrooms have softened, toss in the thyme to warm. Take off the heat and combine with onions.

Take your pastry out of the fridge and roll out. Spoon in your mushroom and onion mixture in the center, leaving about a 2 inch margin on the sides. Sprinkle with goat cheese. Roll up sides of pastry holding the mixture inside, but leaving the middle exposed.

Transfer to a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Let cool for 5-10 minutes and enjoy!