cold weather cooking

Barley with Carrots, Raisins and Almonds

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For me, the appeal of winter foods is their ability make me feel warm and well-nourished. I don’t expect them to be gorgeous. When I look at dishes such as beef stew or a beloved chicken-and-soup, I don’t see art, I see safety and memory and the expectation of comfort.

This is why, when winter comes, I look for side dishes or desserts or an appetizer that can provide some color or add some beauty to the entree or the meal.

This barley casserole fits the bill. It’s a substantial side dish that works with meat, fish and poultry, with stews and hearty winter casseroles and for vegetarian meals too. It’s colorful and makes for an attractive addition to a winter dinner.

Barley with Carrots, Raisins and Almonds

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2-3 carrots, sliced 1/2-inch thick

  • 3-4 scallions, chopped

  • 1 cup pearled barley

  • 2-1/2 cups vegetable stock

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

  • 1/2 cup golden raisins

  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the carrots and scallions and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the barley and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring often. Pour in the stock and add the salt, pepper and thyme. Stir, bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for about 50 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in the raisins and almonds and toss gently to distribute the ingredients evenly. Cover the pan and let rest for 5 minutes. Spoon into a serving bowl and sprinkle with parsley.

Makes 6-8 servings

 

 

Short Ribs with Barbecue Gravy

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Lots of people find January a big disappointment. It can be cold and dreary and sometimes seems like a letdown after months of holidays and celebrating.

But the food is good.

I like to call January cuisine. Filling, nourishing, comforting stuff.

Like short ribs.

 

Short Ribs with Barbecue Sauce

  • 5-6 pounds beef short ribs 
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped chile pepper
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 stalks celery, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 cup ketchup 
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 cup beer or ale
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar 
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar 
  • 2-3 thyme sprigs (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Dry the surface of the meat with paper towels. Heat the vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Working in batches, cook the meat, turning the pieces to brown them, for 4-5 minutes or until lightly browned. (If the oil seems too dark, discard it, wipe the pan and add 2 fresh tablespoons vegetable oil.) Remove the meat and set it aside. Add the onions, garlic, chili pepper, carrots and celery to the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the ketchup. Pour in the stock, beer, cider vinegar and soy sauce and stir the ingredients. Stir in the brown sugar. Return the meat to the pan and spoon some of the sauce over them. Place the thyme sprigs and bay leaf in the liquid. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Bring the liquid to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook at a bare simmer for about 4 hours or until the meat is fork tender (or place in the oven at 225 degrees).

Makes 6-8 servings

 

Plain Old Meatloaf

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Everyone piles on poor January like it's some cranky old disciplinarian. Like it's January's fault for being on the calendar when it's often cold and gloomy. Like it's January's fault that  after months of indulgence in food, gifts and various and sundry celebrations, we have to get back to some sort of normal.

But we must get back to some sort of normal of course, and we do. In January we face, recognize and take responsibility for our gluttony. It's like some mid-winter al cheyt.

So, on January's menu: simple, easy, homey, plain-old food. 

Frankly, after the Hallowe'en candy and Thanksgiving turkey with stuffing and Hanukkah latkes and doughnuts and New Year's brunch I am ready to make a fresh start. Ready for food like meatloaf.

Actually, that doesn't seem like punishment to me. Just a bit of down home, back-to-basics. I like that.

Here's my simple go-to version.

Plain Old Meatloaf

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 1/2 pound ground turkey
  • 1 cup soft fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup chili sauce
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the meats in a bowl. Add the breadcrumbs, 3/4 cup of the chili sauce, soy sauce, eggs, onion, garlic, thyme and some salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly and place the mixture into a lightly oiled 9”x5” loaf pan. Spread the remaining chili sauce over the surface. Bake for about one hour or until the sides of the meat come away from the pan. 

Makes 6-8 servings

Onion Soup with (or without) Cheese Croutes

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I'm looking out the window at the dark sky and a rage of snow. The wind is sweeping it all into deep drifts that I know are going to block my front door.

My husband had the need to walk outside to get the mail (nothing first class, just the usual circulars for cruises and grocery items).

I stayed inside making soup.

This is definitely soup weather.

For example, this onion soup, which is fabulous all by itself, but especially satisfying with a thick crusty, cheese croute on top.

Dinner.

French Onion Soup

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds yellow onions, peeled and sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 6 cups heated vegetable stock (or with beef stock if you serve without the croutes)
  • 1/4 cup sherry, peferably Oloroso type
  • cheese croutes (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over low-medium heat. Add the onions, salt, and sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes or until onions have softened and become caramel-colored. Add the flour and mix ingredients together for 3 minutes. Gradually add the stock, stirring gently. Cook, partially covered, for 35 minutes. Add the sherry and cook another 5 minutes. Serve the soup as is or topped with cheese croutes. 

Makes 8 servings

Cheese Croutes:

  • 8 (1"-thick) slices of French bread
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, cut in half
  • 1-1/4 cups freshly grated Swiss cheese
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the bread slices on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Brush the bread tops with the olive oil and rub the surface with the cut side of the garlic. Turn the bread slices over and bake for another 15 minutes. Just before serving, place the soup in oven-proof bowls and top each with one slice of the bread. Sprinkle the cheeses evenly on top. Place the bowls on a cookie sheet and bake for about 12 minutes or until the cheese melts and is bubbly.

 

Saigon Chicken Pho

Last March Ed and I travelled to Vietnam and Cambodia. We had wanted to go to both countries for years, Angkor Wat (in Cambodia), the big draw of course. But when we were young adults it wasn't possible because of the Vietnam War, which, btw, the Vietnamese call The American War.

And then way led upon way, we took other roads more or less travelled until finally this trip got on our radar and we grabbed the opportunity.

It was a revelation in many ways. Because of the politics. Because these days Vietnam is a friend and trading partner. Because Vietnam is thriving, entrepreneurial and modern whereas the only photos I had in my head were horrific ones from the 1960s (and if you have any desire to see those they are on full display in Saigon's War Remnants Museum). 

I also didn't realize how totally different Vietnam and Cambodia are. In every way: culture, ethnicity, religion, language, food, the look of the people.

I vowed to try cooking some of the food we sampled in both countries. 

So far, so good. Especially the pho, one of Vietnam's iconic dishes.

Chicken Pho -- basically chicken noodle soup -- is what your bubbe would make if she were Vietnamese. It's nourishing, flavorful, rib-sticking, comforting, warmth-giving. Perfect now that the cold weather is upon us, at least here in Connecticut. 

Really. Try this pho. I can't stop wanting some.

Fyi, the second photo is a scene from the breathtakingly beautiful Ha Long Bay in what used to be called North Vietnam. The third photo is the scene in Saigon (Ho Chi Min City) where the helicopters took off on that fateful day in 1975 when the Americans left.

 

SAIGON CHICKEN PHO

  • 3-1/2 to 4 pound chicken
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • One 2 1/2-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 3 1-inch thick slices fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 8 ounces dried rice noodles
  • 3-4 chopped scallions
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • garnish to taste with thinly sliced jalapeno peppers, bean sprouts, basil leaves, mint leaves, lime wedges. Sriracha (in the United States)

 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the chicken in a soup pot and cover with water. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 4-5 minutes, removing the debris that rises to the top. While the chicken in cooking, place the star anise, cloves, coriander seeds, cinnamon stick and peppercorns in a single layer in a small dish. Roast the spices for 3-4 minutes, or until fragrant. Add the roasted spices to the soup pot. Add the onion, ginger and brown sugar. Simmer the soup for about 2 hours, until the chicken is very soft. Strain the soup. Remove the chicken to a carving board and, when cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin and bones. Cut the breast and thigh meat into julienne shreds. (Use the rest of the chicken for other purposes or add more to the soup.)

Keep the soup stock hot over low heat. Cook the rice noodles according to package directions.

To serve, place some rice noodles in serving bowls. Pour the stock over the noodles. Scatter scallions and cilantro into each serving bowl. Garnish as desired with jalapeno pepper slices, bean sprouts, basil leaves, mint leaves and lime wedges.

Note: in restaurants in the United States it is customary to serve Pho with Sriracha sauce on the side, to splash into the soup. Not the case in Vietnam, where fresh chili peppers do the job of spicing the soup.

Makes 8 servings

The Easiest, Most Comforting Tomato Soup

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Last week I was at my daughter Meredith's house and she had just finished cooking tomato soup. The fragrance -- warmth, security, satisfaction -- lingered in my memory into the next day.

I had to have some.

And so I did. I cooked a batch at home.

That enticing smell! I had it right there, in my own kitchen.

It was so easy too.

I separated the soup into packages for freezing, but they didn't last. We ate it all, a soup-plateful before dinner over the course of three evenings.

Now I will make some more.

Tomato Soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 28-ounce cans Italian style tomatoes, including juices
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup uncooked white rice

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about another minute. Add the tomatoes, stock, basil and salt and pepper. Break up the tomatoes coarsely with a wooden spoon. Bring the soup to a simmer, cover the pan and cook for 30 minutes. Add the rice, cover the pan and cook for another 25 minutes. Blend the soup in a blender or with an immersion blender. 

Makes 6-8 servings

Mushroom Barley Soup

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The weather fooled me for a while. It was actually in the 60s last weekend. Now it's back to the usual for a January in Connecticut. 19 degrees when I woke up.

That's cold.

That's soup weather. Hearty, nourishing Mushroom Barley soup weather.

My mother-in-law, Pearl Fein, made fabulous Mushroom Barley soup, but I never got her recipe.

Alas.

Then I saw my friend Liz Rueven's recipe. Liz blogs at www.kosherlikeme.com, but she created her recipe for Mushroom Barley soup for The Nosher, where it was voted one of the Top Ten recipes on the site for 2015. 

It inspired me, but I was sans crockpot (mine is somewhere in my basement and I didn't feel like looking for it).

So I thought about what I remember loving in my mother-in-law's soup and what appealed to me about Liz's recipe and I came up with my very own version.

It was awesome. VERY similar to my mother-in-law's, except hers was made with chicken stock, mine with beef stock and water.

Either way, this is going into the "repeat" file.

 

Mushroom Barley Soup

  • 8 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound chuck, cut into small chunks (or use flanken)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 carrots, sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 3/4 cup pearled barley
  • 4 cups beef or chicken stock
  • 4 cups water, approximately
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the mushrooms in a bowl, cover with hot water and soak for 8-10 minutes or until the caps are soft. Remove and discard the hard, inedible stems, if any, chop the caps and set aside. Heat the vegetable oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the meat and cook, turning the pieces occasionally, for 6-8 minutes or until lightly crispy. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes, or until softened. Add the carrots, celery, reserved mushrooms, dill and barley and stir briefly. Pour in the stock and water, add salt and pepper to taste. Bring the soup to a simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes. Add more water if you prefer a thinner soup (or if you refrigerate the soup: the barley will absorb the liquid and soup will be very thick).

Make 8 servings

 

Warm Winter Soup

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I guess the warm weather couldn't last. It was December, after all, and I do live in Connecticut.

I did appreciate it though, the unseasonal temperature in the 60s. And I suppose if I wanted that sort of thing all year round I could move to California or Arizona or Florida. 

But I never will. I am a Connecticut woman with a penchant for spending lots of time in New York City.

So I'll get used to the cold and, in addition to the silk undergarments I just bought to wear for when I'm outside and it's freezing, I'll make myself some soup to help keep me warm.

This is the kind of soup I make all the time. The ingredients depend on what I have in the house, but there's always a package or two of dried soup mix, plus onions and carrots and a few ingredients such as dried split peas and barley.

You can add lots to this recipe: parsnips, other whole grains, dried lima beans or red kidney beans. You can also add fresh vegetables at the end of the process (give them time to soften): peas, broccoli, cut up green beans. 

But this is one for cold winter weather, for sure. And look how easy it is to prepare!

Warm Winter Soup

  • 1 6-ounce package dried soup mix (I used Manischewitz Lima Bean and Barley mix)
  • 3 pounds marrow bones
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried green split peas
  • 1/2 cup pearled barley
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the soup mix, bones, carrots, onions, split peas, barley and salt and pepper to taste in a soup pot. Pour in enough water to cover the ingredients by at least one inch. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for at least 2 hours, or until the soup is thick. 

Makes about 6 servings

 

This Soup is Two Kinds of Hot

If winter comes, can spring be far behind?

It's the old question made famous by Percy Bysshe Shelley in his poem, Ode to the West Wind, which used to be required reading in high school.

It always seemed to me that people quote that line as if to soothe us through the cold and bitter days, to remind us that warm weather eventually comes and it won't be as long as it seems when you're bundled up in down coats and covered with scarves, hats, gloves and furry boots but still shivering because it feels like it's zero degrees out and the wind is blowing in your face.

But in actuality, my answer is, yes. Spring can be far behind. 66 days in fact. Well after the groundhog jumps back into his hole and whether or not he/she sees its shadow. 

That means lots of hot, warming, comforting food is required to help keep us warm and feel secure and cozy.

Soup, for example.

Like this one, which is hot in two ways. First, it's seasoned with spicy chipotle pepper and a lush garnish of toast croutes loaded up with Sincerely Brigitte Chipotle cheddar cheese. Second, it's served piping hot for lunch or as a first course for dinner.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Chipotle Cheese Croutes

  • 6 medium red bell peppers
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle powder
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup half and half cream or coconut milk
  • cheese croutes

Preheat the broiler. Place the peppers under the broiler, about 4-6" away from the heat. Broil for 2-3 minutes, until the skin has blistered. Turn the peppers and repeat this process until the entire surface is blistered and lightly charred. Remove the peppers and place them in a paper bag or wrap them in aluminum foil. Let rest at least 10 minutes. Remove the peppers from the bag, peel off the skin and discard the stem and the seeds. Cut the peppers into pieces and set aside. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, add the onion and celery and cook for about 4 minutes or until the vegetables have softened. Add the garlic and cook briefly. Add the red pepper pieces, potatoes, parsley, chipotle powder and stock. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Puree the ingredients in a food processor or with an immersion blender. Stir in the cream and cook for 3-4 minutes or until hot. Serve with the cheese croutes.

Makes 8 servings

 

Cheese Croutes:

  • 16 (1/2-inch thick) slices French bread
  • olive oil (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 large clove garlic, cut in half
  • 7 ounces Sincerely Brigitte Chipotle Cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the bread slices on a cookie sheet. Brush the bread tops with the olive oil and rub the surfaces with the cut side of the garlic. Bake for about 15 minutes, turning them over once about halfway through. Remove the bread slices from the oven. Just before serving, place equal amounts of the grated cheese on top of each bread slice. Bake for 5-6 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. Place two croutes on top of each bowl of soup.

Ouch! It's So Cold

It's like 9 degrees outside.

And there's something wrong with our furnace so it's not exactly warm enough in the house either.

Fortunately, there's a serviceman here.

Plus a slow-cook dish in the oven.

Both, I trust, will get life warm soon enough.

Lamb Shanks with White Wine and Rosemary

  • 4 lamb shanks, about 1 pound each
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 large plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 leek, washed and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 habanero chili pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Trim any excess fat from the shanks. Pour the olive oil in a large, deep sauté pan over medium heat. Add the shanks and cook them for 8-10 minutes, turning them occasionally, to brown all sides. Remove them from the pan and set them aside. Pour out all but about a tablespoon of fat from the pan. Add the tomatoes, carrots, onion, leek, garlic and chili pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes to soften the vegetables slightly. Pour in the stock and wine, mix the ingredients and bring to a boil. Place the shanks into the vegetable mixture and baste a few times. Place the rosemary sprigs and parsley in the pan, season to taste with salt and pepper and cover the pan. Place the pan in the oven and cook for 2 to 2-1/2 hours or until the meat is soft. Discard the rosemary sprigs. Serve the lamb as is, with the vegetables and pan fluids OR, puree the pan fluids with the vegetables and serve it as gravy with the meat.

Makes 4 servings.