Tuesday, December 28, 2010

January: In the Bleak Midwinter, There is Good Food Awaiting!


Black & Kidney Bean Chili Soup

Onion Soup and Garlic in White Wine

White Beans in Cream Sauce with Onions

Stewed Cabbage with Sausage

Beef Bourguignon

Vegetarian Chili

Winter Vegetable Pie

Hungarian Goulash with Pumpkin Chutney

Sweetbreads with Tarragon and Red Wine

Dried Tomato, Mushroom & Onion Pizza

Chicken Sage Lasagna

Marmalade Muffins

Apple Cinnamon Cake

Mincemeat Bread Pudding with Orange Brandy Sauce


Cranberry Apply Jelly

A shopping expedition in January is a very cold and daunting experience so dress in layers, zip up, wear that heavy toque you got from grandma for Christmas and let’s (not start that vehicle and burn fossil fuels) head to the neighbourhood grocery store for the ingredients for a delicious January meal based on the philosophy of enjoying foods that are ‘good, clean and fair’ according to the season. ‘Good’ because they are grown in Ontario, in the vicinity on farms that you support; ‘clean’ because they are destined to regional markets and therefore free from use of herbicides, pesticides, and additives that extend the life of the produce; and ‘fair’ because the producer has grown the produce under humane conditions and received a fair wage for his goods. Your grocery trip will necessarily result in a very low carbon footprint in that you’ve walked to the store and used food ingredients that have travelled a relatively short distance to get to your table.

This concept was put forward by Guido Petrini in Slow Food Nation, 2005 published by Rizzoli Ex Libris, to heighten awareness about the need to re-align our eating habits to think local, purchase healthy fresh ingredients and have a willingness to spend time preparing a fresh dinner. This ‘slow food movement’ is a conscious choice for many of us to actually turn away from companies who place before us in larger mega food chains heavily processed foods designed and packaged by international agri-businesses. In its place you may discover a wide array of choices you may have overlooked, so walk with me to the grocery store, smile at your local grocery owner and select the ingredients for an Onion Soup in White Wine, a Beef Bourguignon and an Apple Cinnamon Cake for dessert. Enjoy a fresh cole slaw in a light vinaigrette with the main course along with a robust red wine. Serve the Apple cinnamon cake warm with creme anglaise or English cream.

These dishes celebrate the foods that are grown locally and have been stored in cool dry conditions and also require preparation time. Look at the many available foods we can work with in this cold season. First dried bean, black, navy, kidney and lentils are very inexpensive, provide a great source of protein as does tofu, a bean curd that is used in many vegetarian dishes and makes a great meat substitute. Root vegetables provide vitamins and nutrition during this season. Dried fruit and nuts we also enjoy in this cold month as quick energy sources and great dessert ingredients.

This shopping list has 6-8 golden onions, 4 boxes of beef broth, 2 sticks French bread, a small block of parmesan cheese, creme anglaise, 3 oz. of bacon preferably uncut and smoked, 3 carrots, tomato paste, garlic, 1/2 lbs (250 grams) mushrooms, 11/2 lbs (750 grams) stewing beef and a bag of apples.

Onion & Garlic Soup

This is a notably light broth and will be a great starter for something substantial in the main course to come. Adjust the garlic to your taste. Remember that onions and garlic are very high in vitamin C, and of course very flavourful. This soup can be added to for a more hearty texture as a lunch the following day.

11/2 cups thinly sliced golden onions (375 ml)

6 cloves garlic or more dependent on taste

4 tbsp unsalted butter (50 ml)

6 cups beef broth

1/2 cup dry white wine (1500 ml)

1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

1/2 tsp dried thyme (2 ml)

6 slices of French bread cut in diagonal slices

1 cup grated parmesan (250 ml)

Gently sautee the onions and garlic in butter for 20 minutes under low heat in a large casserole then add 6 cups beef broth to simmer on medium heat for 30 minutes adding the wine in the last 10 minutes. Grill or broil buttered French bread and add the bread onto the top of the soup. Sprinkle a generous amount of parmesan cheese and place in the oven at 350 degrees to allow the cheese to melt. Serve directly from the casserole at the table.

Boeuf Bourguignon

(beef stew in red wine, bacon, onions and mushrooms)

Recently this recipe has gained renewed attention in the movie Julie/Julia: 2 True Stories. It is truly a delicious way to prepare beef and transforms a January evening meal into a celebration. The classic cookbook that is a new addition to my cookbook collection was co authored by Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck. Julia Child’s recipe in ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ 1961 published by Alfred A. Knopf is laborious so I have adapted the recipe to suit today’s cooking styles. Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.

3 oz smoked bacon in thick 6 inch lengths

3 lbs stewing beef

1 tbsp olive oil

1 carrot

1 onion

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

2 tbsp flour

11/2 cup beef bouillon

11/2 cup young full bodied wine

1 tbsp tomato paste

10 small pearl onions

1/2 tsp thyme

bay leaf

3 cloves garlic

Cook bacon on low heat, remove from pan and set on paper towel to drain. Add olive oil to pan and, after the stewing beef is patted dry, saute the beef gently a few pieces at a time. Place the stewing beef and bacon into a casserole pan. Add flour, salt and pepper by sprinkling over the cooked beef and stirring to coat each cube with flour. Place the casserole uncovered for 5 minutes in the oven to crust the beef. Chop the onion and carrot coursely. In the same oil and bacon fat, sautee the onion and carrot briefly and with a slotted spoon remove vegetables to place into the casserole layered over the beef. Add beef boullion, tomato paste and wine to your casserole. Over medium heat on the stovetop bring the stew to a simmer and reduce heat. Place in the oven for one hour. In the saucepan, add 2 tbsp butter, saute sliced mushrooms and small pearl onions and finally add the above to your bourguignon to the top layer along with crushed garlic and thyme. Return to the oven for another 11/2 hrs and serve with the rest of that young robust wine.

Apple Cinnamon Cake

You can still find fresh crispy Ontario MacIntoshes and Cortland apples in the local produce section. This is a soda bread originally made with pears but this adaptation will work very well too. After your beef bourguignon has come out of the oven, turn down the temperature to 350 degrees F. (180 degrees C.) and place your dessert in for cooking while the soup is being served. Use a spring form pan for this simple but very visually pleasing cake.

3 tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

3-4 thinly sliced unpeeled apples or dried apple slices

3 tbsp lemon juice

1/2 cup molasses

1/2 cup milk

1 egg

1/4 cup butter melted

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp allspice

21/4 cups unbleached flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

Place the butter in the bottom of the spring form pan and place in the oven while pre-heating until butter is melted. Remove from oven and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Arrange thinly sliced apples in a fanned circular manner over the bottom of the pan.

To make the cake batter, whisk molasses and melted butter with milk, egg and the second teaspoon of cinnamon until blended. Mix flour, sugar, soda and salt in a separate bowl. Add the mixture to the wet ingredients and spread this thick batter over the apples.

Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool briefly and release the spring form. Place a large dish over the top of the cake. Release the bottom of the pan from the fruit to display the apples taking care to use a rubber spatular to replace caramel sauce onto cake.

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