Winter Citrus Quinoa Salad

There is no better time to have a salad than in the winter. Yep, that’s right: Salads aren’t just summer fare. When the cold weather settles in, it’s even more important to get our daily dose of vitamins and nutrients. Luckily, winter brings its own produce rock stars – from glistening citrus to sturdy greens, hardy crucifers, and root vegetables. Shredded, chopped, and juiced, these ingredients can be layered into hefty salads laden with dried fruit, nuts, and seeds and dubbed a complete meal.

This hearty salad is inspired by tabbouleh, a Middle Eastern bulgur salad liberally mixed with lemon, garlic, and gads of fresh herbs. In this recipe, the bulgur is switched out with quinoa, a nutrient-rich seed, which is high in protein and gluten-free, and can be prepared like a grain. A shower of herbs and shredded red cabbage add crisp texture and flavor, while a variety of peppers and dried fruit add heat and sweetness.

The key to making this salad is to taste as you build it. There should be a balance of citrus, fragrance, heat, and spice – as well as a balance of textures. Quinoa requires a good amount of seasoning for good flavor, so season the quinoa before adding it to the salad. You will also find that the flavors of the salad will meld if it can sit for an hour or two before serving. No worries about wilting, the sturdy veggies in the salad will stay fresh and crisp.

Winter Citrus Quinoa Salad

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes plus chilling time
Serves: 6 as a side dish or salad

Extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups red quinoa
3 cups water
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
4 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1 large poblano pepper, seeded, finely diced
1 yellow or red bell pepper, seeded, finely diced
1 cup finely shredded red cabbage
1 bunch fresh Italian parsley, leaves chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro sprigs, leaves chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins, chopped if large
1 garlic clove, minced
1 to 2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1. Rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve and thoroughly drain.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the quinoa and cook for 1 minute to lightly toast the seeds, stirring frequently. Carefully add the water (it will sizzle). Bring to a boil and simmer, partially covered, over medium-low heat until the quinoa is tender and releases its germ, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain the quinoa and transfer to a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon oil, the lime juice, 1 teaspoon salt, the cumin, paprika, coriander, and cayenne. Stir to combine and cool to room temperature.
3. Add the scallions, peppers, cabbage, parsley, cilantro, raisins, garlic, orange juice, and Tabasco. Stir to combine and taste for seasoning. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 3 hours. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Easy Holiday Baking: Persimmon Teacake

I discovered persimmons when I lived in Europe, where they are commonly known as sharon fruit. They were a mystery to me at first, these orange tomato-shaped creatures – how to eat them? Skin or no skin? I quickly learned to enjoy persimmons in their entirety, with their taught crisp skin giving way to dribbling soft, honey-sweet flesh. Now I live in California, where persimmon trees grow in our garden. In the fall, when the leaves are still intact, the persimmon trees are at their prettiest. Their fruit continues to ripen, and their pumpkin-orange skin is striated with shades of gold and sage, while the robust leaves are streaked in crimson. Come winter, when the leaves have fallen, the fruit continues to cling to the barren branches, dangling like forgotten Christmas ornaments, ripe for plucking.

There are two types of persimmons: the round squat fuyu and the more upright heart-shaped hachiya. The hachiya must be eaten at its ripest, which means incredibly squishy, to avoid its astringent unripened flesh. It’s best to enjoy an hachiya as a big juicy slurp with a napkin in hand, or blending its pulp into baked goods. Unlike the hachiya, the fuyu is not astringent, so it may be eaten firm or soft. I enjoy the firmness of fuyus when their consistency is similar to a crisp pear. At this stage they hold their shape well and have a soft sweetness, which makes them a great addition to salads and salsas. The firm fuyu fruit can also be grated and mixed into baked goods, just as you would grate a carrot into cakes -– such as in this teacake.

Persimmon Olive Oil Teacake
Makes 1 loaf

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely grated fuyu persimmon, packed, about 2 persimmons
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Butter or oil a loaf pan.
2. Whisk the flour, almond flour, cinnamon, cardamom, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.
3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugars until light and fluffy, then whisk in the oil and vanilla. Add the flour ingredients and stir to just combine without overmixing. Stir in the persimmon and walnuts.
4. Pour the batter into the baking pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes clean, about one hour, depending on the shape of the pan. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Comfort Food Necessities: Braised Short Ribs with Red Wine

short-rib-braise-tastefood

It’s the time of year when we need a recipe like this: A pot of slow cooked, melt-in-your mouth, braised short ribs, blanketed in a rich, fortified, and deeply spiced sauce, evoking warmth, heat, and comfort. You can say it’s due to the climate, the holiday season, or even current events, but this braise will satisfy your craving and smooth your mood, focusing your attention solely on the task of digging into this heart (and belly) warming stew, one spoonful at a time.

I make variations of this recipe under the guise of other comfort-food terms, such as Beef Bourguignon and Irish Stew. The ingredients shift slightly, but the principle is the same: Braising chunks of meat by first thoroughly browning them in a pan, then submerging the pieces into an aromatic stock of broth and wine, before banishing the whole lot to the oven for a couple of hours to simmer, marinate, and acquiesce into fork tender morsels swimming in a heady concoction of heat and spirits. The key is time and patience, which, frankly, is a rewarding exercise in itself. Ideally, you will exert even more time and patience in this process, and begin making this dish one day in advance of serving. This way, the stew can chill overnight, further intensifying the flavor, while allowing the persnickety fat to rise to the top of the stew so that it can be deftly removed the following day before rewarming.

This short rib recipe is a favorite, with a rich and smoky sauce  spiked with the heat of chipotle, and balanced by nuggets of sweet carrot, onion, and baby turnips. I made it recently and captured the photo with my iPhone – we were too famished and greedy to wait for me to fiddle with a camera before tucking in.

Red Wine and Chipotle Braised Short Ribs

Serves 4 to 6.

Dry rub:
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 pounds short ribs, cut into 3-inch pieces

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 (750 ml) bottle heavy-bodied red wine
1/4 cup chipotles in adobo, chopped with juices
1 bay leaf
2 cups beef stock (or chicken stock)

2 large carrots, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch slices
8 ounces pearl or small cippoline onions, peeled
1 bunch baby (Tokyo) turnips, trimmed and scrubbed (optional)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoon light brown sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Braise:
1. Combine the dry rub spices in a small bowl. Arrange the ribs on a rimmed baking tray. Rub the spices all over the ribs. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour (or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before browning).
2. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. In batches without crowding the pan, brown the ribs on all sides, about 8 minutes. (This step is very important, so take the time to do it well). Transfer to a plate or bowl and repeat with the remaining ribs.
4. Drain off the fat from the pot. Add 1 tablespoon oil, the onion, and garlic and sauté over medium heat until softened without coloring, about 3 minutes, stirring up the brown bits in the pan with a wooden spoon.
5. Add the cumin, paprika, and coriander and cook, stirring, just until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the tomato paste and stir to create a nice slurry.
6. Add the wine, chipotles, and bay leaf and return the ribs and any collected juices to the pot. Pour in the stock. If the ribs are not completely covered with the liquid, add more stock or wine to top off the ribs. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven and braise until the ribs are very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours, stirring every hour or so.
7. Remove the pot from the oven. Uncover and let the braise cool slightly. At this point you can remove the bones and cut away any gristle from the ribs or proceed with the bones intact – it’s up to you and how you like to serve the ribs. Return the meat to the pot, then cover and refrigerate overnight. (This step is helpful because it will allow the fat to congeal on the top of the stew, which can be easily removed the next day, while allowing the flavors to develop overnight. Alternatively, proceed with Step 2 of the finishing process and skim fat with a spoon while the sauce reduces.)

Finish:
1. At least 1 hour before serving, remove the pot from the refrigerator and lift off the layer of fat on the surface of the stew.
2. Sauté the carrots, onions, and turnips (if using) in 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat until they are crisp tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Lightly season with salt.
3. Gently reheat the braise over medium-low heat until the stock is liquid enough to remove the ribs. Carefully remove the ribs from the sauce and arrange in a baking dish.
4. Bring the sauce to a boil and simmer over medium heat until reduced by about half and thickened to a rich sauce consistency, 10 to 15 minutes. Return the beef to the pot and add the vegetables, vinegar, and sugar. Simmer until thoroughly heated, 5 to 7 minutes and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or keep warm until serving.

Smothered Meatballs Marinara

meatball marinara tastefood

When it’s cold and rainy (or snowy!), I crave hearty warming dinners like meaty stews and slow-cooked braises. The other day I purchased  a few kilos of ground beef and pork from a local ranch to throw in the freezer for a rainy day, but not before setting aside a few pounds to cook for dinner. It was only 8:00 in the morning and I already knew what I would be making that afternoon – comforting meatballs smothered in marinara sauce.

Smothered Italian Meatballs in Marinara Sauce

The key ingredient in this recipe is a generous amount of grated Pecorino Romano cheese, which melts into the meat and adds rich, salty flavor. A kick of crushed red chile pepper doesn’t hurt either. (You can reduce the red pepper if you prefer a milder version.)

Makes about 24 (1 1/2-inch) meatballs

1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup breadcrumbs or Panko
1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon marjoram

Marinara Sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can crushed Italian plum tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil for pan frying
Finely chopped Italian parsley
Grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese

Prepare the meatballs:
Combine the meatball ingredients in a large bowl. Using your hands, gently mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Shape the meat into 1 1/2-inch balls, without over working the meat. (Wet your hands with cold water from time to time to prevent sticking.) Place the meatballs on a platter and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Prepare the sauce:
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs in batches, without over crowding, and brown, turning as needed, about 5 minutes. (The meatballs will not be cooked through at this point. They will continue to cook in the sauce.) Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining meatballs.

Add the sauce to the skillet and cook briefly over medium heat, stirring up any brown bits in the pan. Add the meatballs to the sauce and turn to coat. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until the meatballs are thoroughly cooked through, about 30 minutes. Serve with garnished with chopped parsley and grated cheese.

Glogg: Hot Spiced Wine, Nordic-style

glogg wine TasteFood

Steamy, fragrant, and boosted with spirits, gløgg is an elixir that will warm the hardiest viking. Throughout the month of December, this libation is a Nordic staple, served in cafes, doled out from street carts, and ladled at social gatherings. It’s the season’s response to the cold and dark and as ubiquitous as herring and snaps. Most home cooks will make their own brew, either enabled by a mix or from scratch. This recipe is my version of gløgg from scratch, and I encourage you to try this method. It avoids the cloying sweetness often found with mixes and is remarkably easy to prepare. You don’t have to splurge on a nice bottle of wine for this recipe, but be sure it has heft.

Gløgg (also known as mulled wine and glüwein)
Serves 8 to 10

For the garnish:
1 cup raisins
1/3 cup Cointreau or Gran Marnier
1/2 cup whole almonds (optional)

For the gløgg:
1 1/2 cups Port wine
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup Cointreau or Gran Marnier
1/3 cup brown sugar
Zest of 2 untreated or organic oranges, shaved in strips with a vegetable peeler
10 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bottles full-bodied red wine

Fresh orange slices as garnish

Prepare the garnish:
Combine the raisins and Cointreau in a small bowl. Let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours. (The raisins may be prepared up to one week in advance.  Cover and refrigerate until use). Toast the almonds in a dry skillet on the stove. Remove from the heat and coarsely chop into large pieces.

Prepare the gløgg:
Combine all of the gløgg ingredients, except the 2 bottles of red wine, in a heavy large pot with a lid. Bring to a boil, the reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the liquid reduces to about 2 cups, about 12 to 15 minutes. Add the red wine, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to low. Heat the gløgg without letting it come to a boil (lest the spirits will evaporate!)

To serve, add a spoonful each of raisins and almonds, if using, to a glass or mug.  Strain the gløgg into the glass. Garnish with fresh orange slices and serve with a spoon for scooping up the raisins and almonds.

 

Winter Greens and Beets with Balsamic Vinaigrette

beet salad Lynda BalslevMarinated Beets, Arugula, Spinach, Pistachios, Feta, Mint

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can’t have a salad. In fact, winter is a great time to eat a bowl of healthy greens – chock full of vitamins, nutrients and fiber, a sure-fire way to keep the doctor away. While summer salads are often light and ethereal, winter salads have heft, laden with all sorts of goodies like nuts, cheese, and dried fruit.

winter greens

Winter Greens and Baby Beets with Balsamic Vinaigrette

This recipe is brimming with baby kale, spinach, radicchio, and chard, sprinkled with nuts and seeds, and sweetened with roasted beets. A rich and potent vinaigrette naps the leaves, taming and binding the bitter, nutty, earthy flavors. I make a dressing, with rich, sweet and viscous balsamic, and slightly thicken it with Dijon mustard, so the dressing is sure to cling to the leaves. Mix and match your favorite greens from what’s available in the farmers market. Be sure to include a combination of bitter and mild flavors as well as a variety of color and texture. For this salad I used spinach, chard, baby kale, radicchio, and arugula, and flowering broccolini as a garnish.

Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salad:
1/2 pound baby or small beets, roasted, peeled, cooled
8 cups assorted greens
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese or feta (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoon pepitas

Whisk the vinegar, garlic, mustard, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add the oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to emulsify.

Cut the beets into quarters or halves, depending on the size. Place the greens in a large bowl. Add half of the dressing and toss to thoroughly coat. Scatter the beets, pistachios, and pepitas over the salad. Drizzle with the remaining dressing to taste.

Winter Vegetable Soup with Greens and Grains

Winter Vegetable Soup with Greens and Grains

winter vegetable soup tf

I make a version of this soup throughout the fall and winter. The recipe is easy and delicious, following a simple template which I switch up with different seasonal vegetables, often a grain, and sometimes beans. The basic stock is chicken, to which I add a can of Italian plum tomatoes for fruity acidity, plus a hunk of Parmesan rind which breaks down while cooking, adding a little oomph (aka umami) to the broth. From there I embellish, adding a grain, such as farro or barley, and chunks of sturdy vegetables, such as fennel, butternut squash, and carrot. If I crave more substance (think one-pot dinner), I’ll dump a can of cannellini beans or chickpeas into the mix. Finally, I stir in chopped hearty greens, such as kale, mustard, or spinach, and simmer until they just wilt but remain bright and fresh. You can do this too – use the following recipe as your template, and mix and match the veggies and grains to your taste.

Winter Vegetable Soup with Greens and Grains
Serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, thinly sliced (or 1 1/2 cups cubed butternut squash)
1 small fennel bulb, fonds and end trimmed, halved and thinly sliced
1 cup uncooked barley or farro
1 (15-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes, with juice
6 cups chicken stock, or more as needed
1 (2 to 3 inch) Parmesan rind
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 to 2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained (optional)
2 cups coarsely chopped kale (or spinach)
Grated Parmesan for garnish

Heat the oil over medium heat in a soup pot. Add the onion and sauté until it begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the carrot or squash and the fennel. Saute until brightened in color, about 2 minutes. Add the barley and stir to coat, then add the tomatoes, chicken stock, cheese rind, bay leaf, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender and the barley is tender, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon. If the soup becomes too thick, add more stock as necessary. Add the beans, if using, and bring to a boil, then add the greens and simmer until bright green in color and just wilted. Taste for seasoning. Serve hot with grated cheese.

Like the bowl? Many thanks to Terrestra for lending me this lovely bowl created by Jars Provence.