Tag Archives: winter

Ribollita (Italian Bread Stew)

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The dirty secret no one ever talks about during the holidays is … that shizz is expensive. Between the gifts and the travel and the ungodly amounts of food (if you’re hosting) and the dozens of fancier-than-you’d-ever-drink-at-home wine bottles (if you’re “guest”-ing), it can all really add up. I end up spending so much for the special occasion nights that regular nights call for especially humble meals.

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But “humble” doesn’t necessarily equal “boring” or “lame.” There are a plethora of budget-friendly recipes that are both delicious and hearty enough to keep you full for a long time (essential when trying to keep costs down). Most cheap meals combine some form of starch with a vegetable protein — think rice and beans, or my favorite, kitcheree, a rice-and-lentil stew that was a staple in our house growing up, especially on cold, rainy nights.

Since my mom’s recipe is mostly a “throw some of this in and a little of that and maybe this, but I can’t remember” situation, I went with ribollita, an Italian bread stew, instead. Ribollita relies on stale bread and canned beans for its starch + protein combo, and gets additional bulk from frozen vegetables and canned tomatoes. I contemplated throwing in a wee bit of crumbled sausage, but this soup doesn’t need it — it’s a perfect reminder that vegetarian fare can be just as hearty and heart-warming as a meat-laden stew, often for a fraction of the cost.

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The one bit of luxury I added to the pot? A few pieces of Parmeggiano rind, which, to be fair, you can totally buy for cheap-ish and freeze forever. (Or ask the person at the cheese counter if they have any extras they’d like to “donate.”) The rind adds a bit of salty, nutty depth to the soup — it’s optional though, and the soup has plenty of flavor without it.

This recipe makes a gigantic batch of ribollita, which is perfect for freezing and re-heating throughout the holidays. And since you’re saving a few bucks on dinner, you can splurge a bit on holiday merriment.

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Cider-Braised Corned Beef and Cabbage

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After spending the past few days in sun-soaked beachside paradise, I have returned to the brutal realities of 15-degree weather. Yes — hopefully for the last time in a long, long time (but probably not, since I see yet another little snowflake in next week’s forecast) — i am yet again complaining about the weather. I’m boring, I know. I’ve accepted it.

During this week’s search for comfort food, I turned to the Irish. No stranger to long, bitterly cold winters, the Irish have a plethora of hearty fare to warm you right up: lamb stews, shepherd’s pie, colcannon and corned beef. While I had originally planned to make a lentil-based vegan shepherd’s pie (inspired by one I had at Nice Matin during Restaurant Week a few weeks ago), Fresh Direct had a sale on corned beef and I was extremely intrigued.

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So, 3.5 pounds of meat later, I’ve learned a few things. A) Generally not a good idea to order 12-14 servings of meat when you’re cooking for one. (In other news, does anyone have any recipes for corned beef beyond hash and sandwiches? Anyone? Bueller?)

B) As it turns out, corned beef and cabbage isn’t traditionally Irish. The traditional dish is bacon and cabbage, using thick slices of back bacon (aka Irish or Canadian bacon). Corned beef is a New England thing, and became popular among Irish-Americans in the mid-19th century.

C) Corned beef is produced by brining a cut of beef, usually brisket, for 7-10 days. Common brine ingredients include mustard seeds, peppercorns, allspice berries, cloves, bay leaves and, of course, salt (“corns” are large grains of salt, hence the name). After the meat is cured, it is again braised, with cabbage, potatoes and other root vegetables.

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Since boiled meat sounds blecch, I decided to braise the corned beef in cider. Last month, the lovely Alex of Chez Sasha invited me to a dinner hosted by Plated and Stella Artois, to launch their new hard cider, Cidre (so Belgian). Alex wrote about the event in more detail on her blog, but the moral of the story is that we got to bring home bottles of Cidre. Since most of my home drinking is exclusively reserved for red wine, I thought the cider would be nice with the corned beef — a slightly tart sweetness to balance the salty meatiness of the beef.

When Googling around for recipes, I also stumbled across Suzanne Goin’s genius idea of roasting the corned beef once it’s braised. A few minutes in the oven caramelizes the fat and crisps up the meat, creating a delicious crust that adds some texture to the otherwise soft-as-a-pile-of-feathers beef. (In case you don’t remember, braising is my absolute favorite way to transform tough cuts of meat into impossibly flavorful bites of heaven.)

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What really makes this corned beef and cabbage sing is the addition of mustard. Goin’s recipe calls for a mustard-parsley sauce, but even my lazy squirts of spicy brown were perfect: a sharp edge to cut through the rich, salty meat.

Which brings me to my last lesson: D) If you’re not a cabbage person (these two dishes aside) and you don’t like salty things and you hate lunchmeat, maybe not a good idea to make a huge batch of corned beef and cabbage on a whim … St. Patrick’s Day party at my house, everyone? Continue reading

Sausage-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

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It’s sweet potato week on this blog, people! I inadvertently made two recipes featuring them this weekend, since I’ve basically floated between the same three or four vegetables during this never-ending winter. You’ve seen them all here: Brussels sprouts, winter squash, kale, and of course, the glorious sweet potato. I should probably expand my palate to include some other winter staples (though, hello beets and carrots!), but a girl can only stay away from her brassicas for so long.

Some sweet potato trivia to blow your friends’ minds at your next party: though we often use “sweet potato” and “yam” interchangeably, these vegetables are completely different. What I’ve used in this recipe is a sweet potato, which originated in either Central or South America. There are many varieties (not all of them have orange flesh), but they are generally sweet, have a thin skin and are commonly found in the U.S. True yams originated in Africa and Asia, are more starchy than true sweet potatoes, and have a much rougher, scalier skin. You likely won’t find them at your local supermarket. Here’s more if you’re interested. (Am I the only person who finds this fascinating? Is this why people avoid me at parties?)

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But I’ll assume you’re not here for a botany lesson. You’re here for the deliciousness that is salty, spicy sausage and garlicky, crunchy, faintly bitter kale tucked inside the buttery soft, sugary sweet flesh of a baked garnet sweet potato. Topped with a sprinkle of Pecorino, these sausage-stuffed sweet potatoes are full of contrasts in flavor and texture, the kind of meal that looks and tastes fancy but is deceptively easy.

While the oven does all of the work for the potatoes, you simply crumble up some hot Italian sausage (I used chicken, but pork works too), then saute an onion, some garlic and a whole lot of kale until it’s crisp-tender. The hardest part is waiting for the sweet potatoes to cool before ripping them open and stuffing them.

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*Seriously. I had to fly the coop so that my toes could finally defrost. Also, the promise of 80-degree temps is the only way Milan could get me to visit LA. In related news, I will be practicing my #surfbort moves from now until Sunday morning, when I try my very first surfing lesson (!!) Continue reading

Carrot Soup with Turkey Meatballs and Spinach

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In case there was any confusion, let me make one (sad) thing clear: from late December to mid-March, 5 out of 7 days of the week I am eating some form of soup. Whether it’s 4 degrees out or 54 (like it was on Monday — can it please stay that way forever?), I will invariably be packing soup for lunch, fingers crossed that nothing spills on my way to the office.

Why take this risk day in and day out, for months on end? Because soup is awesome. It is warming without being excessively heavy, and if you eschew the sodium-laden/cream-heavy versions, it can be extremely healthy without feeling too much like “diet food” (cabbage soup aside). Plus, they’re infinitely adaptable — throw whatever vegetables you have in there, some spices and maybe some herbs, simmer for a half hour. Boom. You will undoubtedly have something pretty tasty.

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And while a decent soup is still a very delicious lunch, to get it to that “ohmygahhh this is SO good” level, I called in the big guns. (And by “I”, obvi I mean Deb from Smitten Kitchen, who created this recipe for Parade.) Carrots form the base of the soup — and we all know how much I like carrot soup — but this version becomes a heartier meal with the addition of tiny turkey meatballs, cooked in the soup itself. A few handfuls of spinach at the end add some color and texture, plus of course they make this carrot soup “Resolution-ary”-approved.

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Now that I’ve admitted that I have a soup obsession, one of my goals this winter is to branch out a bit. What are your go-to winter meals? Continue reading

Moroccan Beef Stew

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I was supposed to be talking about kale today. It’s the first week of January, and I, like everyone else in America, am back on a diet that started off strong with a delicious massaged kale salad with roasted butternut squash.

But then I woke up to 7 inches of snow on my doorstep and a “Feels like -5F” wind chill, and salads were pushed far from my mind. I just complained about the weather a few weeks ago so I’ll spare you the details of my agony, but let’s just say that I’ve spent some quality time in bed this week, canceling plans and skipping the gym to hide under my covers.

If there’s anything good that can come of these frosty temps, it’s stew. Stews are the perfect thing to make when it’s cold out — they’re hearty comfort food and take so long to cook that they double as heating.

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My original plan was to make a vegetarian stew that doubled as “first week of January” fare — you know, the wholesome, I’m-on-a-diet-now stuff filled with vegetables and lean protein, etc.? But then I stepped outside and realized that nothing but a big bowl of beef stew could cut through this chill, so I swapped out the chickpeas for cubes of lean beef. It’s perhaps not as diet-friendly as kale salad (few things are), but it’s not all that bad for you. Carrots, potatoes, butternut squash, zucchini and tomatoes simmer with the beef, and the spices–cumin, cinnamon, turmeric and ginger–are all supposed to have health benefits. (Plus they add a Moroccan touch to the recipe, and we all know how obsessed I am with that.)

The end result is a spicy, filling and most importantly, warming, stew that is delicious on Day 1, even better on Day 2, and freezes beautifully. That means the next time it’s cold out, I’ll have Moroccan beef stew and you won’t have to hear about the weather. Again.

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Not quite the stew you’re looking for? Try one of these: Beef Stew with Root Vegetables, Butternut Squash Chili with Black Beans (also Beef or Turkey Chili), Chicken Tagine with Chickpeas and Apricots, Chipotle Beef with Cheddar GritsGreen Chili and Pork Posole, Quick Vegetable Stew (it’s diet-friendly!), Stewed Chickpeas with Kale (also diet-friendly), and Stovetop Braised Short Ribs.

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