Sunday, January 5, 2014

What To Cook When It Snows

Snow storms make me feel extra domestic. I want to stay inside, all cozied up, and not see the outside world for days. As the snow accumulates outside the window, it looks as if the world has slowed down. It's silent. There's nothing better to do than cook and eat delicious food and enjoy hibernating for a little while.

It's natural to feel this way, and I know I'm not alone. So not alone, that upon visiting the specialty grocery store (North Shore Farms) as the snow began to fall, there was not a spot to park. Which is unusual around here. One reason I like my North Shore town (set out a bit from the bustling center stretch of Long Island) is that there is always a parking spot. A CLOSE parking spot, because it's just not that crowded up here. Last Thursday was the exception, as the threat of snow drives us all to hastily reserve our provisions and fire up our cookers. As humans, we are simply hard-wired for it.

Before the storm I collected lots of goodies to get us through. A big loaf of fresh-baked sourdough has multiple uses. Goat cheese and fresh mozzarella have potential, although my 14-month old will blast through the mozz all by himself, simply cubed. Aside from what I keep on hand always, green apples, avocados, citrus and cilantro are useful too.

As the snow started to fall, I set to work on the soup. It would easily be ready for an early dinner, and provide leftovers for lunches and snacks the next few days - especially after hard work shoveling snow and walking the dog.

Our blizzard-day meal:
Crazy Red Lentil Soup (click for recipe)
Golden Beet and Goat Cheese Salad (recipe below)
Sourdough Garlic Toast

Ian tried everything, but mostly ate goat cheese and our garlic bread. 

After shoveling and such, I needed a low-intensity comfort meal on Friday. I dug into my recipe archives for something easy to cook.

Our Snow-day menu:
Vegetarian BBQ Chicken Pockets (click for recipe)
Cajun Potato Wedges (recipe below)
Fennel and Apple Salad (click for recipe)

*The salad was made hours ahead, as the fennel is much more tender after it marinates in the lemon. I started roasting the potatoes first while preparing the pockets. After 15 minutes, I lowered the oven heat from 425 to 375 to bake the pockets, and let the potatoes finish at the lower temp.

Our favorite snow-day beer: Blue Moon's seasonal Mountain Abbey Ale. Beer + sugar = yum! 

I gave Ian this same meal for lunch the next day and he loved every bit of it.  

Golden Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
*I prefer to work with yellow beets, as they are a bit milder, and a lot less messy for a toddler to handle than the red variety. 

golden beets (1 medium beet per serving)
plain chevre or crumbled goat cheese
baby spinach or mixed greens
hazelnuts, lightly toasted

1/4 C fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 C (up to 1/2 C) extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
*1/4 tsp honey, optional
salt & pepper

Heat oven to 425F. Prepare the beets by trimming the stems to 1/2" and rinsing scrubbing the skin well. Pierce each beet a few times with a sharp knife. Place in a glass baking dish covered with aluminum foil and roast 45-60 minutes. When a knife inserts to the centers easily, remove form the oven and let cool. Trim, peel and slice the beets and set aside.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk together equal parts lemon juice and olive oil. Taste, and adjust the ratio to your liking, if needed. I prefer a strong citrus flavor to contrast the goat cheese, but you may like more oil, up to 1/2 Cup total. Whisk in the mustard and season with salt and pepper. To make a slightly sweeter dressing, mix in a tiny bit of honey.

Toss the greens with a little vinaigrette. Layer the greens, crumbled goat cheese, and sliced beets on plates. Drizzle lightly with the vinaigrette and top with toasted hazelnuts and black pepper.

Leftover dressing may be stored at room temperature overnight, or refrigerated for about 2 days.


Cajun Potato Wedges

Yukon gold or other creamer potatoes (2 medium potatoes per person)
Olive oil
Cajun Seasoning mix (Dinosaur BBQ Cajun Foreplay is my favorite - super flavorful, not too spicy)
Black Pepper

Heat oven to 425F. Rinse and scrub potatoes and cut into wedges no more than 1/2" thick. Drizzle olive oil on a baking sheet and arrange wedges in 1 layer, drizzling more oil over them. Sprinkle generously with cajun seasoning. Place in oven and check after 10 minutes. Flip each potato and bake another 10-15 minutes until golden on all sides. 




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