Winter’s Last Hurrah

Think about Winter for a second.

OK, stop. That was long enough, right?

Mercifully, that’s about how long there is left of this season. A second or two. In my haste to get to spring, I’ve been eating a lot of things that aren’t the usual cold weather comfort foods. Even though I’m still pretty much stuck with all the same winter ingredients.

Like kale.

And cabbage.

And apples.

But you know what? Even though I’m probably not the only one who is more than ready for the first sweet snap peas and their best buddy spring onions, I found that I can make do if I come up with a new recipe for those tired ingredients every now and then. Sometimes it takes a trip to the P-patch for a little inspiration (especially when you wake up to snow…in March), but after that I’m home free.

Heres a salad that’s got a lot of good things going for it, considering it’s full of foods that need a tropical vacation. It’s verdant, tangy crunch almost makes it OK that it isn’t a salad of tender greens and spicy-sweet young alliums.

Wait a minute…it is a salad of tender greens. And maybe those alliums are’t the youngest things on the block, but they still have a bit of kick left in them. And once they pick up cabbage off the curb and take her out on her blind date with apples, they’re pretty much a multiple marriage of the best kind. It’s sorta like a gussied up spring version of this salad, without the comforting starch of sweet potatoes and grains.

For this slaw, avoid the sometimes tough larger leaves of kale you get in the bunch and go for the littlest, tenderest ones. The ones that are so tender, even the stems almost don’t seem worth the trouble to remove them. And mince the onion pretty small–it lets the zing of raw onion shine without being overpowering.

Kale and Cabbage Slaw
makes 4 good sized side servings

2 heaping cups of the tenderest kale you can find
2 heaping cups shredded cabbage, about 1/4 of a small head
1 apple such as pink lady or braeburn
1 small red onion (think golf ball) or 1/2 a larger one
3 Tbsp good olive oil
2 Tbsp champagne vinegar
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp honey

Whisk together the last 4 ingredients in a good sized bowl and set aside.

Finely dice the onion. You could also leave them in thin slices if you want to save time, but I like the contrast of the smaller size. Whisk them into the vinaigrette.

Slice the 4 sides of the apple. I left the skin on, but you could peel it if you felt like it. You’ll have 2 largeish “halves” and two little end pieces. Cut each piece into thin slices and then do it again in the opposite direction. They’ll essentially be julienned. Toss them in the vinaigrette to keep them from browning.

Thinly slice the cabbage and add that in on top of the apples, but don’t toss yet. Next, chiffonade the kale leaves. Add those on top of the whole thing and then toss well to coat. Serve chilled. The salad will keep well for about a day, but like most salads, I wouldn’t recommend making it in advance.

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Something Fresh

Thursday was a hard day in computer land if you live in my house and your name is Venessa. My computer completely wacked out and had to be restored from a back-up that wasn’t quite complete.  Joe had to retrieve about 200 pictures from my camera card from over the last 3 weeks. I’m really really glad he knows a thing or two about computers. More than this guy at least.

I also had a lot of trouble getting somethings right in a post I was doing. It took me all afternoon to get it written and put pictures in, and when it finally came time to check the final draft I realized thatmuch of the formatting was way way off. This has been happening more and more over at blogspot and while I have been happy there, I decided it was just time for a change. There’s been too much frustration in my life lately, and that was one area I had some control over. Hopefully the transition goes smoothly.

That post was a recipe for a hearty muffin full of fiber and protein, and since I’m getting a fresh start in this fresh year and I already have been posting a little bit about eating light, I thought I would post this quick soup. It’s bright and rich at the same time. It’s incredibly flavorful and also incredibly easy on the waistline. Maybe your waist will look like this bulb of fennel’s if you eat it a lot.

Fennel (one of my favorite foods for like the past, oh, 2 or 3 years) and bright green apples go in, alongside a hit of fresh thyme and some other minor players. I didn’t really have a recipe but I imagine it would be good with pretty much whatever proportions you like, as long as you remember to balance it out in the end with the lemon juice to brighten it up. At least as bright as this friend’s plumage

I took it on a picnic to the zoo on Friday, in some borrowed thermoses. It was so nice to have a little cup of warmth after tromping around and making all the animal sounds out in the cold of an early January day. Topped with a little dollop of greek yogurt and a few more thyme leaves, it really hit the spot.

(I didn’t have anything witty to say about soup in cups. Sorry.)

Fennel and Apple Soup with Thyme

  • 2 bulbs fennel, fronds removed
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 green apple
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 large sprig fresh thyme or about 1 tsp dried, plus more for garnish
  • 2-3 cups veggie stock
  • 1 small winter squash, flesh only (I used a Delicata)
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • plain greek yogurt to garnish, optional

Roughly chop the fennel, celery, carrots, apple and squash. I didn’t peel anything except the squash, just chop it. Put it all in a pot and cover with stock. Add the thyme and a dash of salt, cover and let simmer. Once everything is pretty soft, after about 15-20 minutes, turn off the heat and puree completely either in batches in a blender or with an immersion blender. If it’s too thick you can add a little more stock, or if you like a thicker soup bring it back to a boil and then simmer on low for a little bit until it’s a consistency you like. Add about half the lemon juice and then taste, adding more salt or more lemon juice if you like.

Ladle into bowls and garnish each with about 1 Tbsp greek yogurt or so, and a sprinkling of thyme.

A bumper crop

Next week we are going to be out of town, so of course, this week is the week that I have two largish orders for custom cakes, a bushel of tomatoes to deal with and 75 lbs of fruit coming on Saturday.

The cakes are easy–they require a bit of work, but should come together smoothly and almost without thinking. That’s my job, after all.

The fruit, 50 lbs of apples and 25 of pears, will probably keep just fine in the cool basement for the 5 days we will be gone, so long as the cat doesn’t suddenly develop a taste for tree fruit. I just hope those raccoons don’t figure out how to get in the house…

The tomatoes, on the other hand, can’t wait. It’s been very rainy here this week so they all had to come in out of the downpour one way or another.  There were about 10 lbs of green ones, 5 or 6 lbs of ripe ones, and a couple of lbs that are halfway in between. Those ones, I don’t know what will happen to.  And I’ll have no problem getting rid of most of the ripe ones. Even Lilli eats at least a tomato a day.

But the rest, I found uses for with just a little bit of research and brain power.


I made tomatoes 5 ways this week, over the course of 3 nights.

First, I put up 4 quarts of green tomato mincemeat, made with honeycrisp apples and some asian pears I helped harvest from a neighborhood tree last week. Plenty of currants and spices, some lemons and sugar, and sometime this winter this delicious mix will meet it’s match in philo or pie dough.

Next, I started a couple different batches of green tomato pickles. One that needed 24 hours; and one only 12. One that had curry seasonings and mustard and sugar; one that was laced with garlic and mint and basil and chili.  One that is a simple refrigerator pickle and one that needed to be processed. I think the 2 probably couldn’t be much more different from each other, but each will be much appreciated in their own way.

Wait, let me take a step back. The very first thing I did, even before the mincemeat, was start some oven dried tomatoes. And tonight I finished that project, a tomato pesto that I borrowed from Ashley Rodriguez who writes one of my favorite blogs, Not Without Salt. I have never met a recipe from her that I didn’t like, so while I didn’t have time to test out this particular one beforehand, I knew it would be great. I decided to make a much larger batch than her original recipe calls for, because of the amount of ingredients I had. I altered it a bit also, so that I could freeze it and use up what I had instead of procuring new things.

Drying the tomatoes turned out to be a frustrating thing for me, because I lack patience. They took much longer than I thought they would, so I got them most of the way there and then gave up. I figured since they weren’t being kept as a dry ingredient anyway, it wasn’t a big deal.

The pesto turned out amazing, but, as with all things gooey, the pictures did not. Especially not in my night kitchen.

Chatting with the cat.

And after all was said and done, I still have a few nice green tomatoes to make into a tasty quick bread as an airplane snack.

Green Tomato Mincemeat
makes 4 quarts

4 quart jars full of whole green tomatoes, rinsed

1 ¼ cups vinegar or 1 cup vinegar and ¼ cup lemon juice
4 cups currants or raisins
2 lemons seeded and chopped up fine in a food processor
2 quart jars full of apples or apples and pears, quartered, skins removed, and sliced thinly
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp allspice
2 tsp salt
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups white sugar

A note about the fruit measurements. To measure the tomatoes, I packed them into a quart jar as I cleaned and de-stemmed them, stopping when I got to 4 jars worth. For larger tomatoes, I halved or quartered them to make more fit, but there was quite a bit of space in between the them, so don’t worry about packing the jars too full.  For the apples I filled the jars as I sliced the apples, and for these I did pack them in rather tight.

Chop up the tomatoes in a food processor, pulsing so that they don’t just turn to mush. You want the pieces to be roughly the size of a large lima bean, give or take. Pour into a large nonreactive pot.
For the apples and pears, I used one of those handy apple core turning machines. It peels the apples, cores and slices it all in one motion. (If you don’t have one and ever find one at a thrift store, buy it. You will thank yourself the next time you need to do anything with apples in large quantities.) I just cut the whole apple in quarters after putting it through the machine. If you don’t have one of these, peel the apples, quarter them, and slice them thin.
Add everything else to the pot, stir it up, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium and cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and the fruit has softened. The color will be much more uniform at this point as well.
Clean and sanitize 4 quart jars, and fill using a canning funnel, leaving 1/2″ headspace. Remove air bubbles with a thin rubber spatula and adjust filling level. Wipe the rims clean with a damp paper towel and seal. Process in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes. You might have more or less filling, depending on how long you cook it down. As long as your jars are completely full you can process them. Otherwise store the jars in the fridge and use within a couple of weeks.

And in case you didn’t see this floating around the internets, here’s my real motivation for canning and preserving: