What I’m cooking: February

What I’m cooking:

I’ve been in a bit of a rut since the farmer’s markets closed down for the season; I can’t get excited about cooking and just make the same easy and economical dishes over and over again. But one day early in February, I left my weeknight dance class with a powerful craving for beef stew. I happened to have beef cubes which were originally intended to go in my habitual beef kimchi soup, but suddenly all I wanted to do was simmer them in a hearty broth with potatoes and carrots and pour them over pasta. So I did exactly that. No recipe: just browned the beef and set aside, browned onions and potatoes, toasted seasonings and flour in the drippings, and simmered it all together in a quart of beef stock I happened to have in the freezer.

Aside from that, the only exciting developments in my kitchen have been preserved in jars: Meyer lemons, jalapenos, mirlitons, bread and butter pickles. February’s fresh produce selection isn’t inspiring, but the bright colors and sharp smells of pickling remind me that spring is coming.

What I’m looking forward to cooking:

I’m having some friends over for Carnivalentine’s Day, a mash-up of Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras. The Valentine portion of the menu is easy: I always make heart-shaped sugar cookies, and royal icing in different colors to decorate. I’m feeling nostalgic for New Orleans this year, but I’m not very experienced cooking creole cuisine–I’m allergic to bell peppers, so I’m not especially fond of the regional classics. However, when you’re the cook, you can do the roux the way you want to. I’ll be making red beans and rice for the first time, and also oven-fried pickles–fried pickles definitely make me nostalgic for my NOLA days!

What I’m writing:

I get tuition benefits through my university employer, so I decided to take some online writing classes to get into the habit of writing outside of work. My current course is on professional writing, so we are writing about work–but that’s been a useful experiment for me, as the kind of writing we do for class is very different from my day-to-day tasks. So far, aside from responses to discussion prompts, I’ve written a couple of short pieces–stories about work, character sketches of myself and a few colleagues, some story shapes. Nothing I’m quite ready to share, but I was inspired to update the terribly outdated bio on my book blog.

What’s cooking for you, friends?

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