What I’m cooking: Winter 2020

What I’m cooking

This is like… four months of “what I’m cooking.”

I had so much quince puree from the fall that I made this quince almond cake, which smelled for all the world like graham crackers when I pulled it out of the oven despite sharing few if any of the ingredients. Since we had just watched the lush finale of Great British Bake-off, my little cake looked so bare that my gentleman and I whipped up a quick vanilla bean syrup to pour over it–which was nice, but it truly didn’t need the extra moisture.

This African peanut stew was a hearty, tasty way to use up some sweet potatoes and kale.

I had some friends over for dinner (mini gnocchi from a package with sausage, spinach, and my own tomato sauce) and realized I had nothing sweet to offer, so I threw together these eggless fudgy brownies–I didn’t even melt the chocolate, just stirred everything up in one bowl without losing pace with our lively kitchen chatter. They were really good for how low-effort they were. Low-effort is really the theme this winter: I rely on variations on my standards like collards in peanut sauce, kimchi rice, chicken and lentil stew, crunchy salads with baked salmon.

I am still picking up my CSA every other week. There are always potatoes, onions, and apples; occasional other root veggies like turnips, carrots, and parsnips; salad ingredients like lettuce, kohlrabi, and carrots; oranges and grapefruits apparently sourced from Florida; and a couple of different kinds of greens. The greens have been a journey! I thought I was well-versed in greens, but I’ve gotten every type of kale possible: full-grown adult kale, baby kale leaves, and “kalelettes” which appear to the little short leafknobs from the top of adult kale. Kalelettes reminded me of brussels sprouts, but looser-leaved; I could have roasted them but I ended up chopping off their stems and throwing the leaves in a stew. There is tatsoi regularly, which I enjoy; it behaves like spinach, but is milder in flavor. I also got mache, which apparently you can eat raw in salad, but I sauteed it and stirred it into scrambled eggs.

Ever since the game night dinner, I’ve been periodically making mashed potatoes–sometimes with turnips or parsnips–and then mixing them with a little flour and egg as we did for the S’jirra’s potato bread recipe from the Skyrim cookbook. I had no idea how important that little recipe was going to be to my low-effort cooking and snack-making! Here’s a pretty similar recipe, minus the egg (which we forgot the first time we made these anyway). The friend who lent me the Skyrim cookbook makes his with curry seasoning and green peas so they taste like samosas.

What I’m looking forward to cooking

We haven’t gotten much of a winter here in Philly. A few light snow flurries that melted on contact with the stilll-warm surface. A few days with freezing air temps. But mostly it’s been mild and sunny or mild and rainy, and I can’t stop thinking about spring. I’m ready for strawberries, new greens, asparagus. What if we skipped winter this year?

One new thing in my life is that I’ve been taking online climate science courses through my university, and while it has taken some effort to get back in the science class saddle, I really value having a more nuanced understanding of what’s happening globally. For example, I did a presentation on the North Atlantic Oscillation, so I’m aware that we are currently experiencing a positive North Atlantic Oscillation index, which leads to a warm rain winter for Philly. It will snow again someday! That’s helpful to know, although of course the global temperature is rising.

One of my New Year’s resolutions this year is to adopt more sustainable practices–I am but one human and my impact is small, but I have to believe my actions matter and keep it moving. Living more sustainably will mean some changes to my food practices, but so far they have been small ones. I already save and make broth out of veggie scraps, for example; this year I hope to get a compost service to repurpose the rest of my food waste. I already save reusable materials like takeout containers and the plastic bags I store my stock scraps in; I’m gradually replacing other single-use items with more durable materials: glass containers instead of plastic, silicone freezer bags instead of plastic, cloth instead of paper towels.

I am always, always interested in hearing what at-home practices people are doing to reduce their waste or divert it from landfill.

What I’m writing

My other New Year’s resolution was to get some of my writing published this year. That will take a little more time to bring about, but I’ve been much more consistent about keeping up my writerly habit and feeling optimistic about it. Most of this isn’t public yet, but I am posting to my personal blog more often. For example, I always intended to write about my grandmother’s dishes for this blog, but that post just wouldn’t come together, and then they made an appearance in another post about my grandmother’s house. (Content note: I wrote it when my aunt passed away this fall and it is… about that, too.)

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