Yes, you can just throw cranberries in sauce and call it a day. But these tart red fruits deserve to show up more often when they're in season. One of my favorite ways to serve them is to simply douse them in a simple syrup, drain them, and toss them in sugar. The resulting Sugared Cranberries have a crispy little sugar shell around their bright flavor. They keep for at least a week if kept nice and dry in an air-tight container. Use them to decorate other desserts, or place them in a bowl for a pretty sweet little snack.
Also, did you know you can make Dried Cranberries at home with just an oven? It's true. And you can control how dry you want them - chewy gooey or crispy crunchy.
When in places where I'm unsure of how tasty or fresh the food might be, I have two default orders: a BLT or a Cobb salad. Both are so simple and the ingredients are so widely available and the elements keep enough of their own character for evaluation, that even a mediocre one is pretty darn tasty and a crappy one is somewhat tolerable.
The BLT above made my day last week. In a sea of scary pre-made food at a convention center, I watched the counter person layer in the bacon, lettuce, and tomato before handing it over. Granted, I was remarkably hungry, but this simple combination tasted great, even with the tiny packet of mayo I had to spread on myself. At home I make them with aioli or even rouille, but that is, I will admit, gilding the lily.
I lucked out and spent the last week in what appears to be the only place in the country not experiencing a cold snap: Miami Beach. Those who follow art and style will guess that means I was probably looking at some art; they would be absolutely correct. I've spent the past week going to art fairs and museums and galleries and peeking in at private collections. It is a world in which I am a participant-observer, much like a cultural anthropologist. I am not of this art-collecting-and-curating world, but over years of close association I have learned many of its ways.
I always take notice of art that features food as either subject or medium. I wouldn't say I'm necessarily a fan of such work, I just can't help but notice it across a crowded room. Food is often on my mind, so I see it easily.
The piece above, Food Stamp Table by Meg Webster shown by Paula Cooper Gallery, caught my attention at Art Basel Miami Beach. It is simply an amount of food one could buy with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a.k.a. food stamps, allotment for a single person in 2013, which is $4.60. The exhibit changed each day, so there were five editions of the work for sale. The day I saw it the work included an apple, a head of broccoli, an egg, a can of beans, and a can of tuna.
My opinion of the work as art is neither here nor there, although for the record I find it a tad dull and one-note. Yet, as a project it has its strengths. To put a stark display of what poverty can mean for people who may well live a stone's throw away from the convention center filled to the gills with art, most of which is priced in at least the tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, could be read as a compelling political act. I say could because context and audience determine so much, and this audience has their gaze fixed on art.
So I thought I'd change that audience, if just a bit, and post the photo above. Would that be enough food for you for a day? My rough calculation tallies about 900 calories in that picture. Adults tend to need 1,500 to 2,000 calories a day. To get more calories out of $4.60 a person would likely need to turn to foods high in sugar and/or fat, and for that money those foods are likely to be highly processed, what are widely - and quite accurately - described as junk food.
It's the giving season. Many farmers markets have programs that allow SNAP recipients to stretch their dollars by offering $2 in script to use at the market for every $1, doubling a family's fresh produce budget. If your market has such a program, I'm sure they'd be thrilled if you donated to it. Sound like too much research to add to your to-do list? Fair enough. You can also click on over to Wholesome Wave; it's an organization doing fabulous work to make fresh, nutritious, delicious food available to everyone.
Cold and frightful weather makes me crave potatoes. Cheesy potatoes. I'll take a baked potato with grated or crumbled cheese mashed into it, but what I really want is Potatoes Au Gratin. The weekend is the perfect time to make them, too, since they need a bit of time to prep and cook from scratch. Totally worth it. Seriously.
Quick, easy, and delicious. This Parsley Walnut Pesto solves a variety of problems - from what to have for dinner to how to get a pesto fix when basil is out of season (and costs approximately a million dollars for bunches that are a fraction of their summer size!). Just take care not to burn the walnuts when you toast them (nut toasting tips here)!
It's bright, it's sweet, it's creamy smooth - this combination of persimmons and avocados gets a kick from a fresh chile and some pungent crunch from red onions. A simple olive oil and lemon juice dressing would be tasty, but this Cilantro Dressing is even better.
I don't like to play favorites. And I really don't like to play favorites with cake. To me all cake has its place and I wouldn't want to rank them. But there is something so homey and comforting about spice cake. It can be dressed up a bit with cream cheese frosting, if one were so inclined. But it's also perfectly delicious with a glass of milk or cup of tea or coffee. This version has a cup of pureed winter squash in it, adding color, moisture, and vitamins. Make it even less guilt-inducing by using whole wheat pastry flour for some whole grain in your dessert treat. It's just the thing for a Sunday afternoon snack or as dessert for a casual winter family dinner.
Chestnuts roasting over an open fire may bring all things Christmas to mind, but roasting some fresh chestnuts in the oven after dinner and sitting around the dining table peeling them for dessert while we chat and listen to music is a favorite winter treat at my house. We only do it a few times each year (that's why it's a treat and not a chore) and it sure does perk up a cold winter's night. Have such old school fun yourself - see How to Roast Chestnuts.
Local eating isn't all about fruits and vegetables. Along the coasts, fish and seafood are just as important to a seasonal diet.
The opening of Dungeness crab season in Northern California is always a cause for great celebration
in my head at my house. This year we had some early - a friend who fishes for them with a recreational license invited us to dinner (the recreational season opens before the commercial one; I went out last year to catch my own crab, you can read about it here). Then I saw this guy at the market and did some cleaning and steaming of my own. As the crab season goes on, I'll get interested in recipes and "making things" with crab meat (a few of my favorites are here). For now, though, I crave fresh, pure crab. Maybe with just a bit of melted butter, maybe with a tad of minced garlic mixed into it. Never cleaned crab before? It's an easy process, just see How to Clean Crab to get started.
All that work pulling a feast together and what do you have? Well, if you're lucky you have plenty of good will and a meaty turkey carcass. Enjoy a sandwich, cook up some hash, and when you're sick of the same-old, same-old, try these Leftover Turkey Recipes. These are recipes I like so much (like the Turkey Red Chile Soup pictured above) that I've been know to cook up a turkey (or at least part of one) to get cooked, shredded turkey meat to make them. It's a fact.