The Winter Market - Written for Edible Santa Barbara - Winter Edition 2023
A vibrant approach to seasonal cuisine
When I was growing up in London we had a small greengrocer around the corner from our house which mainly sold leeks, potatoes, cabbage and carrots and a few apples and pears during the winter. He wrapped each vegetable in a paper bag. My mum, brother and I were out in the drizzle, it always drizzled or rained and as it was an outdoor event the grocer and all the customers were wrapped in layers to try and keep out the general dampness that was creeping in to keep out to our bones. Every day we walked the two blocks to check out their wares hoping to be inspired by something new, and every week we came home with the same ingredients, the rain-soaked paper bags. We made soup, Mom made dahl and spicy lentils and awesome apple crumble, foods meant to keep you warm.
I recently read these lines from the poet Edith Sitwell: "Winter is the time of cosiness, of good food and warmth, of the touch of a kind hand and a conversation by the fireside: it's the time to come home." reminded me of those wet London days, conjuring up images of hearty roasts, rich gravy with fresh slices of bread, prime rib stew, or a platter with a staggering amount of melted cheese. Very satisfying at times, but as the short, wet days drag on some of us get the winter blues and get stuck in a routine of cooking the same three dishes and a generic vegetable soup. To start, those big hot bowls of stews, bean chili, gratins and soups are just what we need when the weather turns cold and wet and don't get me wrong I love a bowl of creamy vegetable soup but it can become boring and the palate gets tired. I crave food that offers a little pick-me-up, something with a little flavor and spice. Between winter vegetables, citrus fruits, many herbs and dishes that do not need a spoon to eat them. It wasn't until I moved to California that I discovered (and find) the winter markets the most inspiring, with the obvious bonus being that the temperature isn't just above freezing and thankfully, "winter" as it is is short-lived .
Here the markets burst with vibrant colour, from stunning chard, radicchio and purple chidori to watermelon radish, colorful beetroot and cauliflower and such an array of citrus fruits, notably cara cara fragrant oranges, stunning orange sanguine and sweet and tangy Meyer lemons . This colorful treat is stimulating to the senses and, as the old saying goes, attributed to the Roman Epicurean Apicius, "we eat with our eyes first". Drawn to these colorful winter vegetables, I walk the market creating a variety of dishes in my head. I might see nicely rolled, creamy cauliflower and think of a curried cauliflower soup or a gratin, but I'll balance this rich dish with a crisp winter salad with thin slices of cane-colored radish sugar or a bunch of carrots piled high on a farmhouse table , and think of a mashed carrot to serve alongside a roast chicken and balance the hearty meal with a dessert salad of sliced winter citrus.
A big part of winter cooking is creating foods that warm and fortify, preparing dishes that soothe, dishes that need time to simmer and develop flavor to slowly seep on the stovetop while you hopefully enjoy it curl up on the couch with a good book It's dinner time. Sometimes these dishes can be monotonous say macaroni and cheese or mushroom soup. I like to think about texture. A change in texture improves a dish. Crispy Brussels sprouts in a bowl of mushroom soup pops like crispy bacon with macaroni and cheese, or al dente vegetables in a bowl of lentil curry. The lentils are soft and tender, but the veggies add an uplifting touch and keep every bite interesting.
The creation and preparation of a lively winter menu involves the balance between home cooking and dishes that whet the appetite and continue to satiate all the senses; from the aroma of a roast filling the kitchen as it cooks, to the fresh taste of shaved citrus zest in a salad, to the texture and feel of a sensually soft yet crunchy mushroom crostini, to the sight of a lemon soufflé rising. As each of our senses are stimulated, our taste buds begin to drool in anticipation; Imagine a crunchy pear and arugula salad followed by a delicious stew, a hearty vegetable soup with a tangy herb pesto followed by a mouth-wrinkled lemon tart, or a salad with radicchio and shaved Parmesan followed by a lentil curry with a tangy yoghurt sauce. That certain extra – the crispy pears with the salad, the pesto with the soup, the yoghurt with the curry – spices up every dish. Adding that extra touch to winter dishes has made my taste buds happy, do you too?
Baby arugula, wild mushroom, mung bean and goat cheese salad
Robert Dautch, or BD as everyone calls him, has been farming in the Ojai Valley for over four decades. I've heard him described as an "organic alchemist" and after spending many of those years cooking with his exquisite array of herbs, greens, edible flowers and vegetables, I can attest that he and his hard-working team are masters of theirs are art. He's also a fountain of knowledge, and it was him when he saw me on a market day with a handful of his Japanese turnips in hand that said, "You know, these are great eaten raw Pascale". Up to this point he had tried raw turnips but dutifully went home and tried one. The texture and flavor were a revelation: sweet, tender, with hints of radish on the palate and an Asian pear crunch. They're great in salads. In this recipe, they provide a tender but crunchy contrast to the spiciness of the sautéed mushrooms, the creaminess of the goat cheese, and the spiciness of the arugula.
For 8 people
For the vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon mustard
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon champagne or white wine vinegar
For the salad:
8 ounces baby arugula
2 ounces sprouted mung beans
4-5 Japanese turnips – washed (and peeled if necessary) and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
3 ounces goat cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 ½ pounds assorted mushrooms including cremini, trumpet, shitake - sliced
- In a large salad bowl, combine the vinaigrette ingredients to form a thick emulsion. Lay the salad servers over the vinaigrette.
- Place arugula, mung beans, chopped beet greens, chives, and goat cheese on the dishes.
- Pour olive oil into a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is boiling, add the butter and melt until fluffy. Add the mushrooms, a good pinch of salt and 8-10 peppercorns. Fry until golden brown, about 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently. Add mushrooms to the salad. Mix to combine well. Serve while the mushrooms are still hot.
Lentils du Puy and carrot salad
I have to admit I'm a bit obsessed with these lentils from Auvergne, France. Du Puy lentils are sometimes called the caviar of lentils, and with good reason. They are totally worth the premium you pay for them. There are other small french lenses out there but please trust me when I say these are the absolute best. They have a slightly nutty, mineral quality. They can be prepared quickly and, unlike other varieties, retain their shape even during cooking due to their unique properties. A classic bistro dish in France, lentils with mustard vinaigrette are usually served with crispy bacon (pieces of bacon) added or as an accompaniment to duck confit or roast chicken. I love making variations of this dish by adding different veggies and herbs to the mix. In this version, colorful carrots are seasoned with chives, parsley and chives with lentils and vinaigrette.
For 8 people
2 The Linsen du Puy mug
2 small red onions – peeled and cut into quarters
1 bay leaf
4 cups vegetable broth
3 large red carrots – halved lengthwise and cut diagonally into ½-inch slices
3 large orange carrots – halved lengthwise and cut diagonally into ½-inch slices
4 spring onions - thinly sliced
3 tablespoons parsley - finely chopped
3 tablespoons chives - finely chopped
1 lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard or walnuts
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Place the lentils, red onions, bay leaf, and vegetable stock in a large saucepan. Add a good pinch of salt. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 20-25 minutes or until lentils are al dente. Drain and remove the bay leaf. Place the lentils and onions in a medium-sized salad bowl.
- While the lentils are cooking, sauté the carrots until tender, 6 to 7 minutes. Remove from the steamer and let cool to room temperature.
- Pour some olive oil into a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sweat the chives, parsley, chives and cooked carrots. Add a pinch of salt and 4-5 ground black pepper and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and mix well. Add the carrot mixture to the lentils.
- In a small bowl, mix mustard, ¼ cup oil, and vinegar to form an emulsion. Add the vinaigrette to the lentils and carrots. Mix well. Leave to rest for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Roasted beets, butternut squash and red onion with a spicy parsley pesto
This is one of my favorite beetroot dishes. The lively pesto goes great with rich roasted butternut squash, tender onions and tender beets. I like to serve this dish with a green salad stuffed with herbs and a hearty meal with a lentil dish as an accompaniment, as the earthiness of the legumes combines beautifully with the sensuality of roasted beetroot and pumpkin.
For 8 people
For the vegetables:
4 beets - unpeeled
1 medium squash – halved, seeded, peeled, cut into 1/3-inch slices
1 large red onion - peeled, thinly sliced
For the pesto:
1 cup parsley leaves
1 tablespoon capers
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 small Meyer lemon
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Place the beets in a small casserole dish. Drizzle with olive oil, add a good pinch of salt and a little pepper and sauté for 50-60 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a knife. When cool enough to handle, peel the beets and cut into 1/3-inch rounds.
- Pour a little olive oil into a rimmed casserole dish. Add the squash and onion slices to the pan, turning to coat evenly with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in the same oven as the beets for 40 minutes.
- While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the pesto. Place all the ingredients for the pesto in a food processor or blender and puree until semi-smooth.
- Arrange beets, squash, and onions on a large platter. Spread the pesto over the vegetables. Serve hot.
Do you know how it is possible to taste a dessert that will instantly take you back to your childhood? Well, that's dessert for me. My mother is from the French Alps. Whenever we could, we escaped London's extremely wet winters for the fresh air of its alpine hometown. We ate this when we came back from cold, snowy days in the mountains. We thawed by the fire at the local café at the foot of the ski slopes and ate crepes – some sprinkled with sugar, others with sugar and orange juice. They were hot, a bit lacy, slightly buttery and slightly crunchy on the outside. It was bliss.
For 8 to 10 people
1 cup unbleached flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup of milk
¼ cup of water
3 tablespoons of butter—melted
zest of 1 orange
3 Owner—Smoothie in a small bowl
juice of 2 oranges
- Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if mixing by hand). With the mixer running, add the milk, water, melted butter, orange zest and eggs. Beat until batter is smooth.
- Heat a 7-inch skillet or crepe pan until very hot. Using a paper towel, wipe the surface of the pan with a little oil. Pour in enough batter to cover the bottom of the pan, just under 1/3 cup. Tilt the pan to coat evenly. cook the crEhlet stand until bottom is golden, then flip and cook for another minute. (You might miss the first one or two as they may stick together or not form properly. Don't worry, this is normal.)
- Keep the cooked crepes in a pile on a hot plate.
- To serve, place a crepe on a plate, drizzle with orange juice and a little sugar. Halve and halve again. Serve hot.