Eat Good Food

Stocking the Winter Pantry

As the seasons change, so does our hunger — and so does our cooking. During the colder months, we like to stock our pantry with items that help to create the comforting dishes that winter harkens: warming spice blends to enhance winter stews and soups; freshly milled polenta to pair with roasted root vegetables, hearty beans, or braised greens; new extra virgin olive oil, “olio nuovo”, perfect for dressing winter salads; and other ingredients and flavorings to enhance your winter cooking.

Read on for ideas on getting the most out of your winter cooking.

BEVERAGES
Cozy up with these delicious cold-weather beverages.            

Hot chocolate: One of the great pleasures in winter is warming up with a cup of rich hot chocolate. David Lebowitz’s recipe for Parisian chocolate is just perfect!

Parisian Hot Chocolate

2 cups whole milk
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Optional: 2 tablespoons light brown sugar                                                                                     

Heat the milk in a medium-sized saucepan. Once the milk is warm, whisk in the chocolate, stirring until melted and steaming hot. For a thick hot chocolate, cook at a very low boil for about 3 minutes, whisking constantly. Be careful and keep an eye on the mixture, as it may boil up a bit during the first moments. Taste, and add brown sugar if desired.   Serve warm in small demitasse or coffee cups.

Chai: Originating in India, masala chai with its blend of spices and hot milk is a delicious and warming beverage for winter. Traditional recipes vary, but chai starts out with a base of strong black tea simmered together with milk, sugar, and spices like cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, and cloves.

Turmeric spice tea: A delicious turmeric blend that captures the anti-inflammatory health benefits of turmeric as well as the delicious and complex qualities of ginger and citrus. Perfect for soothing frayed nerves and warming your belly.

CANNED FOODS
In winter when you want to put together a good meal, even a great one, there are a couple of canned staples to have on hand.

  • Canned fish: 
Oil-packed tuna, sardines, and anchovies
 are packed with omega-3s and add protein and depth of flavor to pasta, salads, marinades, and sauteed vegetables.
  • Canned tomatoes: Whether you “put up” your own garden tomatoes or stock up on good quality commercially canned tomatoes, this pantry staple can be the basis of many a good meal.
  • Tomato paste: Try it in a tube, not a can, for better quality and quantity control as most recipes call for just a tablespoon or two.

GRAINS
Grains are an important part of our diet and a vital food source. In the New Year, when many of us resolve to eat more healthily, adding a few whole grains — good for breakfast, lunch, or dinner — will aid in your aspirations.

  • Barley is a versatile, easy-to-cook grain. It is commonly available in two versions: pearl or whole grain. As with most grains, barley often undergoes a milling process that strips the grain of various layers, altering the nutrition content. The softer, more processed of the two styles, pearl barley releases its starch into water as it cooks, which makes it a wonderful ingredient to add to soups and stews to thicken. Boiled in plenty of water, pearl barley can cook in 15-25 minutes. Whole grain or “pot” barley leaves the outer husk intact, resulting in a healthier grain, with a more wholesome flavor and toothsome texture. Cooked, it retains its shape much better than pearl, and can be used as an alternative to wheat grains or spelt. Boiled in plenty of water, pot barley will cook in approximately 40 minutes.
  • Brown rice is one of the most delicious and versatile staples of our pantry. It is sweet, nutty, and can be cooked al dente. To make a large batch, you first rinse the rice in cold water, then simply cook it as you would dried pasta, until it reaches the desired level of tenderness, somewhere between 25-40 minutes. Once cooked and drained in a colander, spread the rice on a large tray, allowing it to cool. Prepared this way, cooked rice will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week, ready to use in a variety of ways for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
  • Polenta is cornmeal simmered in water or broth to create a thick, porridge-like mixture. A healthful alternative to other side dishes, polenta is incredibly versatile as it can be baked, grilled, fried, or served creamy. To get the most nutritious polenta, consider buying cornmeal that is stone ground. The stone ground process allows more of the nutrients to be retained. At SHED we offer Red Flint stoneground polenta, an exceptionally tasty heirloom variety. Here’s how to make it.

LEGUMES                                                                                                                                                                                                      As winter beckons, we hanker for earthy, comforting, and filling legumes such as peas, lentils, and beans. From vegetarian dal to a Southern classic with a bit of ham hock, here are some legumes that will keep you warm and satisfied.

  • Black-eyed peas: In the Southern United States, eating black-eyed peas or Hoppin’ John (a traditional soul food) on New Year’s Day is thought to bring prosperity in the new year. Here’s how we like to cook it.
  • Lentils: In Indian cuisine, flavorful and comforting dal (lentil stew) is an absolute basic and one of the most complete, nutrient-rich meals around. For more on making dals, here’s a useful guide from Saveur.
  • Split peas: What beats a thick split pea soup, redolent of smoked ham and caramelized onions, on a bleak winter day?
  • White beans: Whether cannellini or great northerns, white bean stews and soups are the ultimate coziness in a bowl, and pair well with winter produce (such as kale, spinach, squash, and wild mushrooms), Italian sausage, and even stale bread (ribolitta).

OILS
We keep a variety of oils, including a good everyday extra virgin olive oil, as well as others in our pantry. Here are a few special oils that complement the foods and flavors of winter.

  • Ghee: In India, clarified butter, called ghee, is essential to everyday cooking; Indians enrich stews and braised dishes with it, spread it on flat breads, and even use it as a healing salve and in religious ceremonies. You can buy jars of ghee, though it’s easy to make at home. Either way, store ghee in the refrigerator and use it as you would butter for omelettes, sautéed onions, and roast chicken. You’ll find your food browns more evenly, and that clarified butter gives off a splendid caramel aroma.
  • Olio Nuovo: A seasonal treat, olio nuovo is an unfiltered “new oil” that goes straight from the mill to the bottle, and is available for just a few months each year — typically from December through February. Its ephemeral charms are best showcased when used as a finishing oil — drizzled over sautéed greens, winter salads, soups, pastas, or polenta.
  • Walnut oil: Rich and fragrant, walnut oil is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and a delicious treat, perfect for drizzling on bitter salads, creamy risottos, and roasted root vegetables. Like all nut oils, buy it in small quantities and keep refrigerated.

PRESERVES AND PICKLES
Winter is a perfect time to bring out some of your own homegrown and preserved foods from warmer days. If not your own, jams, pickles, and candied fruit from artisan producers all have a place at the winter table. Some of our favorites from the SHED kitchen include Meyer lemon marmelade pomegranate jampickled shiitake mushrooms,

DRIED FRUITS AND NUTS

  • Dried fruits can elevate a simple dish by adding natural sweetness and a pleasant bite when fresh seasonal fruits are scarce. Try apricots, prunes, and cranberries in savory dishes such as wild rice, pilafs, stuffings, stews and tagines. Dates, raisins, candied citrus, and cherries are delicious incorporated into porridge, puddings, breads, and cakes. Membrillo, the Spanish quince paste, or hoshigaki, Japanese dried persimmons, are gorgeous for a cheese course as are dried cherries, figs, and dates.
  • Nuts: Nuts are a versatile ingredient that add flavor and texture to dishes both savory and sweet.
    • Pecans are prevalent in Southern cooking, most popularly in sticky-sweet pecan pies, but pecans are great for dishes besides dessert — you can mix them with roasted vegetables, top a sweet potato gratin, or put some crunch in a green salad. Spiced pecans (we like vadouvan) can be served with ice cream, with fruit desserts, or on a cheese plate.
    • Walnuts turn rancid quickly, so shell them only as you use them. Walnuts are delicious freshly cracked after dinner with cheese, pears, apples, and a glass of port.
    • Hazelnuts (also called filberts) are delicious ground in pastries, tortes, tarts, and ice cream. Add chopped hazelnuts to kale salads, pastas, roasted brussel sprouts with bacon, and wintery pestos. To remove hazelnut skins, roast them, put them in a towel, and then vigorously rub them together. The loosened skin will shake right off.

Because of their naturally high fat content, nuts and seeds can quickly go rancid. For this reason, store them in a dark cool place, or the refrigerator, and buy in small amounts.

SAVORY CONDIMENTS     

  • Dried mushrooms
: The fresh season for wild mushrooms is brief, but dried mushrooms are a convenient way to enjoy them whenever you please! Dried chanterelles are ideal for infusing flavor into soups, stews, stocks, and sauces. A small amount of dried morels rehydrated, sautéed, and incorporated into a sauce brings intense flavor to steaks, chops, or pasta. Rich in flavor, dried porcinis are ready to be added to everything, from endless pasta sauces to broths and risottos.           
  • Truffle salt: Sprinkle a dash of this black truffle-infused sea salt over any dish to add the robust, earthy flavor of black truffles. Great on everything from eggs to roasted vegetables, french fries to steak.  
  • Pine cone bud syrup: Made from pine cone buds macerated in water and sugar, this syrup is cooked over low fire until thick and golden brown. Drizzle over a pork roast or grilled chicken or very ripe cheeses. It is also wonderful on gelato, panna cotta, yogurt and roasted fruit, or as a substitute for maple syrup for a new flavor. You might even like to add a dash to a martini.

SPICES
Here are some spice blends that play well with winter foods such as roasted meats, stews, and soups; and a variety of spices such as cinnamon, turmeric, and cloves, that offer cold- and flu-fighting properties as well as warming flavor.

Recipe: Garam masala
If you make yours this way, starting with whole seeds which you toast and grind yourself, your garam masala will be much more fragrant and flavorful than anything you buy in a jar at the store.

3 Tbsp coriander seeds
2 Tbsp cumin seeds
2 Tbsp cardamom seeds
2 Tbsp black peppercorns
1 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 whole cinnamon stick

Place everything but the nutmeg in a dry skillet and toast for about 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring from time to time to keep everything cooking evenly. When the ingredients have darkened slightly and give off a rich, toasty aroma, remove them from the pan and let them cool.

  • Quatre Spices: A classic French spice blend popular in charcuterie and one-pot slow-cooked stews and casseroles. Allspice, a gorgeous combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove, is key here, with nutmeg, cloves, and ginger.
  • Ras el Hanout: From North Africa, Ras el Hanout is a medley of many spices — paprika, cumin, ginger, ceylon, cinnamon, cassia, turmeric, grains of paradise, allspice, nutmeg, mace, and cayenne. Commonly associated with Moroccan cuisine, the name in Arabic translates to “head of the shop,” and literally refers to the best spices the store has to offer. Complex and aromatic, this spice blend is traditionally used as a seasoning in meat and vegetable tagines and couscous dishes. Here are a few other ideas to inspire your cooking:
    • Sprinkle on roasted carrots or squash sweetened with honey or dates
    • Mix with softened butter or sour cream as a topping for fish
    • Use as spice rub for beef, lamb, and chicken
    • Flavor lentil and chickpea soups and stews
    • Toss with fresh popcorn for a savory snack

Spices’ flavors come from their volatile oils, which dissipate in time as they are exposed to air. All spices should be stored in airtight containers away from extremes of light, heat, and humidity.

Whenever possible, buy small quantities and grind your own whole spices to ensure fresh flavor.

Happy cooking this winter! With a well-stocked pantry, dinner becomes easier and more interesting.

Eat Good Food

Polenta: Red Flint Corn Recipe

polenta

Polenta made from Floriani red flint corn is a whole-grain cornmeal with unforgettable flavor. Excellent on its own, it’s also a wonderful accompaniment to roasted vegetables, braised lamb, or served simply with a fried egg and chile flakes.

This rare, open-pollinated heirloom corn variety hails from the Italian Alps and was bred for qualities that make great polenta. While the hulls are red, the meal is a deep yellow with a hint of pink and has a rich, distinct taste and texture.

The high ratio of water to corn in this recipe and the long, slow cooking followed by a period of resting when the meal swells and softens results in great body and wonderful texture.

Red Flint Corn Polenta

3 quarts cold water, plus more as needed
4 tsp salt, or more to taste
2 cups red flint polenta
Optional: Extra-virgin olive oil, butter, Parmigiano-Reggiano, or mascarpone

Bring the salted water to a simmer in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Whisk in the polenta, then stir until the water returns to a simmer. Reduce the heat and cook uncovered for 2 hours, stirring as needed until thick. If the polenta becomes stiff, add a trickle of water and continue cooking.

The secret to cooking polenta this way is in the long slow heat and the generous amount of water used. Don’t worry too much about salt at this point as you’re adding additional water. You can taste and salt the final product just before serving.

Once the polenta grains have absorbed all water and the porridge is thick and creamy, transfer it to a double boiler, cover tightly, and set over simmering water, letting it rest for an hour or more. Taste tand add additional salt if needed. Serve by the spoonful in warmed bowls, and top with extra-virgin olive oil, a lump of butter, freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, or a spoonful of marscapone.

Eat Good Food

Celebratory Shim Recipes

We were thrilled to sponsor the bar for Civil Eats‘ annual fundraiser this year, and served two of our favorite celebratory shims to attendees.

Quince Shim with Jardesca
1/2 ounces SHED Quince Shrub
1 1/2 ounces Jardesca White Aperitiva
3 ounces sparkling wine
Fennel frond

Fill 6-8 oz. glass with a few ice cubes, pour quince shrub and Jardesca over ice, and stir. Top with sparkling wine. Place fennel frond in glass as garnish.

Pomegranate Sparkling Shim
4 ounces Raventos rosé
2 ounces pomegranate juice
4 dashes rose hip saffron bitters*
1 ounce tulsi basil simple syrup*
Small spoonful basil seeds, holy basil for garnish
In a flute glass, place basil seeds, syrup, bitters, and pomegranate juice. Top with sparkling rosé and add basil for garnish.

Tulsi Basil Simple Syrup
1:1:1 ratio water to cane sugar
Handful tulsi basil

Bring mixture to boil; simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat and steep for 30 minutes. Strain twice.
Rose Hip Saffron Bitters
4  one-inch slices of Grapefruit zest
2 one-inch slices of lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon anise seeds
1 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon juniper berry
1 teaspoon peppercorn
1 tablespoon saffron
5 whole rose hips, dried
2 whole star anise

Add ingredients to 8 ounce mason jar and gently muddle. Fill jar with Everclear (151 Proof Spirit). Store at room temperature for 2 weeks.

Eat Good Food

Meatless Monday: Anson Mills Grits Recipe

Supported in over 40 countries, Meatless Monday actively promotes the physical and environmental benefits of reducing meat consumption. As part of their “Cook Up a Better Future” campaign, Slow Food USA has invited chefs to create a signature meatless dish made from delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction.

To celebrate Meatless Monday, Chef Perry Hoffman has created a warming dish perfect for cooler fall nights, featuring Sea Island White Flint Corn Grits from Anson Mills. Read on for his good, clean, and fair recipe.

Anson Mills Grits with Chanterelle Mushrooms and SHED Smoked Onion Powder
Serves 4-6

1 cup Anson Mills grits
2 1⁄2 cups vegetable stock
1 1⁄2 tsp of SHED Smoked Onion Powder
Fine sea salt
2 tbsp unsalted butter
5 oz raclette, sliced into thin pieces
3 tbsp shallots, minced
2 tbsp garlic, minced
2 tbsp butter
1 Bay leaf
1 lb cleaned chanterelle mushrooms, or favorite wild mushroom of choice
4 oz brassica greens such as kale, mustards, or swiss chard, washed and cut into 1 inch squares. (Set aside any flowers for garnish.)
Salt to taste

Grits

Place the grits in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and cover them with 21⁄2 cups of water. Stir once. Cover and let the grits soak overnight at room temperature. If you are not soaking the grits, proceed directly to the next step.

Set the saucepan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the first starch takes hold, 5 to 8 minutes.

Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and cover the pan.

Meanwhile, heat 2 cups of stock with SHED Smoked Onion Powder. Keep hot. Every 10 minutes or so, uncover the grits and stir them.

Each time you find them thick enough to hold the spoon upright, stir in a small amount of the stock. Add about 1 ½  cups stock or more in 4 or 5 additions.

Cook until the grits are creamy and tender throughout, but not mushy, and hold their shape on a spoon. Add 1 teaspoon of salt halfway through the cooking time.

This will take about 50 minutes if the grits were soaked, or about 90 minutes if they were not. To finish, stir in the butter with vigorous strokes.

Add more salt, if desired, and pepper.

Chanterelle Mushrooms and Brassica Greens

In a sauté pan over medium heat, add butter, shallots, garlic and bay leaf. Sauté for 2 minutes.

Add chanterelles and cook for 1 minute, fold in brassica greens, and cook until wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

In an ovenproof casserole dish or cazuela, place grits down in the center. Add the mushrooms and brassica mixture. Place slices of the raclette to cover it all.

Place in 400°F oven on broil to brown for 3 to 5 minutes.

Remove from oven and garnish with any brassica flowers and herbs of your choice, such as rosemary or sage.

Eat Good Food

Making Masa: Recipe

Masa, a dough made from maize, or dried corn, is the building block for many Mexican dishes.

Homemade masa has a sweetness and richness that can only come from the from-scratch preparation.

Making masa is a labor of love, but it’s leagues better than the store-bought kind. Read on for the secret to the most fragrant, delicate tortillas and tender tamales.

Housemade Masa

6 cups dried corn
12 cups water
3 tablespoons calcium hydroxide (also called “cal” or pickling lime)

Combine dried corn, water, and calcium hydroxide in a large pot. Bring water to a boil and stir occasionally. After boiling for 5 minutes, turn off the heat and let the corn sit at room temperature, for at least 8 hours up and up to 16 hours.

This process, called nixtamalization, makes the kernels easier to grind and consume. Nixtamalization will double the size of the corn, so make sure to select a mixing bowl with ample space.

The next day, transfer the nixtamalized corn to a colander and wash under cold running water until all of the skins have come off and the kernels look shiny.

Using a molino de mano (hand-powered corn grinder), grind the corn, pouring water as needed to get the mixture moving,  starting at the widest setting.

As you continue, tighten the setting as much as you can, and repeat the grinding if necessary for a finer consistency. If making tortillas, you can use a stone grinder (metate) to get an even more finely ground, smooth masa.

For best results, use your masa within the first 24 hours of grinding. Masa can also be stored in a roomy container in the refrigerator, and removed 15 to 30 minutes before cooking.

Adapted from Nopalito: A Mexican Kitchen, by Gonzalo Guzmán

Learn how to craft your own tortillas with the gorgeous masa you’ve made!

Eat Good Food, Preserve the Season

Make Your Own Pickled Watermelon Rind

pickled watermelon rind

Pickled watermelon rind is an exceedingly thrifty item. Imagine food being so scarce that even a melon rind can’t be wasted. Imagine the South after the Civil War. Leave it to ingenious householders to make it delicious.

An old Southern favorite, watermelon rind pickles are perfect for serving alongside a burger or added to chicken or shrimp salads, and are delicious accompaniments to pork chops.

When selecting a watermelon, look for one that is symmetrical, heavy for its size, and does not have dents. Check the ground spot on the bottom too – if it’s creamy yellow, it is ripe and ready to eat.

Pickled Watermelon Rind

3 ½ pounds prepped watermelon rind from a 12 to 14-pound watermelon
¼ cup kosher salt
6 cups water
2 ½ cups red wine vinegar
1 ½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
½ teaspoon allspice berries
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
5 cloves
3 to 5 dried red chilies
1-inch cinnamon stick

Break the watermelon down into slices. First cut the melon in half, and cut the resulting chunk into 1-inch slices.

Using a sharp knife, slice the peel away from the flesh. (Save the flesh to eat.) Finally, use a vegetable peeler to remove the outermost dark green rind, and discard the peelings.

Cut each piece of the pale green inner rind into 1 ½ inch pieces and place in a large mixing bowl.

Make a brine of the salt and water, and pour over the rinds. Weight them with a plate, cover the bowl with a clean dish towel, and set aside overnight.

The next day, drain the rinds and rinse with water.

Combine the vinegar, sugar, and molasses in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil. Crush the spices in a mortar, and add them to the pan.

When the vinegar syrup boils, add the rinds to the pan, cover, and cook gently for 10 minutes, turning them over regularly, until the rinds are translucent.

Lift out the rinds with a slotted spoon, and pack them into four prepared pint jars, leaving a generous ½ inch headspace.

Bring the syrup back to a boil and pour it over the rinds to cover, leaving ½ inch headspace.

Wipe the rims, seal the jars, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Wait a week or two before eating.

Adapted from Kevin West’s Saving the Season.

Learn more about what’s in season in summer.