It’s Winter

As most of you are in the middle of a deep freeze that I don’t even want to contemplate, I will just say, be careful, warm and safe. I have vivid memories of the ice storms, snow storms and blizzards from my days in Jersey and DC and while there are things about the northeast I loved winter was not one of them.

2014 has started out chilly but pleasant here and I took the last few days of vacation to cook a few experiments. I had a few hits and one pretty bad miss. The miss was a vegetable vindaloo I desperately wanted to try.

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It looked beautiful with the squash, tomatoes and potatoes all vying for attention. It smelled wonderful, but I made a classic mistake – I substituted the wrong form of spices and totally threw the balance and flavors off. I could not find cardamon pods, or mustard seeds, so I used ground of each. And since I have no idea of the size or intensity of cardamon pods, I just had to guess. Val was amazed that I couldn’t find the right form of spices in my grocery, but I looked, and looked and looked and could not find them – in either store. So while the first bite of this was yummy and the second was pretty good, the more I ate the harder it became to eat. It was just off and I didn’t know how to fix it.

On the better side, I wanted a cottage pie or shepherd’s pie, but with pork instead of lamb. (Yes, I still have hard time with the concept of eating baa baa black sheep.) So I took some leftover pork from Christmas, carrots, shallots, some beef broth, and flour and made a filling.

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To that I made a mashed parsnip top. I know, cottage/shepherd’s pie is usually topped with mashed potatoes, but I only had one potato in the fridge and I had something else in mind for it. So I used parsnips and topped the filling with mashed/whipped parsnips. It worked.

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It doesn’t look pretty, but holy cow (or in this case, pig) was it really, really good. I actually like the parsnip top a lot. It was light, but comforting and filling. This was a true comfort food dish and we had no leftovers.

When we went to Val’s for the Solstice, she made this incredible butternut squash, potato lasagna. I wanted to recreate it, but knew I wouldn’t for a variety of reasons, the main one which is I didn’t have any ricotta in the house. So, I went with mozzarella and Parmesan.

20140107-195848.jpg I fully admit this wasn’t as pretty or tasty as Val’s dish, but it was really nice. Good flavor and pretty light.

This last experiment, I fully admit, is not vegetarian, not healthy and probably a heart attack waiting to happen, but I had to do it. When I lived in DC, we use to go to Jaleo more often than I should have. I loved the food there, especially the croquettes. Chicken, ham, a rich béchamel sauce. I found a recipe in an old Tapas cookbook I have and decided to give it a try. I made the filling Sunday night and let rest in the fridge overnight. After work Monday, I made little round balls, coated them with egg and breadcrumbs and fried them.

20140107-200621.jpg They came out super cute and pretty tasty. I need to work on the execution of these, but for a first try, not bad. I do think I need regular milk in these and not soy milk, but they were rich, silky and good. To attempt to lighten them up a little I made a curried carrot salad.

20140107-200855.jpg Couple of carrots, a little pear, cucumber and walnuts in a curry vinaigrette. I liked the concept, but it was too sweet for me. Between the pear and the dressing, it just didn’t work for me. Bob liked it, but I didn’t.

I am hoping to keep experimenting this year, and make a few things that are better for us, but still taste great. If those of you trapped by the cold want to make your own marshmallows for so e hot chocolate, I have a great recipe from the Washington Post – just eliminate the peppermint and you have plain, yummy marshmallows that will forever make you reject store bought ones.

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