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One winter while living in Eugene, Oregon, my roommates and I joined a local farm’s CSA (community-supported agriculture) for the winter.  We wanted to support a family that was growing organic vegetables through the winter in the soggy Northwest.  As it turned out, that winter was extremely harsh.  Most above ground crops froze.  Our weekly box from the farm consisted of only vegetables that could be stored in the cellar or the ground.

There was an abundance of potatoes, parsnips, burdock root, sunchokes, and beets.  There really was not much else aside from a scant amount of winter squashes that were harvested in the late fall.  Since we had spent the bulk of our food budget for the season on our CSA share, we were fully committed to making our meals from the food on hand.  It was an education.  We ate the roots boiled, pureed, and roasted with just about any flavor combinations you can imagine.  Still as the months wore on, our creativity began to wane.  It has taken me years to regain my affection for beets.  I am still working on burdock…

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Meyer Lemon Curd

February 6, 2011

Oh la la, lovely lemon curd.  Lemons have always been a favorite.  Growing up on the San Francisco Peninsula, we had a Meyer lemon tree.  I would sneak outside to pick the lemons and eat them whole, despite my mother’s warnings that I was ruining my teeth.  Now I am a bit  (not much, but a bit) more sophisticated and like my lemons seeped in vodka or cooked up with butter and eggs (much healthier, I am sure).

Deep in winter when the trees are dripping with lemons, one fabulous way capture the fresh tang of lemons is lemon curd.  This lemon curd is intense, lemony, creamy goodness.  Meyer lemons work best here because of their balance of sweet and tart.  You can use Eureka lemons (standard supermarket variety) as well, just increase the sugar.

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Santa gave me my first lesson in eating with the season.  Each year, nestled deep in the toe of my gargantuan knit stocking, I would find an orange.  First I would be disappointed- all that valuable stocking space used up by something destined for the communal fruit basket!  Then I would be perplexed.  Why an orange?  Sure, I liked oranges, but they were nowhere near my favorite.  Why not a juicy peach?  Strawberries?  Papaya?  Sweet watermelon?  OK, I understand why Santa couldn’t put a watermelon in my stocking.  Still, it never occurred to me that he was simply offering the sweetest treat that winter had to offer.  Though we had an orange tree in our backyard, it had not fully dawned on me that oranges are a winter fruit.   Vibrant, sweet, and juicy citrus is ripe for the offering right at the time when Santa swings through town.

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I know it is too early in the winter to feel this way and I am going to suffer when the wet and cold months roll on, but I have spring fever.  We had a couple of warmish days around here and all I can think about is firing up the grill and bringing dinner outside.  Alas, this cannot be done as it is still dark long before dinnertime and truly not all that warm.  A girl can dream though, can’t she?  We did manage to grill up some chicken burgers before the sun set and then rush inside to warm our bones while eating the burgers with a side of Chipotle Black Bean and Butternut Squash Salad.

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For many people Brussels sprouts rank right up there with lima beans and lutefisk for the food they would least like to see on their dining table.  While I cannot speak for the other two, I can tell you that Brussels sprouts have been unfairly charged.  These dense little gems are not only delicious, but also incredibly nutritious and filling too (a feature that is quite a strength in the month of January when many of us are attempting to recover from the holiday bulge).

It is easy to understand why these green meatballs earned their bad rap.  Boiled to oblivion, the leafy globes take on a putrid aroma and ooze  nasty green juice when you attempt to cut off a bite.  The key to creating a delicious side dish is to prepare them properly.  I often halve the Brussels sprouts,  toss them in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast in the oven.  It is super easy and they turn out delicious. The dish enclosed in this post, however, is cooked on the stove top, allowing for more even cooking.  It has quickly become our favorite.

The recipe included today is based on one published in our local paper a couple of months ago.  The original recipe includes bacon and 1/2 cup of olive oil.  While I have no doubt that those additions add a lot of flavor to the dish, I am not feeling nearly as decadent as I was last month (see aforementioned holiday bulge).  Feel free to add the bacon and drizzle on as much oil as you desire!  What I share with you are simply sauteed Brussels sprouts topped with garlicky bread crumbs and parmesan.  They are easy to prepare, delicious, and nothing like the Brussels sprouts you may have eaten (or pretended to) as a kid.  Try them and let me know what you think!

Brussels Sprouts with Garlicky Bread Crumbs

Adapted from Scopa Restaurant

(originally published in Press Democrat)

Makes 4 servings as a side dish

2 pounds Brussels sprouts

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

3 hefty pinches of black pepper

1 pinch of salt or to taste

1-2 tablespoons toasted breadcrumbs (see note below)

1-2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

Trim and quarter the brussel sprouts.  Heat pan over medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Add  the quartered brussel sprouts, salt, and pepper.  After 30-60 seconds move the sprouts around to caramelize all sides.  Repeat this every minute for about 5 minutes.  As the pan becomes dry, add a drizzle of remaining olive oil every 2 minutes or so.  The goal is to achieve a deep golden brown color on 1-2 sides of each sprout.  Be careful not to burn them or they will turn bitter.

Once sprouts are caramelized, cook for another 3-4 minutes on medium-low heat to finish cooking the sprouts through to their center.  Toss with toasted breadcrumbs and Parmesan and serve immediately.

To toast breadcrumbs: Saute breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and ½ clove of minced garlic on medium heat until browned.   Watch carefully, the breadcrumbs will go from brown to burnt very quickly.

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe:

Brussel Sprouts with Garlicky Bread Crumbs

You may also like:

Winter Kale with Lemon and Olives

Beets with Pistachios and Mint

Eggs in a Basket of Greens

As the winter wears on, it is easy to think fondly of the bounty of summer…  sweet juicy tomatoes, crisp peppers, non-stop zucchini.  You have to work hard not to  eat “seasonally” in the summertime.  But what about in January?  I try feed my family on as many home-grown veggies as possible.  This lofty goal is fairly easy to attain in the warm months and significantly more challenging in the winter.  I am very grateful that our life does not depend upon nourishment from our backyard.  This month, we would be subsisting on satsumas, garlic, the last stray raspberry, and an occasional egg.  Well not quite, there is always the kale.

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