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Winter Comfort (Caldo Verde)

Curly Savoy Cabbage

Cabbage, turnips, rutabagas, celery root, carrots, beets, and kale are my dear friends this time of year.  Yesterday I was writing my E-newsletter and I started with: “if you need to use up half a rutabaga and a few carrots. . . .” and then stopped and changed that to: “this recipe is a great way to enjoy rutabagas, carrots, . . .”.  It got me thinking about the semantic treatment of the less-than-sexy veggies or maybe any bits and pieces that remain in the crisper long after they’ve been purchased.

My four-year-old and I devoured the rutabaga and carrot latkes I was writing about and he requested that I make them for lunch everyday now. They were just plain delicious. So I am consciously changing my recipe writing tone to promote these winter workhorses that are packed with nutrients, endlessly adaptable and combinable, and in season in many parts of the country right now.

Today’s post features one of those winter veggies that keeps in the crisper (and stays crisp) for weeks: cabbage. Cabbage and potatoes showed up here just a few weeks ago but today’s recipe for the Portuguese Caldo Verde is completely different, quick and so satisfying.

Cabbage, potatoes, and chorizo

An early Christmas present to myself in the form of Tender, Nigel Slater’s completely absorbing book about veggies, inspired the revival of this dish in our household. . .as well as the ever-present half-head of cabbage in the fridge, and my job writing recipes for CSA Farm members.

Caldo Verde--Just as good or better the next day though a little less photogenic.

Caldo Verde (Cabbage and Potato Soup with Chorizo)
–adapted very slightly from Tender, by Nigel Slater 

Savoy cabbage is very good in this but regular ol’ green cabbage or any kind of kale works just as well. One chorizo is really plenty to flavor this soup well but if you’ve got meat lovers at the table feel free to toss in another. If you’d like to make this without the meat, I would add a teaspoon or two of smoked Spanish paprika (Pimenton) and another clove or two of garlic at the beginning.

Serves 4

Olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 -4 medium waxy potatoes such as Yukon Gold, scrubbed and cut into medium dice
4-5 cups water or broth
2 bay leaves
1 chorizo sausage (about 4 oz), cut into thin rounds
4 cups Savoy cabbage (or other, see headnote), cut into thin strips
Salt and pepper
Good olive oil for drizzling

Saute the onion and garlic over medium-low heat in a large pot in a bit of olive oil until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook for a few more minutes before adding the water (or broth), bay leaves and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are quite soft. Meanwhile fry the slices of chorizo in a small pan until they are crisp and the fat has been rendered.

Mash the potatoes in the pot with a fork or potato masher until partially broken down. You want the potatoes to thicken the soup but also leave plenty of lumps. Add the cabbage and cook for a few minutes until tender. Add the chorizo, adjust for salt and serve the soup drizzled with good olive oil and another grind of pepper.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

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Apple Cider Syrup

Apple cider cooked down to a syrup. Spectacular in salad dressings, cocktails, etc.

I have a few aces in my cooking repertoire, not that many, but a few. And this one is probably at the top of the list. Like most things I cook and teach it’s pretty straightforward, laughably simple actually. It came about a few years ago when I had lots of apple cider left over from my family’s cider pressing party. So I decided to reduce about a gallon of the cider until it just got syrupy which took my gallon down to about a pint. (If you reduce a bit too far, add some cream and a little salt for the most divine apple cider caramel sauce!)

I started using a teaspoon or two in salad dressings and I was hooked. The stronger winter greens this time of year are perfectly complemented by this “mystery” ingredient in the dressing. Countless times people have asked me what was in my salad dressing and a friend now can’t make big enough salads since her 8-year-old eats practically the whole bowl. I have to admit this has not worked with  my 4-year-old  . . ..

This syrup also inspired the Party Class I co-taught with cocktail wizard Scott Taylor this last weekend. He encountered the syrup in a Beans Class  (that by the way I’m teaching again with new recipes January 7th) earlier this fall and immediately went home and started mixing drinks with it. It is a winner mixed with bourbon, ginger syrup, bitters and lemon!

Cider syrup over Greek yogurt.

Beyond salads and cocktails the syrup is wonderful over ice cream or Greek yogurt, drizzled onto soups or braises or roasted vegetables or fruits, on pancakes or waffles. . .. It’s sweet and tart and complex and contributes almost anywhere. So go buy a couple of gallons of apple cider, reduce it and give your friends who like to cook and drink a little jar or it as a gift. Or just make a bunch and freeze some. It also keeps well in the fridge for several months.

And speaking of gifts, you might also give the gift of a cooking class (to yourself or others) this season– a gift that doesn’t clutter anyone’s home yet makes a daily difference for the tummy!

Apple Cider Syrup

1 gallon apple cider (not apple juice)

In a large pot or saucepan bring the cider to a boil. Let boil, uncovered until gallon has reduced to approximately two cups of syrup and consistency is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. This can take anywhere from 40 to 90  minutes depending on the size of your pan, the strength of your stove, etc. Refrigerate or freeze when cool.

Barley and Pomegranate Salad

This salad goes down very easily.

I did not plan to post about grain salads two weeks in a row, or about grain salads that involve a lot of messy, red splatters in the process. Today it’s pomegranates not beets but I dare say they are messier than the beets. But worth it! I rarely use pomegranates but Yotam Ottolenghi can convince me to use most anything. And I have struggled with barley salads in the past, as you might recall, but no more.

I ate pomegranates when I lived in southern Italy and remember being enchanted seeing them growing for the first time. They are beautiful and they are a bit of pain. I found splatters about seven feet up on a kitchen wall about six feet from where I had been working. Wear an apron when you’re picking out the seeds and wipe down your walls afterwards. And if you have tricks to extract the seeds with less mess, please share!

The touch of allspice and the plentiful sherry vinegar are key to the perfection of this dish.

Other than that, this salad is a cinch. It’s subtly seasoned with ground allspice and minced garlic and more forcefully so with sherry vinegar. The result is a crunchy, juicy, fresh yet hearty salad that is nothing short of gorgeous. Enjoy!

Pretty Salad.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

P.S. One spot left in this Saturday’s class, that I’m now calling Party with Class (instead of Eat, Drink & Be Merry). The menu of both cocktails and treats is, well, a bit ridiculous. . . I’m going to be prepping and cooking for the next few days straight.

Barley and Pomegranate Salad
–adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

This is a gorgeous, fresh and unexpected combination. It’s lovely this time of year when pomegranates show up in the markets. I did not have dill on hand either of the times I’ve made this and it was wonderful. I’m sure it would be even better with dill, as written below.

Serves 4-6 as side

1 cup pearl or hulled barley (hulled is the whole grain version and takes a bit longer to cook and is what I used here)
6 celery stalks (leaves picked and reserved, stalks cut into small dice)
¼ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 teaspoon ground allspice
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
3 tablespoons chopped dill
seeds of one large pomegranate

Cook barley in salted water until tender, 30 – 40 minutes. Drain barley and transfer to a bowl. Add oil, vinegar, garlic, allspice, salt and pepper and celery and mix well. Let cool, then add herbs and pomegranate seeds. Taste and adjust seasoning.