By Linda Bassett
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Forget lions and lambs and groundhogs. Who needs animals and folklore giving us false hope of spring?
Cooks have dug deep to unearth enough warming winter dishes to last the duration. Some make top 10 or top 20 lists depending on their level of despair over unrelenting winter.
Here, we give a top five.
Criteria include dishes that finish in the oven; seasonal vegetables for vitamins and vitality; and color, meaning canned tomatoes. Hard squash and radishes are too boring. Potatoes and pasta, the blank canvases of kitchen artistry, are a priority. Bonus: a gluten-free, a vegetarian, a vegan.
Makes 6 servings
Cheddar cheese colors the top layer golden brown, looking like a flour pie crust. Gluten-free.
1-1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, quartered
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup whole milk, or more as needed
1 pound ground beef
1 small onion, diced
2 strips bacon, chopped
1 tablespoon flour (gluten-free flour works here)
1-1/2 cups hot beef stock
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables, thawed, and drained on paper towels
1. Boil potatoes in water to cover, 15 to 20 minutes, until tender. Drain; return to pot; mash with butter and milk. Stir in grated cheese. Season; set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a deep-dish pie plate.
3. Cook bacon in a skillet; leave bacon and a tablespoon of fat in pan. Add onions; cook on medium-low heat until they soften. Sprinkle in flour; cook until lightly golden. Add beef. Cook until lightly browned. Stir in stock. Simmer, 5 to 8 minutes, until sauce forms.
4. Transfer beef mixture to the buttered pie dish. Layer on mixed vegetables. Top with mashed potatoes, sculpting like piecrust. Bake 25 to 30 minutes until top is golden.
PASTA AL CAVALFIORE
Makes 4 hearty portions; 6 smaller ones
San Marzano tomatoes make a huge difference in the flavor of the sauce. Vegan if not using cheese.
1 head cauliflower
28-ounce can best-quality plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
1 pound ziti or other large tubular pasta
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (skip for vegans)
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat parsley
1. Trim cauliflower; break into florets. Puree tomatoes in a food processor or blender.
2. Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot. Add garlic, pushing it around the pan until lightly golden; remove and discard. Add tomatoes; bring pot to a boil.
3. Stir in cauliflower, 2/3 cup hot water, salt and pepper. Cover; cook on low heat, 30 to 45 minutes until cauliflower is very tender. Cook, drain pasta; add it to the pot of cauliflower-tomato sauce; toss to coat. Ladle into serving bowls; finish with a shower of Parmesan and parsley and a drizzle of fragrant olive oil.
Makes 6 servings
Not a hopping animal: an old culinary joke when the hunter didnít get a rabbit. Vegetarian.
8 slices toast, crusts removed
1 pound cheddar cheese, grated
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup beer or ale
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
Pinch cayenne, to taste
2 egg yolks
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
2. In a saucepan off the heat, stir together cheese and flour. Add beer, butter, Worcestershire, mustard and cayenne. Place saucepan on top of double boiler on low heat. Cook on gentle heat, never boiling, stirring constantly.
3. Whisk egg yolks in a small bowl. Take cheese mixture off heat and slowly stir a tablespoon of it into the egg mixture, tempering it. Gradually stir remaining yolk mixture into cheese. Place toast in 6 baking dishes; pour cheese mixture over each. Transfer to oven, 1 to 2 minutes, until cheese bubbles.
BLACK BEAN-ORANGE SOUP
Makes 6 to 8 servings
To expand flavor, use a fresh orange, grating the zest into the soup with the juice.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cumin powder
Salt and cayenne (ground red pepper) to taste
1 medium carrot and 1 medium bell pepper, diced
2 cans black beans, rinsed well and drained
1-1/2 cups orange juice
Optional toppings: sour cream, chopped cilantro, salsa
1. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add onion, garlic, cumin, carrot and bell pepper; cook on medium heat until everything is very tender, 10 to 15 minutes more. Transfer to a heavy stock pot; add beans. Simmer, 15 minutes.
2. Stir in orange juice, salt and cayenne. Puree 1/3 of soup in blender or food processor. Return to pot; simmer over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes longer until heated through.
CLASSIC BEEF STEW
This recipe gives the cook the option: noodles or potatoes which go in, optionally, with carrots.
5-1/2 pound chuck-eye roast, cut in 1-inch cubes, seasoned with salt and pepper
2 strips bacon, diced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
1-1/2 teaspoons chopped thyme leaves
2 to 3 tablespoons flour
3 cups beef stock
1. Cook bacon in a large ovenproof pot, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove; transfer to paper towels. Brown beef in batches, on medium-high heat, 3 to 5 minutes; remove and set aside.
2. Reduce heat to medium; add and heat oil. Add onions and thyme; cook, stirring, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in flour; cook 1 to 2 minutes.
3. Add stock; turn up heat and stir any bits from bottom of pot. Reduce heat to low. Add bacon, beef, carrots, and potatoes if using. Cover; simmer until tender, 2 to 2-1/2 hours.
Reach Linda Bassett at KitchenCall@aol.com.
Kitchen Call: Top 5 warming winter recipes
By Linda Bassett