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Seven Stars of Winter

local foods wheel

By Jessica Prentice

 

Jessica Prentice, Maggie Gosselin, and Sarah Klein created the Local Foods Wheel to help us all enjoy the freshest, tastiest, and most ecologically sound food choices month by month. Here are seven of Jessica’s seasonal favorites illustrated by Sarah Klein (sarahklein.com) with coloring by Maggie Gosselin. You can learn more about the Local Foods Wheel and the group’s other ventures at localfoodswheel.com.

 

persimmonOne of the great pleasures of the seasons in my yard is watching our Hachiya persimmon tree go from spring green to summer’s first fruit, from brilliant gold and copper leaves in fall to leafless branches holding beautiful bright-orange orbs in early winter. It’s a race with the squirrels and birds for its luscious, custardy fruits, but when we get there first, we make persimmon pudding or experiment with the Japanese art of drying the whole fruit, a practice called hoshigaki (hoshi means dried and gaki is from kaki, the Japanese word for persimmon). But by far my favorite thing to do with Hachiya persimmons is to make kefir. Combined with lime juice and a water kefir base (see Edible East Bay Summer 2015 for a recipe), a delectable and effervescent beverage emerges. What a pleasure it is to drink your garden!

stock-potIn case you haven’t noticed, bone broth is “trending.” Stressed-out urban Americans are catching onto what our ancestors known for thousands of years: a low-simmered decoction of meaty animal bones in water yields a deeply nourishing, calming, healing, and tasty liquid that can be enjoyed warm in a mug or used in cooking. Chefs have long valued bone broth, but now health care providers are coming to see it as good medicine. Unfortunately, most meat stock and bouillon on the market has very little to do with meaty bones and a lot to do with artificial flavors and MSG, but if you aren’t quite up to filling your kitchen with steam from a potful of boiling knuckles or necks, there is a growing slate of producers offering the real thing. At Three Stone Hearth, we’ve been making bone broth on a weekly basis for almost a decade (long before it became trendy) and jarring it in returnable mason jars. We recently started offering a Broth Bar during our store’s open hours on Saturdays. Stop by our place on University Avenue in Berkeley, season a cup of beef or chicken bone broth “tea” with your favorite add-ons (fish sauce? miso? lemon?), and drink it while you browse books or chat with a friend. Not only will you feel virtuous eschewing caffeine for calcium, you’ll be part of the hip contemporary food scene.

cauliflowerAnother old-fashioned food gaining new popularity is cauliflower. As more and more people seek to avoid nightshades, grains, legumes, or complex carbohydrates, creative cooks are turning cauliflower into everything from “rice” and pizza crust to hummus. Mashed cauliflower stands in for mashed potatoes and puréed cauliflower replaces roux for thickening gravies and sauces. Intrigued, I made some cauliflower hummus at Three Stone Hearth and found it delicious, but I’m totally happy with my old favorite: steaming a whole small head of cauliflower until just tender and baking it in a small dish with a generous amount of béchamel sauce (yes, with an old-fashioned flour roux) over the top and baking until bubbly. Ridiculously delicious.

thymeWhat would winter be without thyme? That flavor of warmth and home is essential in almost any European-style soup. Thyme loves mushrooms, wine, tomatoes, beef, and almost everything else. A harmonizing herb, it gets along with others. It also grows easily, and for about the same price as a bunch of thyme (often encased in a plastic clamshell that won’t decompose for a millennium) you can buy a little plant rooted in soil that will be happy outside or inside on a sunny windowsill. As a perennial, its stems grow woody, but it’s always sending up new tender sprigs, which you’ll never get ahead of using up, since you rarely need more than a few at a time. It is a great herb to cultivate even if you have a black thumb.sour-cream

Everything tastes better with sour cream. In fact, my mother and my nephew (her grandson) used to play a game: Are there any foods that don’t taste better with sour cream? Then they would go through each food, one by one, and consider it. They only came up with one that they didn’t think benefited from sour cream: ice cream. But I’m not so sure! And I’m guessing that it’s because my nephew was a child that they didn’t consider coffee or tea, which would be on my list. But the fact remains, sour cream enhances almost everything else. We keep it on hand at all times, and my son puts so much of it on his pan-roasted potatoes that even I—an avid promoter of good fats—will do a double-take and insist that he puts a little back. Half a dozen bites of potatoes (already rich with lard and ghee) simply don’t justify a half-cup of sour cream!

spaghetti-squashI’m a lifelong fan of spaghetti carbonara. My father made this delectable dish of noodles coated in morsels of bacon (or guanciale) with a sauce of eggs and Parmigiano Reggiano regularly and adeptly, and I continue to make it frequently as well. But strangely enough, I have come to adore the Paleo-friendly baked version we make at Three Stone Hearth using spaghetti squash instead of pasta. The addition of a little onion and garlic to the original formula adds depth, and this rendition is a bit lighter and more digestible than the traditional. But really, the best part might be the bacon, which has an allure like sour cream.

potatoesI don’t know what my household would do without potatoes. Roasted, mashed, or fried, they land on our table at breakfast, lunch, and dinner many times per week. We add them to stews, soups, roasts, and braises, or we’ll grate and rinse them, then spread them on a greased griddle for hash browns, or we’ll add some egg and flour and make potato pancakes. This year, we even tried growing them. Learning how urbanites with limited growing space are planting them in “towers,” we jumped on it, fueled by fantasies of bushels of potatoes from our 3-foot cylinders. Researching more online, our enthusiasm was dashed by bloggers reporting disappointing return on the effort, but we were too deep in to turn back. At the end of the season, with two towers cultivated over 3 or 4 months, we grew enough potatoes to last us (drumroll please) about two weeks—but remember, we eat a lot of potatoes! The best part was discovering the satisfying fun of digging up potatoes. Now I’m fantasizing about jackhammering up the strip between the sidewalk and the street to create a pratie patch an old Irish farmer might approve of. With a few hundred square feet of actual earth, we might be able to keep up with our appetite for spuds.

 

Pot Roast

Recipes abound for pot roast, but here’s how I make mine. Serves 3–4 people for every pound of meat. Quantities in the following recipe can vary with the size of the roast you are cooking and the size of your pot. I always serve it with dollops of cultured sauerkraut and sour cream.

potatotower

Tor and Jake harvesting from our potato towers (Photo by Jessica Prentice)

2 tablespoons tallow, lard, or other fat
1 piece of roasting beef, such as a chuck roast, round roast, or brisket (Around 1–5-pounds, depending on how many you want to serve)
½ onion, diced small
2–3 stalks celery, diced small
1–2 carrots, diced small
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper (don’t skimp!)
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1–4 cups beef bone broth
¼ cup red wine (more or less to taste or leave it out)
Creamer potatoes such as Yukon Golds (Cauliflower florets or root vegetables can be substituted, or use a combination. Scale the amount to your other ingredients.)
Salt and pepper to taste
2–3 tablespoons minced parsley or celery leaves
Sour cream, crème fraîche, or piimä cream to taste
Cultured sauerkraut to taste

Heat the fat over medium to medium-high in a heavy-bottomed pot that is deep enough to hold the roast with the pot’s lid in place. When the fat is hot, add the roast and brown it on all sides, turning as needed, then remove the browned roast to a cutting board.
Add the onions to the fat in the pot. (If there isn’t enough fat, add a little more.) As the onions turn translucent, stir in the diced celery, and then after 1–2 minutes, stir in the carrots, salt, and pepper. Sauté for a few more minutes and then return the roast to the pot with the vegetables. Add the thyme and bay leaf, then add enough beef bone broth (and optional wine) so the roast is submerged about ¾ in liquid. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a bare simmer. Cover the pot and simmer for about 3 hours, turning the roast over with a wooden spoon once or twice during the period.

Remove the pot roast back to the cutting board. Take out and discard the herbs, and then, using an immersion blender, purée the remaining mixture in the pot until smooth. Return the roast to the pot along with the potatoes, cauliflower, or root vegetables in amounts that suit your needs. Return the pot to a simmer and cook for another 20 to 30 minutes or until the vegetables are fork tender. The pot roast should also be very tender.

Stir most of the minced parsley or celery leaves into the pot, reserving some for garnish. Taste the gravy and add more salt and pepper to taste.

Serve in shallow bowls, placing a chunk of meat in each bowl, surrounding with vegetables, and ladling in plenty of gravy. Sprinkle with the reserved minced parsley or celery leaves, and top with dollops of sour cream (or other cream of your choice) and sauerkraut as desired.

 

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