Editor’s note: Each Thursday, we feature a throwback piece from Topology’s predecessor, catapult magazine. Here, Rachel Stone offers some of her favorite recipes for the colder months. Stone is author of Eat With Joy: Redeeming God’s Gift of Food.
I love summer food: summer rolls; salads of peaches, basil, and mozzarella; pita pockets stuffed with hummus, feta, cucumbers, tomatoes, spinach, and whatever else is fresh; and strawberry pies with whipped cream. These days, of course, everything’s available all year round, but once you’ve really savored the best summer has to offer, winter’s costly hothouse alternatives are less than appealing. Here are ten of my favorite recipes for winter. Not only are they appropriately warming and nourishing to body and soul in this season of chill, they feature ingredients that those of us in North America can find locally throughout the cold months.
This bread created an Internet sensation when it was first released by Mark Bittman in 2006. I’ve made it lots of times since then; below is my own “tweaked” version. It’s great with butter (but then, what isn’t?) and for dipping in soups. You’ll need to plan ahead, but it’s probably the easiest bread you’ll ever make. If you’ve never baked with yeast before, this is the recipe for you. As an added bonus, its high baking temperature makes the kitchen nice and cozy. (So turn down the thermostat and be thrifty.)
In a large glass bowl with a lid, mix together into a loose dough:
- 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour (can use up to ½ whole wheat; my favorite is Great River Organic flour)
- 1 and ½ c. plus 2 tablespoons warm water (about 120 degrees Fahrenheit)
- ¼ tsp. instant yeast
- 1 and ½ tsp. salt
Allow this mixture to sit in a warm-ish place, undisturbed, for 18 hours, until the surface is bubbly. Then, stir the dough down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Dust it all over with steel cut oats, oat or wheat bran, or just some more flour. Allow it to sit for an hour or so longer. Meanwhile, put a heatproof pot or casserole with a lid into the oven and allow it to heat to 450 degrees. After it has heated for at least 20 minutes, very carefully remove the lid and pot and slide the dough in—it will look messy, but end up fine. Cover and bake for 30 minutes undisturbed, then remove lid and finish baking, 10-15 minutes. Turn bread out onto cooling rack and resist the urge to cut into it right away.
Cinnamon rolls are one of those foods that have been so re-created by the food industry so as to bear but a shadowy resemblance to the real thing. These rolls are treats, to be sure, but they are real food. Enjoy them with coffee and friends.
Dissolve a heaping tablespoon of dry yeast in ¼ cup of warm (not hot) water. Set aside.
Melt 1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter, and stir in 1/3 cup sugar (I like to use organic, fair-trade, evaporated cane juice). Stir in 1 cup of whole milk that’s been warmed up slightly, 1 beaten egg, 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract and 1 and ½ tsp. salt. To this add the yeast-water mixture. Gradually stir in 4 to 5 cups bread flour (up to half whole-wheat), changing the stirring to kneading once necessary. Knead 5-10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic, wipe dough all over with butter, cover, and set aside for one hour.
Meanwhile, mix together 1/2 cup firmly-packed brown sugar and 2 to 2 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon. Set aside. Soften another stick (1/2 cup) butter and set aside.
When the dough has risen, gently push it down, and begin to stretch and pull it to fit an 11″ × 15″ baking sheet. Take your time and push it down evenly. Using a pastry brush (or your clean fingers), spread softened butter all over the dough, except for the long side that is farthest from you, leaving a 1″×15″ strip CLEAN. Then carefully spread the cinnamon sugar over the butter. Roll up from bottom edge loosely—not firmly—and use the “clean” edge to seal up the roll. Saw the log very gently with a serrated knife into 1.5 inch pieces; it helps to score the log lightly before you cut. Lay the slices almost touching in a buttered 9″ × 13″ pan. Cover and allow the rolls to rise for an hour. While you wait, make the frosting by creaming together 2 ounces cream cheese, 1/4 cup of butter, 1 cup of powdered sugar, and 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract. When the rolls have risen again, bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Tip onto a large plate immediately, and when slightly cooled, spread with frosting. Yum.
This has to be one of the most comforting breakfast foods out there. It’s warm, sweet, creamy, and nourishing. Mix the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients separately the night before, and combine and bake in the morning. Tell your kids it’s a kind of breakfast cake; while it’s got a bit of sugar, it’s infinitely better than those awful oatmeal-in-a-packet things.
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/3 cup raisins
- ¼ cup chopped pecans (optional)
- 1 cup whole milk
- ½ cup applesauce
- 2 tsp. melted butter
- 1 lightly beaten egg
Combine all and pour into a greased 8″×8″ pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Serve warm, in bowls, with milk poured over, and eat in the kitchen with the (turned-off) oven open so as to soak up every last bit of cozy warmth.
Sweet Potato (& Corn) Fritters
This is one of my family’s new favorites, a new twist on our old favorite, potato pancakes (see below). Well, okay, my five-year-old isn’t crazy about them (yet.) But the rest of us are. Fresh cilantro is expensive (and likely imported) in the supermarket this time of year; it’s fairly easy to grow your own indoors. But don’t leave it or the green onions out. The orange, yellow and green in these make them so pretty. If you’re inclined to be snobbish about frozen veggies, consider that few vitamins are lost during freezing, and that commercially frozen foods are frozen at the peak of freshness; you (and the planet) are way better off buying frozen veggies in winter than buying fresh ones that have been shipped long distances. Plus, recently, I’ve seen organic frozen corn everywhere from Costco to Trader Joe’s. If you planned ahead and froze corn yourself in the summer, so much the better.
Grate 3 large sweet potatoes (I don’t even peel them if they’re organic, just scrub and grate). Mix with 1 cup frozen corn kernels, rinsed; 4 chopped green onions; 4 tablespoons chopped cilantro; 3 lightly beaten eggs; and 1/3 cup whole wheat flour. (for non-gluten eaters substitute 2 tablespoons cornstarch and 2 tablespoons potato flour.) Stir in about ½ tsp. salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Drop by 1/4 cupfuls into a pan well oiled with one part oil (preferably corn or grapeseed) and one part butter—enough to keep them sizzling but not floating. Cook about three minutes on each side, and keep warm on a cookie sheet in a 275 degree oven while you cook the rest. Serve with a simple sauce of juice from 3 limes, ½ tsp. minced garlic, 1 tsp. chopped cilantro, 1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional), 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 2 tsp. sesame oil. Add chili flakes if you like things spicy, and please look for soy sauce that is just soy, wheat, salt, and water.
The Hanukah favorite, perfect throughout the winter! My kids and husband like them with ketchup—they’re kind of like a hash brown, then, but I (and my parents) love them with the more Eastern European toppings of sour cream and applesauce. Either way, they’re cheap, filling and really tasty.
Grate 3 large potatoes and squeeze in a clean cloth to release some of their liquid. Mix with ¼ cup flour, 2 eggs, and 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped. If it looks soupy, add a bit more flour. Add about 1 tsp. salt and some fresh black pepper. Drop by ¼ cupfuls onto a hot pan oiled with one part oil (preferably corn or grapeseed) and one part butter—enough to keep them sizzling but not floating. Drain on paper towels, if necessary, and keep warm in a 275-degree oven. Serve immediately.
Curried Red Lentil Soup
It sounds kind of unappetizing to say so, but this is a great clean-out-the-fridge (be judicious concerning food safety rules, please!) soup. Lots of different kinds of veggies blend in wonderfully.
Chop these into small dice, and don’t bother to peel first—just scrub:
- 1 large yellow onion
- 4 stalks celery
- 8 carrots
- 4 potatoes
- 4 apples
- other optional things: chopped green beans, leftover mashed potatoes, etc.
In a large soup pot, heat 4 tablespoons olive oil until shiny. Add 4 cloves garlic, minced finely and a peeled, grated, 1″ piece of ginger. Cook several minutes, until fragrant, and add the onion. Cook 10 minutes, and add the rest of the veggies, stirring constantly. Cook for 20 or so minutes, adding more oil if necessary, until the mixture is highly fragrant and the carrots and apples are beginning to caramelize. Sprinkle 1 or 2 teaspoons curry spices over, and continue stirring for one minute. Pour over 4 cups vegetable stock (or water, in a pinch) and scrape the bottom and sides of the pot vigorously, releasing all the lovely browned bits. Add 1 can diced tomatoes and 1 cup washed, pre-soaked, and drained red lentils, and, if it looks like it needs it, a bit more water. Allow the soup to simmer, covered, for 45 minutes; then taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper, or a bit more curry (mixed with cold water first), if needed, and the juice from one lemon. Serve with plain full fat yogurt and unsweetened dried coconut as toppings, and with bread—especially the no-knead bread—for dipping.
No-Frills Lentil Soup
Lentils are widely touted as the convenience food of the legume family since they don’t require pre-soaking or pre-cooking. However, I think pre-soaking and pre-cooking them renders them both tastier and more digestible. I grew up on this soup. It’s about as simple and inexpensive as recipes get, and gets rave reviews whenever I make it.
Start by rinsing and soaking 1 pound green (most of us think of them as brown) lentils in fresh water to cover. Soak for at least one hour, then drain and rinse again. Cover with fresh water again, bring to a boil; then simmer for one hour.
Meanwhile, heat a soup pot over medium heat and cover the bottom with olive oil, about ¼ cup. (You really must use olive oil—in a soup this simple, each ingredient has a lot of work to do.) Add 1 or 2 large yellow onions, finely chopped, and 1 tablespoon minced garlic. Cook these for 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then add the cooked, drained lentils and 1 tablespoon ground cumin. Stir for one minute more; then add a quart or so of cold water. Bring to a boil; simmer for 45 minutes, adding about 2 tsp. salt and some fresh black pepper. Stir in fresh juice squeezed from 1 lemon and taste again to adjust for saltiness and acidity. Remove from heat, drizzle in a bit more olive oil, and serve alongside bowls of plain steamed rice or slices of fresh bread.
Black Bean & Corn Quinoa
This is such a quick and easy meal. It’s delicious topped with sour cream, salsa, black olives, and scooped up with tortilla chips. You can even roll it up in tortillas and eat it like burritos. However, it’s great all on its own, too, drizzled with a bit of lime juice.
Heat a large skillet with a lid until a drop of water sizzles. Add ¼ cup olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add 2 large yellow onions, chopped, and 1 tablespoon minced garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and browning, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon dried oregano, ½ tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. paprika and stir. Pour in 1 ½ cups rinsed & drained quinoa and salt and pepper, stirring constantly, for five minutes, or until quinoa looks a bit browned. Add 1 can (or cooked equivalent) black beans, drained, 1 cup frozen corn kernels, and 3 cups vegetable stock or water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, stir, and cover for 20 minutes. Fluff the quinoa kernels lightly with a fork when they are finished, and serve.
Beef & Beer Stew
You may notice this is the only non-vegetarian recipe here. Since my older son’s birth, we’ve tried to drastically reduce our family’s consumption of meat, making the switch to organic and/or sustainably raised beef and poultry, the higher price tag of which really helps us keep our meat eating to a minimum. I began making this stew when we lived in Scotland, where the farmer’s market and our local butcher carried beef from cattle raised on pasture. In fact, we were lucky enough to meet some of those local cattle whenever we hiked along the Fife Coastal path, where they grazed along rocky and hilly ground, patiently renewing the soil, converting grass into food for humans, and delighting our children with their peaceful friendliness. Back in the U.S., now we source our meat from local farmers with the help of Local Harvest.
Don’t leave out the wine or the beer. You’ll be sorry if you do. We like it best with the called-for Guinness, but I’ve also made it with gluten-free beer so that it’s safe for my dad and it’s still fabulous.
Heat a large pot until a drop of water sizzles. Add ¼ cup olive oil and 1 lb. beef, cut into 1″ pieces. Stir until brown and add 6 cloves of minced garlic. Cook one minute more and add 6 cups of beef stock or broth, 1 cup of Guinness beer, 1 cup red wine, 1 6 oz. can of tomato paste, 1 tablespoon each of sugar and dried thyme, 2-4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (I like lots) and 2 bay leaves. Simmer, covered, for one hour.
Meanwhile, in a separate pot, melt ½ stick (1/4 cup) butter. Add 3 pounds peeled and cubed russet potatoes, 1 large yellow onion, chopped, and 2 cups chopped, peeled carrots. Cover and simmer for one hour.
After both pots have simmered one hour, combine them in a single pot and simmer for 30-45 minutes, until the flavors are well blended. Season with salt and pepper, stir in 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, and remove from heat. It’s so delicious with no-knead bread or plain steamed rice, and a glass of red wine—just the thing for a cozy company meal on a winter’s evening.
Nourishing? Depends on your definition, I guess. This treat just feels wintery to me, and it is so easy and fun to make. A few weeks ago, my five-year-old boy was down in the dumps, and making up a batch of this stuff really cheered him up—probably partly because I let him break the candy canes up with a hammer (after they’d been sealed in a bag, of course.) A very small piece for everyone, enjoyed slowly after dinner, is a sweet way to end a meal together. Please consider using organic and fair trade ingredients if possible, and count the extra cost as bringing sweetness—not bitterness—to the lives of the people who brought it to you.
First, break 6 regular-sized peppermint candy canes into lentil-sized fragments, either putting them in a sealed bag and striking with a wooden mallet, or whirling them quickly in a food processor. (Smashing is much more fun.) Melt 18 ounces white chocolate in a glass bowl in the microwave, or in a double boiler if you have one. On a baking sheet lined with waxed paper, draw a tidy rectangle with a pencil. Pour 2/3 cup (about half) of the melted white chocolate in the center of the rectangle, and quickly spread the chocolate evenly to all the edges. Sprinkle immediately with about 1/2 the candy canes and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, melt 9 ounces semisweet chocolate. Stir in 1 and ½ tsp. pure peppermint extract and 6 tablespoons heavy cream. When you are sure that the first layer of white chocolate is hardened, pour the semisweet-cream mixture evenly over that first layer, and allow to harden—about 20 minutes. Re-warm the white chocolate, and spread over the semisweet layer, sprinkling the white chocolate with the rest of the crushed candy canes. When fully hardened, use a sharp knife to cut the bark into 1″ × 1″ pieces. Store in an airtight container with layers of wax paper in between them, or pack into empty glass jam jars and share the minty goodness. (Makes a fun present. Make sure your recipient tastes it while nice and fresh: within the first three days and certainly within the week.)
And there you have it: ten recipes that will make you grateful for winter—the right kind of weather for standing over a hot stove, for baking bread, for savoring soup, for long, slow simmering stews. Share the warmth!