Enjoying Cold Season Crops

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Winter-Fresh Food From The Garden

I love having something fresh to enjoy each day, even in the depths of winter. True, the sharp January frosts hit my winter lettuces hard, but there are still some terrific greens to be gathered. I especially enjoy oven roasted frost-nipped Brussels sprouts, spritzed with fresh lime juice and a bit of sea salt. Kale is especially delicious when sizzled in hot olive oil with chopped Kalamata olives and some garlic, then drizzled with fresh orange juice.

Here are a few more ways to enjoy winter greens, all of which contribute splendid health benefits as well as palate pleasing qualities to the winter table. Winter cabbage has a sweet, slightly peppery flavor that adds snap to salads, especially if you make a lively curried dressing and add fresh and dried fruit.

Curried Cabbage Salad

1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped
1 cup Greek style yogurt
1-2 teaspoons sweet/hot curry powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups green cabbage, shredded
1 cup red cabbage, shredded
1 cup bok choy, shredded
1/2 cup tiny baby carrots, ends trimmed
1 Braeburn or Gala apple, cored and chopped
2 tablespoons golden raisins
2 tablespoons dried tart cherries
2 tablespoons walnuts, toasted

Mince garlic and ginger together or squeeze both through a garlic press into the yogurt. Add curry powder and salt to taste. Let stand while you shred greens. Toss shredded greens with vegetables and fruit. Taste dressing and adjust seasoning to taste. Gently toss salad with dressing, garnish with toasted walnuts and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Contrasts of Hot and Cold

I also enjoy contrasts of hot and cold food, such as hot rice tossed with raw shredded greens. Finely sliced strips of cabbage or kale make a beautiful, tasty bed for grilled chicken with a sumptuous sauce of fresh sage and slow-cooked onions. Serve this with curried cabbage salad and short grain brown rice for a quick dinner. If you have any leftovers, the chicken and sauce are great in sandwiches, hot or cold.

Grilled Chicken With Sage and Caramelized Onions

4 chicken breasts, skinned and boned
2 tablespoons olive oil
12 sage leaves, half shredded
1 tablespoon butter
2 white or yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Blend 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon shredded sage leaves in a bowl or plastic bag. Add chicken and marinate for at least half an hour (overnight in the refrigerator is great). In a heavy pan, heat remaining oil and butter over medium heat. Add remaining shredded sage and onions and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and the sugar. Stir to coat and cook over low heat until soft and golden (about 20-30 minutes), stirring occasionally. While onions cook, grill chicken over coals or in the oven, cooking for 6-8 minutes on each side and turning once. When chicken is done, put on a platter in a warm oven (200 degrees) and cover with foil. When onions are golden, stir in flour, then add hot water, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring well, to thicken the sauce (you may need a cup of hot water). Add remaining sage, stir and cook for 2-3 minutes over low heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve chicken and sauce hot, garnished with sage leaves. Serves four.

Fresh Tasting Fish Tacos

Years ago, one of my favorite Bainbridge Island eateries, Chili Cosmo’s, made an awesome fish taco that combined shredded cabbage with grilled fish and an aioli-like, salsa-infused sauce that doubles as dressing for crisp greens. At the time, it sounded weird, but the combination tastes so good that I still find myself eating this truly fabulous meal every week or so.

Fish tacos have been the hottest thing going in Baja California for many years. In California as well, some former burrito joints now serve nothing else. You’ll find my version of this delicious dish below, which features lemon-poached fish instead of the grilled fillets you’d find Down South. If you want to compare it with the real thing, it will cost you a ticket to sunnier climes, but this pleasing compromise tastes like summer even in the depths of winter.

Fish Tacos With Cabbage

1 organic lemon, juiced, rind grated
2 tablespoons fruity olive oil
2 teaspoons minced or pressed garlic (2-3 cloves)
1-1/2 pound skinlesss cod fillets
1 cup Greek style yogurt
1/2 cup salsa
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups green OR red cabbage, shredded
1 Walla-Walla sweet onion, thinly sliced
8-12 8 inch corn tortillas
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, stemmed

Blend 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a bowl or plastic bag with 1 tablespoon oil and 1 teaspoon garlic. Add fish and marinate for at least half an hour (if longer, keep in the refrigerator). Blend yogurt with lemon rind, remaining garlic, and salsa, set aside. Toss cabbage with onion and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon olive oil, set aside. Cut fish in inch-wide strips, place in a heavy frying pan, add remaining lemon juice and water to bring depth to 1/3 inch from bare bottom.  Sprinkle fish with salt and bring liquid to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover pan and simmer until fish is opaque (3-4 minutes, internal temperature of 136 degrees F.). Rub another frying pan with oil and warm tortillas over medium high heat for several seconds on each side. To serve, fill tortillas with cabbage, top with fish, drizzle with dressing, and garnish with cilantro. Serve at once. Serves 4.

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