Last Friday, Brooklyn got a nice dumping of snow... enough to cancel my teaching commitments for the weekend, thus opening up a few unexpected days to fill with the pleasures of cooking, eating and skiing.
As the snow started to fall, the winds howled, and little icy snow pellets ricocheted off the window signaling just how cozy and warm I was in my sweet little kitchen. Pretty soon, the music was on, and I was cooking up my own storm: White bean and kale minestrone, roasted beets with garlic and rosemary, pork shoulder braised in white wine and fennel, creamy polenta, mexican chocolate pudding with almond milk and cinnamon cashew cream.
For the soup I adapted this recipe from last week's NY Times Cooking for Health section... I sauteed a few slices of pasture-raised organic bacon (no nitrites or preservatives) with the vegetables, used beans that I had made earlier in the week instead of canned beans, substituted sweet potato for the white potato, and added some home made veggie stock instead of water. What turned this pot from good to OMG was the secret ingreient: a few frozen cubes of braise liquid saved from a chicken dish (aka: liquid gold).
Although it may sound like a lot of fancy ingredients, the reality is, it's more of a fancy recycling job...ingredients that rolled from one meal to the next... without adding any more work in the end. For example, when I make beans, I flavor up the cooking liquid with tons of veggies and fresh herbs... not only does it make for tasty beans, it also means the "broth" can be saved for another dish. (I actually like to use the bean broth on my dog Jake's food for added nutrients.) When I make a braise, I freeze cubes of the leftover liquid and use it to spike a grain dish, make a quick gravy or give a flavor jolt to a pot of soup or veggies.
The roasted beets were a nice treat and the garlic/rosemary fragrance made me swoon every time I opened the oven to shake the pan! Simple to make: peel and quarter the beets, coat with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Toss in a few cloves of garlic and add a sprig or two of rosemary. Roast at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes... until fork tender. Delicious hot, warm or cold... if they last that long!
It's a good thing I got all of the cooking done on Friday because Saturday was a winter wonderland and I skiied all day long in Prospect Park. I could never have guessed that one of the best x/c ski days of my life would happen in the city of Brooklyn--and neither could my dog!
Life is full of delicious surprises...