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Monday, January 12, 2009

Winter Delicacies

It's easy to get excited about eating seasonally in June, when the strawberries are starting to ripen, or in August when you're inundated with seasonal bounty. But when January, February, and even March roll around, you may begin to wonder what you've gotten yourself into. Seasonal eaters, take heart! Though you may have to search a little harder, there are plenty of winter delicacies that are perfectly appropriate to the season. Winter Produce - Hearty vegetables like carrots, cabbage, leeks and onions can help keep you warm through the cold months. Winter squash, including the acorn and butternut varieties, are a special treat this season, and can be baked alone with butter, brown sugar and salt for a simple and filling meal. Potatoes and yams are also a reasonable choice. Winter fruits include pears and tangerines (and their close relatives, clementines). It's also a reasonable time to buy tropical fruit, especially if you need a blast of summer, since it's generally shipped quite far regardless of the season. Apples are slightly past their peak, but still quite good in many locations. Dried and Preserved Foods - Winter is a great time of year to eat nuts, dried fruits, pickles, preserves, sausage, and canned produce from your garden. With these foods, a little often goes a long way to add some interest to a dish. Delicacies that fall into this category also include aged cheeses and alcoholic beverages, which are appropriate at any time of year. Seasonal Meats - For omnivores, beef and pork are traditional cool-weather meats, and wild ducks and geese are in season if you can find them. Bread and Cakes - There are few things cozier than spending an afternoon baking bread or pastries, and grains are a good hearty food for the winter. Maintain your own sourdough culture, use a bread machine, try the book Artisan Breads in Five Minutes a Day, or buy frozen dough to bake at home -- it's hard to go wrong with fresh bread, cake or cookies. Soups and Hot Drinks - Keeping a soup or stew simmering on the stove smells great, builds up complex layers of flavor, and even helps humidify your kitchen. Mulled cider, hot chocolate, and hot carob are all simple, welcome treats at the end of a snowy day. Spices - Whatever you're cooking, spice it up. Spices gently increase your circulation and metabolism, helping you feel warm and energetic. From curry to cloves, they also add a festive and flavorful touch to the simple but hearty foods that are the staples of the winter season.

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