Monday, February 27, 2012

Longing for Winter Stews

 It's barely been winter this year.   Actually, it's only in these  last few days of February that I'm feeling chilled, and longing for those slowly cooked foods that not only warm my entire being - but also create the kind of earthy, spicy fragrance that warms up my whole home.  And, while I've prepared for several, favorite cold weather foods by having all the ingredients on hand - and my blue Le Creuset compote pot and French oven - I haven't actually manufactured anything until a couple of days ago.
Dried Fig Compote is a good item to have on hand.  Once cooked the compote will keep forever in the fridge and has oh-so-many uses.
I like to use semi-dried figs - which are usually found at shops that sell copious amounts of dried fruits therefore have constant turnover so even the dried fruits are fresh.
Add as many dried figs as you like to a compote pot (or heavy, non-reactive saucepan).  Cover with a fortified wine such as the Recioto which I used (a fortified Valpolicella) or Marsala, etc. by an inch.  Add a few heaping tablespoons of pure honey.  I use my brother-in-law's blue-ribbon-prize-winning Nantucket honey made by bees who feast on everything from cranberry blossoms to teasel grown especially for them by my sister.  Actually, I'm constantly searching for ways to use his Eat Fire Spring Apiary honey in my recipes. I added a cut up blood orange too.  Just because.  Just because there they were staring out of a bin at Lick the Market.  The winey, sweet citrus is a great foil for both the figs and musty Recioto.  They looked good too.   Cover the pot and simmer for a few hours or until the figs are soft and can be cut with the side of a fork.

Cool and serve with creme fraiche, whipped cream, ice cream, yogurt in a shapely glass goblet to end a meal with aplomb. Or, coarsely chop and use as a filling in a crostata, in mini turnover - or any other pastry that requires a filling.

Pot Roast is, to my mind, the quintessential winter dish, especially, Italian-style, stewed with lots of carrots, onions, garlic, red wine and peeled tomatoes, then served with polenta.  I had a nice little, about 3 pounds, bottom roast from Miller's Crossing.  Brown the roast in a French oven or heavy bottomed casserole in olive oil until nicely colored on all sides.  Remove from  the pot and reserve.  Add lots of coarsely chopped onions, thinly sliced carrots, a minced hot pepper, and chopped garlic to the pot.  Saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.  Add the roast back into the pot and turn to cover with the vegetables.  Add about 1/2 bottle of hearty red wine, pelati (peeled tomatoes) from a 2 pounds 3 ounces tin vine end removed and loosely broken up with your hands, and 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano to the pot.  Cover, askew, simmer, turning the meat occasionally until the meat is very tender - about 2 1/2 - 3 hours.   Let sit for at least 4 hours - in order to let it  continue to absorb the flavors - or overnight.  Even better.   Reheat before serving.  Remove the meat from the pot and thinly slice.  Arrange on a serving platter and cover with the sauce to serve.   Enjoy pot roast sandwiches with the leftover meat, and pasta covered with excess sauce.

SUSANSIMONSAYS:  I enjoy stopping at Otto's Market whenever I drive through Germantown on route 9G, as it's just a short distance from the highway in the tiny Germantown center.  Otto's is an everyman's grocery store and reflects  the history and passion of owner Otto Leuschel who worked for Whole Foods for 17 years before opening his childhood dream shop.  The needs of the surrounding communities are evident in the product selection at Otto's.  Need a bag of Domino sugar or a box of Cascade dish deterent - or a jar of cornichons or  a bag of vegetable chips?  Otto's has them all.


  1. I hear that teasel ROOT is a great antidote for Lymes disease... and birds like the seed - I wonder what flavors the flowers bring to the honey?

  2. I hear that teasel ROOT is a great antidote for Lymes disease... and birds like the seed - I wonder what flavors the flowers bring to the honey?