Tuesday, January 7, 2014

All Is Made New


Happy new year! 

Okay, so we're already a week into the new year, but 2014 is still very much a newborn, full of potential and possibilities. It might not feel like it right now, especially if you are living through yet another blackout while the wind and snow rage on outside. I hope you are somewhere warm, that you are surrounded by loved ones.

January is often feels like a barren month -and if you live in an area covered with snow, it is very much so- but there are a few treats to look forward to during this inhospitable season.


Citrus
Citrus fruits come of age during the winter, the best ones come from countries that have sunny days and chilly nights as the cold triggers the fruits into storing more sugar. The thick, waxy peel of citrus fruits makes it difficult to judge the fruit's ripeness, and its colour is not an indication: cool temperatures can prevent lemons and oranges from turning into their characteristic yellow and orange, yet still be full of juicy ripeness. I have to admit that I have yet to find a fool-proof way of picking the perfect citrus, so I would love to know your tricks for choosing the best oranges and clementines.

January is the month for making marmalade! Seville oranges are the best oranges for preserving and are most abundant at the beginning of the year. However, Sevilles are not the only citrus to make a show this month: blood oranges are rather swish with their streaks and specks of purple pulp. Blood oranges tend to be sweeter than the more prevalent navels because of their low acidity, which makes them a perfect match for this fennel salad or this beetroot number.

Pomegrenate
Ever since these jewel-like fruits have attained the status of super-fruit, they have become increasingly popular. Most of us will consume it in juices, or buy packages of the kernels, already pried out of the spongy shell. But they are really not that difficult to peel just very messy!
Here are a few easy steps to opening a pomegranate, but I personally prefer cutting the fruit through the equator (right down the middle, somewhere between the top and the tail) and using a spoon to tap the fruit's bottom over a bowl. It's still a messy job, but it is fun enough to get a junior assistant (i.e. a child) to do the hard work. I used the tapping method for this salad.


Roots and Other Vegetables
We all know that nothing new is coming from the fields come January... well, actually, that may not be quite true. There are increasingly more farmers who choose to store their root crops in the field: it saves them the cost of running storage facilities, or having to sell crops at a low price in autumn when every other farmer is trying to offload the same produce. The technique of storing hardy roots underground is not new, in fact it was the main means of preserving fresh foods well into winter up until recently. And it is proving to be a very efficient and cheap storage method allowing truly fresh vegetables to make it to market  as and when they are wanted.

Root vegetables are generally known to be tough, but there are other winter standards that should not be forgotten. Cabbages are often left in the fields, to be dug out from the snow at a later date. Of course, this method of conservation is only reliable in areas that do not get excessive snow fall, but it is surprising how many cabbages can survive under the snow until the spring melt. In fact, even more resilient are the kales, which are likely to be more tender after spending some time under snow. Frost-bitten kales are not always the prettiest to look at, but they are perfect for braising and stewing, as they hold up well against the long cooking time.



Hoping that this new new year finds you warm, dry and with a full belly!
Bon app'!



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