Winter Update

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February has been unusually cruel this winter. I wonder how it is by you? We have two feet of snow, piles of ice and sub-zero temperatures. This morning I woke to see the thermometer read -12. That’s just silly. We don’t usually have temperatures like that in the Hudson Valley, so when I see that I feel very alarmed. Did you see this map from the Washington Post? About how the eastern U.S. is the coldest place in the world? So, yeah, it’s cold.

Oddly, I really don’t have any desire to cook right about now, so that’s why I haven’t posted anything lately. I’m just not that kind of blogger. I’ve tried, but when I’m not motivated by something that excites me, I just feel like: why bother? Lately I’ve been drinking a lot of detox tea (so exciting!! …not), fresh citrus juice (those piles of citrus don’t motivate anymore, but a big glass of grapefruit-clementine juice hits. the. spot.) and chocolate pudding (you have to live a little, right?). Also lots of rice bowls, see above. I keep my pressure-cooked short-grain brown rice in the fridge for when lunch time comes a calling. I put various things on top: scrambled eggs cut in strips, avocado, cucumber, scallion, grated carrot, pickled ginger, sesame seeds, togarashi, hot sauces, sesame oil, tamari, etc. It always makes me feel satiated in such a good way.

I’ve also been reading a lot–going back to cookbooks, organizing my canning shelves, making notes on what worked and what didn’t, planning for next year’s garden, dreaming about my little green wrought-iron bench that’s buried in snow. And I’m getting ready for a preserving class I’m holding on May 2nd. I’m trying to remind myself to take advantage of this down time.

Here’s some other things inspiring me lately:

This book, Dawns and Dusks, that features taped interviews with sculptor Louise Nevelson. It can be a little rambling, but it’s intimate tone is fascinating.

I love Brain Pickings, don’t you? I’ve been holding onto this one, Anton Chekhov on the 8 Qualities of Cultured People. Also, I wasn’t aware of how handsome Mr. Chekhov was.

Spring cleaning is already bubbling up in me. I sort of want to get rid of everything. Or is that mid-winter crazy-pants disorder (MWCP)? I don’t know, but I like this article titled Abundance Without Attachment.

Let’s think warm thoughts, and look forward to March 20th, shall we? That’s the first day of spring or vernal equinox, which also boasts a full solar eclipse. Truly, we have much to look forward to!

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Roasted Grape and Hazelnut Conserve

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I know that title sounds luxe, but I will admit this recipe was born of something quite the opposite. Things have been a little rough for the past week in these parts, truth be told. My son has been sick, out of school for over a week, and as these things go, I soon had my own illness as well. All we do is cough and color and watch TV. In addition, there have been blizzard warnings, winter storm watches, and a foot of snow fell just yesterday. All this means I have been in the house for what feels like a verrrry looooong time.

Because of all of this, I haven’t had much of an appetite or the ability to go out and shop for food. However, last Thursday we made a very exciting trip to the local grocery store. It was like we were at the county fair. We held hands and walked down the aisles in our clompy winter boots like zombies, reading labels with glee and in general, being amazed at the bounty before us. There were flashing lights, strange noises, and people were milling about everywhere!

We decided on a few things to get us through the next few days, and as a special treat my son requested red grapes, which I don’t normally buy. I even let him pick out the bunch, though I thought to myself: he’s not going to eat that. Poor thing had been so sick, his stomach in such pain, I let him pick anything that would tempt him. Of course, over the next few days he would eat a handful of those grapes and lose interest. Not because his appetite was gone, but because they really weren’t very good grapes.

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Yesterday, I decided I was really going to toss them in the compost. Sometimes I get so weary of using everything and never letting anything go to waste. Sometimes I too just want to throw things out. We all have our days. But I’m glad I gained the strength to make this, because it’s a noble destination for those sad table grapes. The grapes retain a soft pop, and have a barely sweetened, slightly caramelized taste. I’ve been eating this on yogurt, and I bet they would be welcome on a slice of baguette with cheese or paté or both. As a savory option I would leave the vanilla out, and add some dried thyme instead. Also, I didn’t have the foresight to roast the hazelnuts first, but I bet that would be nice.

Here’s to your health, I hope it’s better than mine at the moment!

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Roasted Grape and Hazelnut Conserve

Yield: one pint

One bunch of red grapes, stems removed

A handful of hazelnuts, no shell bits please! Toast in a cast iron pan if you like.

A dash of vanilla extract (bean is all the better, if you are so lucky to not be snowed in)

One clementine (it only needs a little bit of life left in it)

One teaspoon to one tablespoon of honey

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking tray with neutral oil. Put the grapes in a single layer on the pan and roast for 20 to  30 minutes, until soft and slightly shriveled, and a tad caramelized. Remove them gently to a pot and squeeze in the juice of the clementine. Stir in the honey and vanilla. Bring to a simmer and mix, making sure the flavors blends. Cook about ten minutes. Remove mixture to a glass jar. Keep refrigerated.