Sometimes meals in winter are hard. Or more accurately, I think, meals in winter can sometimes seem harder in the mind than they actually end up being to make. As an avid veggie lover, I guess I mainly attribute it to not having a fridge overflowing with fresh produce all week every week.
But then I remember a byproduct of those bountiful summer months: CSA excesses carefully blanched, frozen, and otherwise stored for later days. Paired with a select pantry of dry goods, fresh greens both hardy and tender from our winter CSA and the Yale Farm, and a little ingenuity, these stores let us eat well — locally, seasonally, and deliciously — even in the months of late winter when the worst may be over but there are still many weeks before the ground fully thaws.
This dish is exemplary of the diverse and delicious flavours of winter. I’ve made it a few times and its supremely versatile. The basic idea is a warm grain salad; you can swap in different root veggies, herbs, and greens, whatever you have on hand. It’s comforting, satisfying, healthy, keeps well, and rustic (with serious charm potential if you treat it nice and dress it up a little).
Warm grain salad with roasted beets, herbs, and brown butter
– dry grains (I use a combination of whatever we have – wheat berries, rye berries, barley, buckwheat groats; more variety = more flavour!)
– root vegetables (you can use anything – beets, rutabaga, celeriac, sweet potato, turnip, any and all kinds of squash)
– hardy, woody herbs (think sage, rosemary, certain varieties of thyme)
– fresh greens (anything goes)
– butter and salt
Soak the grains overnight. Cook in a crockpot or on the stove with 3x the water.
Chop the veggies, toss in a bit of oil and salt, and roast in the oven until tender.
Mix together grains and root veg and cover to keep warm. De-stem herbs and fry in a pan with butter until strongly aromatic, beginning to crisp, and the butter just begins to brown.
Season with salt to taste. Serve warm with fresh greens.
See? Too easy. Writing up this recipe was pretty much unnecessary.
You’ll notice that this particular one was garnished with a few slices of fresh pear. But Josh, you ask, are you actually telling me you got some pears in your February CSA? Ah what a world it would be. There were a few pears left in the cool-bot (our refrigeration unit at the Farm made from an insulated wooden box and a tinkered-with air-conditioner) and I happened to have such a one on hand. It was a nice luxurious bit of sweetness. Though honestly I’d just as soon prefer some little hakurei turnips – they’re sweet and tender yet much more earthy and subdued, adding to the whole wintery sagaciousness thing, the laconic allure.
Warm grain salads. Where it’s at.
Some further ideas:
– toss in some spices like caraway, aniseed, cumin, coriander
– make a oil-vinegar dressing like you would for a salad
– top with a fried, poached, or soft-boiled egg
– crumble that goat’s cheese!
Share your combinations and inspirations below! You can, as it were, put them in the pot.