Ah, January! What keeps us going in this most wintry of months when the sparkle and pop of the holidays are well behind and there's plenty more winter ahead? Here in my mild west coast climate I count myself lucky as I can still find much to inspire me in the farmers' markets, especially if I'm interested in something orange (twenty kinds of citrus, the last of the persimmons) or deep green (kale, kale, kale!) What about you, dear readers? What supports and brings forth your winter inspiration?
I've also been hoarding the last of the Christmas chocolate, breaking off one or two squares here and there to suck on in the afternoon, relishing the thick, melty bittersweetness in my mouth. There are a few jars of gifted jam and booze-soaked fruit to break into as well. I pace myself, holding on as long as I can to minimize the gap between the last of the rummed cherries and the bright, happy days when they first appear fresh in the markets again.
Deep winter is bread baking time, too, for the many ways it nourishes: The physical labor of mixing and kneading, the sharp yeasty scent of rising dough, the house-filling aroma of bread baked and just-baked. And the unbeatable pleasure of biting into a pat of butter melting on a still-slightly-warm hunk of bread. I'm considering for tomorrow (MLK holiday!) a few old-fashioned cinnamon swirl loaves for their bonus scent of hot cinnamon and sugar.
I also appreciate this time of year for cleaning out the far corners of my pantry. Now is the time to finish up the various half used packets of dried beans and legumes and examine the canned goods for expiration dates. I sniff out the dried herbs and spices for any lingering potency and make a now-or-never pile. I've thrown together plenty of spontaneous, delicious soups and stews after such expeditions!
What is your inspiration? What gets you in the kitchen and keeps you going as the snow/rain falls and the afternoon darkens?
(Images: Dana Velden)