We don't spend a lot of time rhapsodizing over winter ingredients. This stands in contrast to late spring, when food writers and bloggers babble poetry over strawberries, or the summertime, when ripe tomatoes come in for a lot of breathless excitement. But winter has its own ingredients — like the rutabaga I can hardly wait to cook, or even the bags of heirloom beans that turn into pantry stars in the colder months. Read on for three more ingredients that are inspiring me to cook this winter — I'd love to hear yours! What's exciting you in the kitchen right now?
Here are a few ingredients that have been lighting my imagination in the kitchen. They're certainly not restricted to the winter season, but they are available now and are giving me new ideas.
- Turnips - Ah, root vegetables. I really do look forward to root vegetables in the winter, but I've never been a big fan of turnips. Their bitterness has always been a bit much for me. But then last week I roasted them silly — they were charred, honestly — with duck fat and honey, and I finally fell in love. (Duck fat — the great matchmaker!) I'm inspired now to do a little more turnip experimentation.
- Duck Breast - Duck breast, the source of the above-mentioned duck fat, is not a cheap cut of meat. It's on a level, at least where I live, with a really good steak. It has been inspiring me, though, because of how much it brings to the kitchen. A little bit of duck makes a very satisfying meal, and it leaves behind enough rendered fat for batches of roasted vegetables and stew starters. Duck, when I can fit it into the grocery budget, has been something new, something delicious, that makes me look forward to cooking dinner.
- Pomegranate Molasses - This tangy, rich syrup is my new secret ingredient. I've been dreaming of ways to sneak it into things: Grain salad dressings, bean dips, glazes for meat.
There are just three of the things that are motivating me to extend my cooking beyond my usual routine. What about you? Is there any winter produce that gets your creativity flowing? Or other ingredients you pull out of the pantry this time of year? What's inspiring you to cook these days?
(Image: Faith Durand)