Blah, blah, blahs

Cynthia
Cynthia Stone
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What do you call those horrible days between the last holiday party and the first time you realize, as you're driving home from work, that it's not pitch black?

I don't think I was meant to live here in the winter because I can't find anything to enjoy about the cold. Maybe one day I'll discover something I like doing in the snow. In the meantime, my warm kitchen is a refuge for which I'm grateful.

Everyday Kitchen -

What do you call those horrible days between the last holiday party and the first time you realize, as you're driving home from work, that it's not pitch black?

I don't think I was meant to live here in the winter because I can't find anything to enjoy about the cold. Maybe one day I'll discover something I like doing in the snow. In the meantime, my warm kitchen is a refuge for which I'm grateful.

If the cold-weather blahs are getting to you today, I offer three pick-me-up recipes from warmer climes to set your mind on more pleasant pursuits - maybe even an upcoming winter vacation, if you're lucky.

Citrus-ginger baked salmon with mixed greens

This recipe is ridiculously virtuous - and virtue on the heels of non-stop feasting is to be sought, don't you think? Its origins are eclectic to say the least, so much so I'm not sure I can identify a single country. Let's just say this comes from far south of here. The greens take longer than the salmon so get those going first. They don't mind waiting, either, and since this combination looks beautiful on a serving plate, it's a great entertaining dish.

If you want to serve a starch on the side, I suggest boiled rice or plain noodles.

grated zest and juice from 1 orange and 1 lemon

1 tbsp. each olive oil, soy sauce

1 tsp. brown sugar

1 tsp. grated onion

few drops sesame seed oil (optional)

1 thumb-sized piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and finely grated

1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 to 6 salmon fillets, skin removed

Greens:

1 large onion, diced

1 tbsp. olive oil

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

2 tbsp. rice wine or cider vinegar

1-1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 cup dry white wine (or 2 cups broth if you prefer)

1 tsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper

3 bunches hearty greens - kale, collards, turnip greens, swiss chard ... whatever you like

1 tbsp. soft butter or margarine

Whisk together orange and lemon zest and juice, olive oil, soy sauce, brown sugar, onion, sesame seed oil, ginger, salt and pepper. Place salmon fillets in a single layer in a greased baking dish.

Pour over citrus mixture; cover tightly and bake at 450 F for 12 to 15 minutes for 1-inch-thick fillets.

Check and bake a little longer if necessary, but you want a slightly darker centre to ensure the juiciest fish.

For the greens, fry onion in oil until it starts to colour. Add garlic and cook a minute or two, just until fragrant. Add vinegar, broth, wine, sugar, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Stir in the greens - swiss chard does not take as long so hold off adding that until 15 minutes before serving. If you are combining more tender greens with your mixture - spinach or bok choy, for example - add them for the last minute or two only or they will turn to mush. Cover and simmer 30 to 45 minutes, until greens are tender. Drain well and toss with butter just before serving with salmon.

Spicy pork and noodles with peanut sauce

There's something so comforting about spooning an entire meal out of one dish. This mixture is reminiscent of a Thai recipe, but no culture can claim ownership here - this is just a combination of warm flavours that I love.

Ginger is an important ingredient in this recipe, as it was in the salmon above, but it has such power to brighten everything up no wonder I gravitate towards it on winter nights. This amount serves 4 to 6.

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 celery stalk, thinly sliced

1 thumb-sized piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and grated

2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced

1 or 2 jalapeno or other hot peppers, seeded and minced

1 lb. lean pork, thinly sliced

1 each green and red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips

12 oz. vermicelli

large bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

Peanut Sauce:

1/4 cup smooth peanut butter

1/2 cup water

2 tbsp. each soy sauce, lime juice and brown sugar

pinch red pepper flakes

1 tbsp. red pepper flakes

Heat vegetable oil in a heavy frying pan and add carrot, onion and celery. Fry until just starting to soften. Stir in ginger, garlic, jalapenos, and pork and fry until pork is just cooked through but not tough. Add peppers and cook another minute.

Prepare vermicelli according to package instructions and stir, along with cilantro, into pork mixture.

For the sauce, combine all ingredients and heat or microwave, stirring a couple of times, until smooth.

Stir into pork noodle mixture and serve immediately.

Creamed lemon herb chicken

I suppose this simply flavoured dish is vaguely Mediterranean in origin, but whatever its heritage, the mixture is heavenly. Serve to 4 with rice, noodles or roasted potatoes. The sauce is loose but velvety; if you prefer a thicker, gravy-like consistency add the broth and reduce it as you like, then stir in whipping cream and heat through.

If you do that, watch out for the salt - you might want to hold off adding any until the end and consider using a low-sodium broth. Double or even triple these amounts for easy entertaining.

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

finely grated rind and juice from 1 lemon

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 tsp. honey

2 tsp. each chopped fresh thyme and tarragon (or 1/2 tsp. each dried)

1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper

2 tsp. each vegetable oil and butter

1/2 cup each chicken broth and whipping cream

big handful chopped fresh parsley

Place chicken in a single layer in a glass dish. Whisk together lemon rind and juice, wine, honey, herbs, salt and pepper and pour over chicken.

Cover with plastic and refrigerate 1 hour. Heat oil and butter together until foaming stops. Remove chicken and dry well with a paper towel, reserving the marinade. Fry chicken in oil and butter over medium-low heat until just cooked through.

Remove from pan; set aside and keep warm. Stir broth and cream into pan and heat through. Stir in parsley and serve over chicken.

Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John's. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 5970, St. John's, NL, A1C 5X7.

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: St. John's

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