One of the inconveniences of our climate is that some of the things that are so refreshing in the heat – lettuce and citrus for example – grow best here in the cool winter. I still love them, and I think we may be in particular need of their nutrients when our bodies are stressed by the cold. But I'm just not in the mood for them when it's 55 degrees in the house. I want soup or a slow-baked casserole that will heat up the kitchen as well as my body.
While we normally eat both these things uncooked, the can be prepared in a way that preserves their overall fresh feel but is a little warming as well.
SIMPLE ORANGE COMPOTE
5 or six oranges, peeled, seeded and sectioned
1 orange sqeezed
¼ cup dried cherries, cranberries or raisins*
¼ cup chopped pecans*
¼ cup coconut*
*These last three ingredients are optional. I happened to have them leftover from winter holiday baking - and they did make it pretty and a little more hearty.
Place ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat immediately. Add chopped pecans,dried fruit, and coconut if you would like. If oranges are not very sweet, you may need to sprinkle with a little sugar as well if you are serving as dessert.
VEGETARIAN WILTED SALAD
I remember my mom making this when my sister and I were little and my father was out of town. We ate things like spam, fried bologna, fish sticks or frozen pot pies for those rare father-less meals. We loved it! It was only later that I could imagine the pressure my mother was under to prepare a substantial meal for her hard-working partner, and how these days might have been a break for her from that routine. My mom said her own father used to make it for her when she was little. I wonder if this one "Yankee" in my family tree had a similar desire to eat salad with a little warmth to it. He, like my mother, made it by frying bacon and using the bacon grease as the "oil" in very warm vinaigrette mixed right in the skillet. After all these years, I remember it as being incredibly delicious. Here's my vegetarian version:
2 heads (or bags) of lettuce
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1teaspoon salt – or to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil
one large sweet onion, chopped
Wash and dry lettuce and place in salad bowl Shake rice vinegar and salt and sugar together in a jar with a tight-fitting lid Heat olive oil in a skillet and add chopped onion. Sauté till crisp – between 1 and 3 minutes. Add vinegar mixture and stir around, scraping up the crispy onions into the liquid mixture. Bring to a boil over high heat, then pour mixture over the lettuce and toss.
[above - our midwinter fridge . . . below - February lettuce]