We have had some challenging winter days the past couple of weeks: if you are reading this, you must not be under a bank of snow. Congratulations! I hope that beyond the shoveling and snow-blowing and spinning and drifting, you have had a chance to enjoy how beautiful the whole world is under the winter-spun blanket.
This time of year tends to be busy – and many of us have traditions that bring us back to family or friends to share a meal or two. The traditions surrounding the food we eat at any holiday run deep in many families, and others may have more flexibility and change up seasonal cooking norms. I tend to like what I’ve eaten year in and year out. For just a couple of meals a year: I like the same things over and over, and not much of it is all that healthy.
There are also common complaints about this Holiday season, probably more than any other. The complaints I’ve heard tend to center around the need to shop for gifts, and the expectations surrounding how families spend their time, and with whom, and when and all that. There are a lot of stressors. Not a small one is that people seem to feel trapped by how decadent the food is and that it is everywhere, all the time, in copious amounts. And when I say food, I mean treats. So, so many treats.
Over the years, I’ve found myself thinking that peoples’ complaints about this time of year aren’t really about the Holidays. The root of the problem is that all year long we feel stressed about expectations around family time, and about the endlessly available shopping options, and about the constantly available treats. We’ve spent 11 months burning ourselves out on it all and when the time rolls around for those things to be special, they aren’t any more. Now it becomes a matter of having to do all these things, but multiplied by 10 to make it seem special.
The older I get the more I think I would like a Christmas season that our families lean a little more to a “Little House on the Prairie” sort of gift exchange (i.e., a penny, candy small cake and little cup), and think of oranges as a bit of a treat.
Of course this time of year doesn’t hold exactly these kinds of issues for everyone. Some people don’t make a big deal out of the Holidays. Some people maybe would like to, but don’t have people near by to share the bounty with. There is of course a wide range of ways people spend their time and energy this time of year.
Perhaps parts of your winter share this month will add healthful and seasonal dishes to the bounty. Or, like the recipes below, somewhere between healthy and not. And wherever you enjoy your share, and with whomever you enjoy it: I hope it’s blessed.
And I hope that there are some moments of peace and love and simplicity for you this time of year as well.
From all of us at the Food Farm,
In your share this month:
Beets, Red cabbage, Carrots, Onions, Russet and yellow potatoes, Delicata and Sunshine squash
Beet Chocolate Cake (From Bon Appétite)
Gluten free and dairy free
4 medium beets, scrubbed
2 Tbsp. virgin coconut oil, plus more for pan
½ cup cocoa powder, plus more for pan
1½ cups almond flour
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1¼ cups (packed) light brown sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp. virgin coconut oil
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of kosher salt
Cook beets in a medium pot of boiling unsalted water until tender, 30–40 minutes, depending on size. Drain and rinse under cold water until cool enough to handle. Cut off stem end, then peel and cut beets into large pieces. Transfer to a blender and add 2 Tbsp. water. Blend, adding water 1 Tbsp. at a time as needed, until a smooth purée forms—it should be the consistency of applesauce. Measure out 1 cup purée (reserve remaining purée for another use, such as blending into a smoothie).
Preheat oven to 350°. Line bottom of an 8″ round cake pan with parchment. Grease with oil, then dust with cocoa powder, tapping out excess.
Whisk almond flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and remaining ½ cup cocoa powder in a medium bowl; set aside.
Heat chocolate and remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in a medium heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring often, until melted. Remove bowl from heat. Stir in vinegar, vanilla, and reserved 1 cup beet purée until smooth.
Beat eggs, brown sugar, and salt in the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium-high speed (or use an electric mixer and large bowl) until more than tripled in volume and mixture holds a ribbon for several seconds when beater is lifted above batter, 5–7 minutes. Thoroughly beating the eggs is key to creating an aerated, light crumb and is a critical step when using gluten-free ingredients.
Pour chocolate-beet mixture into egg mixture and beat on medium-low speed until combined. Turn mixer off and gently tip in reserved dry ingredients. Beat on lowest speed, scraping down bowl as needed, until combined.
Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake cake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean and the top springs back when gently pressed, 45–50 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edges of pan, then invert cake onto a wire rack and let cool.
Heat chocolate, oil, vanilla, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring often, until chocolate is melted. Let cool, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thickened and cool enough to touch, 10–15 minutes.
Place rack with cake on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour glaze over center of cake to cover top, tilting baking sheet slightly to encourage a few drips to run over sides of cake. Let sit at room temperature until glaze is set, 2–3 hours.
Blue Cheese and Potato Tart
- 1 Savory Tart Shell, below, or recipe of your choice, in a 9-inch tart pan and ready to fill
- 1 pound potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/4 pound blue cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
- 1 tablespoons finely chopped herb or herbs of your choice, such as a mixture of thyme and rosemary
- Fine sea salt for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium saucepan, cover potato slices with water by two inches. Simmer, uncovered, until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. If the potatoes don’t seem very dry, pat them dry with towels.
Arrange potato slices, overlapping slightly, in concentric circles around the tart pan. Sprinkle blue cheese over potatoes. Whisk cream and egg yolk together and pour into tart shell, then sprinkle tart with herbs of your choice and salt.
Bake tart on a baking sheet until bubbling and golden brown, about 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan on rack and serve warm or cold. With a big green salad, for balance.
Savory Tart Shell
- 1 1/4 (5 1/2 ounces) cups flour
- 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter, diced
- 1 large egg
In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch and salt. Cut the butter in with a pastry blender, fork or two knives until it is in very tiny bits. Add one egg and mix with a fork until a dough forms. If this does not happen easily, toss it out onto a counter and knead it together. This dough is rather tough but with a little elbow grease, it does come together nicely.
This dough can also be made a food processor, or in a stand mixer, though I’ve only tried it in a food processor.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 12-inch circle. Place the dough in a 9-inch pie plate or tart pan and press to remove any air bubbles. Level the edges, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Proceed with a filling of your choice, no parbaking required.