Adventure on a Dinner Plate
By Meadow Scott
Where I come from, winter is a time of scarcity, even austerity. Local foods diminish entirely to whatever you managed to preserve of last summer’s bounty. It is a time to learn the sweet value of simplicity (whether you like it or not…) But here in the Willamette Valley, we are blessed with a gentler winter season, and our hard working farmers keep the harvests coming all year long. Although the diversity of fresh produce does simplify some, the variety is still dazzling.
The trick for winter here is to broaden your scope, open out your taste buds, tap into your adventurous self. True, the vegetables at market are primarily roots and greens, but so many different kinds of greens! So many different kinds of roots! And so many different ways to prepare them, even if you sometimes have to do a little extra research to figure out how.
For me root crops are the quintessential winter food, and we have so many to choose from at market right now. Beautiful fat roots, storing last summer’s sunshine in the form of dense, nourishing carbohydrates. I buy plenty of the sweeter, more common roots like carrots, beets and parsnips, but I also make sure to grab a few of the wilder tasting ones like celeriac, burdock and daikon to fulfill a need for adventure on my mid-winter dinner plate.
Then there are the greens. After an early winter glut of sweet, heavy, starchy goodness, there is one flavor I always crave in late winter— bitter. The bitter greens like radicchio and endive are hardy overwintering plants, with the indomitable spirit necessary to shoulder months of rain, and I feel like I can taste it. I feel grounded when I eat them. Not grounded in a comfort food kind of way, but in a survivor kind of way. Whatever else winter, or life, has in store for me, I can take it.
Combining nourishing roots and bitter greens into a steaming hot bowl of stew is the perfect antidote to cold weather. Start with a good broth, whether homemade or store bought, and plenty of leeks or onions, then the rest is easy— just throw in whatever you brought home from market. I like to see how many different colors I can fit into a soup. Make sure to simmer until everything has softened nicely and the flavors have had a chance to fully infuse into the broth. And don’t forget to include at least one unusual ingredient, to keep your taste buds open minded.
Winter Farmers Market Checklist