A Winter’s Meal

December 7, 2012

— The winter garden hangs on to a precious few things. —

Both in early summer and early winter, the concept of a recipe goes out the window. I cook what I have, combine it as best I can, and call it dinner.

In summer that means a salad made from a handful of radish tops, maybe some baby bits of arugula and some extra pea shoots or beet greens that I don’t mind sacrificing. I pull something out of the freezer, perhaps a lamb chop from the last trip to the Berry Farm, or whip up some kind of pasta with the Sicilian sauce from the prior season. It’s the harbinger of the lush garden to come. I feel, in summer, a sense of impatience for the impending bounty.

— The early summer salad is a scrappy mix of whatever is up. —

— A happy girl who loves her garden. —

In winter, the garden landscape is bittersweet. I don’t plant a winter garden and I don’t have any of the season-extending stuff my ‘extra-husband’, Eliot Coleman talks about in his books. I let the winter stuff fend for itself – with 0% upkeep.

The only things left are the true survivors: a few stoic fava bean plants, the intrepid kale, the hearty brussels, the rich Spigarello.

— The brassicas get their groove on when it freezes. —

— The quiet garden resting up for next season. —

— Turnips and rutabaga are at their sweetest after a nice freeze. —

The winter bounty is precious. There is no more to come. At least not for many months.

I feel thankful that anything is alive and edible beneath the layer of frost. Far from old and tired, the snips of what is left are insanely sweet and tender – oodles sweeter than their heyday a month or two earlier. Even the seemingly rotten, blackened fava pods contain the sweetest harvest of the whole year. And I am not competing with the flea beetles (those miserable beasts!) for the lion’s share of my brassica family – the Spigarello leaves are tiny, tender, dark-green, richly flavored and free of the pests who’ve bothered them all year. Same with the kale.

The sweet potatoes, which I grew for the first time this year, should be illegal! They are downright sugary and nearly crystallize like bourbon-flavored candy when cooked.

— Although a different type of plant entirely, sweet potatoes repeat the summer’s potato excitement. —

— Sweet potatoes are roasted with a bit of olive oil and a few drops of last year’s maple syrup haul. —

If nothing in the freezer floats my boat, then someone heads down to the pond with a fishing rod, some fur-lined gloves and a winter coat. Golden Trout may seem like a summery meal to the city dweller, but at The Muddy Kitchen, the trout are readily available and at their freshest on these short, cold days.

— Trout swim in our pond in the summer and end up as dinner in the winter. —

— A light dusting of flour and a quick fry in the ole’ cast iron. —

— Keith and Christopher stop by to talk about deer, coyote, tractors and the weather. —

— Wine is always an important part of the winter meal. The cellar is never bare. —

— Sweet, flaky winter trout. —


Sweet Potatoes Roasted with Garlic, Olive Oil and a Few Drops of Maple Syrup

Pan-Fried Trout with Sauteed Onions and Brown Butter

Broccoli Spigarello and Kale Bits Cooked a Little Like Caldo Verde Soup, But Less Soupy


Fire in the Fireplace

Rich, Wintry White Wine

Dark Chocolate Bar for Dessert

— Spigarello cooked Caldo Verde style. —

— Catching the chestnuts before they incinerate is nightly challenge. —


Take your boots off before you come in here!

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }


Love the POST
The color
The Cold Garden Like mine though sadly I did not plant any root crops wish I had remember to back then
I could almost smell the smells in your kitchen lol
I roasted turnips,parsnips and carrots to go with stuffed roasted chicken OMG were they good I will now be reminded to plant deep into the soil for winter goodness thanks!
Love my sweet potatoes the same way :
again another beautiful post


Jennifer Solow

Thanks for sticking with me through the winter, Eunice!

Try some Spigarello this year! It was my favorite find…yummy little broccoli spears in the summer and I wouldn’t be surprised if it survives the whole winter. A happy masochist, it thrived after each time I cut down to the stock — producing more and more intense little niblets every week.




I feel wholesome and cosy just reading this. Loving the winterscape images from your resting garden, the delicious sounding soup and the tail-end mad photo of chestnut bashing. Love it all, Jennifer 😀


Jennifer Solow

Stop by for a hot chocolate and some mad chestnut bashing, Kellie!


nigel carr

solow is really hitting her groove & settling in.

++love the lunch photography–and that delicious looking bouteille of white burgundy…


Jennifer Solow

Thanks for the ++’s, Nigel!!!
Yes – that was an enjoyable bouteille to say the least. Wish I had another case of it! Hope you guys are well…I keep up with your various escapades on FB.



You best be listening for tiny hooves on yer rooftop. I asked Santa to put you in my stocking this year and since I have been a very good girl and he has a very big sack he promises to have a few little friends grab you AND your muddy kitchen on his way down to Asheville. Can’t wait for a nibble on some trout, sweet potato and that cute elvish cheek of yours….Yummm !


Stewart Putney

Great post…and nice wine!


Jennifer Solow

Thanks, Stewart! Yeah, the wine was too too yummy. Buttery, rich, earthy — what a white burgundy is all about. 🙂



Looking at the photo of your garden, it brought back a fond memory. The little farm my mother had (she called it her garden, ‘farm’). Once she had it all going, she involved all of us to help her harvest. Thank you, 😀 Fae.


Jennifer Solow

Thanks for sharing the memory, Fae!

My mother never had a garden, much less a farm. Some pretty flowers here and there and that was it. I remember the yard behind our house, a house that we didn’t live in for very long. I remember climbing the old cement wall in the back to get into that mysterious neighbor’s garden. I used to poke my fingers into the ground and pull out a few tiny chive bulbs and pop them into my mouth. I loved their sweet, green, onion-y flavor.

I don’t remember if it was someone’s actual garden or just some wild chives behind someone’s house, but I do recall the pure delight – a little kid discovering the stolen wilds beneath the earth…the feeling that all backyards (and what grew beneath them) were rightfully and forever mine.


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