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.
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 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.
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.
A WINTER’S MEAL AT THE MUDDY KITCHEN
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
Take your boots off before you come in here!