Top Foods to Eat in January
Everything is good in its season. Winter is the season of dense, starchy, rooty or bitter vegetables, most of which belong to the cruciferous family. But man does not live by kale alone, and we feel the need to help you discover the abundance of seasonal produce that will add delicious variety to your winter menu. Let’s start, then!
Beets have a vibrant color and a vivid taste: intense sweetness balanced out by earthy undertones. The best beets are small in size and firm to the touch. The veg pairs up wonderfully with sharper flavors of salty cheeses like parmesan, gorgonzola or goat cheese and most citrus fruit. Beets work extremely well with vinegar and taste delicious when pickled or marinated. Strong-flavored herbs like tarragon or rosemary also complement the mild taste of bright purple roots, but as you cook them, do not discard the greens – you can use them in fresh salads or other dishes, just like you would do with chard or spinach.
Tip: add beets at the end of cooking if you want to save original colors of other ingredients.
Cabbage is probably the most down-to-earth of all vegetables, and yet it is very versatile. Cabbage can be shredded into a nice fresh slaw, braised to soup up your broth, or steamed till tender. It combines well with the majority of vegetables and most meats. Or it can be the basis of sharp-tasting preserves – kimchee and sauerkraut.
Mark Twain called cauliflower “cabbage with a college education.” Cauliflowers are less bitter in taste than most other crucifers and very vulnerable, easy to bruise or brown. But when browned intentionally, or caramelized to a certain point, the veg acquires a sophisticated taste thanks to the combination or nuttiness and sweetness. Hurry up to cook the best cauliflower specimen while the veg is still in season!
Citrus fruit create pleasing variety in the otherwise starchy and bitter January menu. Grapefruits, in particular, don’t want to bother you with cooking – eat them fresh, right out of hand, but make sure you clear the bitter white pith off the juicy sections. You can also use the pith-free bits in fennel or winter greens salads or simmer them with sugar to cook a very peculiar marmalade.
Delicate cousins of carrots, parsnips are starchier and denser than their brighter relatives, but can be cooked in a similar way and have a greater nutritional value! Their season is winter because it gives them that touch of frost that makes parsnips sweet. Use them where you would potatoes, turnips or sweet potatoes and season with rosemary, chili or paprika. Parsnips also work really well with parmesan – sprinkle the sharp-tasting shreds over roasted or mashed parsnips or serve with pureed soups.
Did you know that in the past, farmers thought that harvesting parsnips before winter settled over their fields brought bad luck.
Pears are capricious, sensitive to bruising and spoiling. Even slightly overripe pears do not ooze with juice - they just start tasting unpleasant. However, if you manage to find a good pear and eat it when it is perfectly ripe, you’ll “Mmmm” in delight at how soft, sweet, juicy and buttery the taste is! In January, poach pears in spiced wine or juice or cut them up with citrus and greens to make a fresh salad.
If you are wondering about the way you should cook winter produce for dinner, the answer for January is: stew. Stews are comforting and hearty, they require no haste from the cook, which is very good for low-energy winter days, and help to use the same limited choice of vegetables in a different way. The meat you need for a good stew is usually a cheap cut, too tough for other recipes, but perfect for long hours of slow simmering. Plus, a winter stew does not call for a piece of meat at all – cook them with dense veggies, beans or grains.
Do you know any other seasonal vegetables or fruit that can help to keep the winter menu lively and interesting? Feel free to share winter food ideas in the commentaries!