Tastes Like... December
In case you hadn't noticed, December is BUSY - and here's why (in chronological order): Hanukkah, St. Nicholas Day, St. Lucia Day, Simbang Gabi, Eid al-Adha, winter solstice, Christmas, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, New Year's Eve (please add to the list if I've missed some). The twelfth month of the year is jam-packed with reasons to eat, drink and be merry, regardless of one's faith or spot on the globe.
Survey ten people about what the holiday season means and in all likelihood you'll receive ten different interpretations. For me, this time of year means dark days and cold gusts of wind. Sorry, but a snowy white Christmas is far from my idea of fun. Take me to the beach instead; I'd much rather be singing carols in my bathing suit than in my woolies, which is exactly why the Appetites are headed to Key West this weekend for a tropical yuletide gathering.
Despite my fear and loathing of winter, I do look forward to this time of year if only for the food and drink. December doesn't taste quite like December without a nibble or whiff of the following edible notions and drinkable potions. So here's my list; please share what December tastes like to you in the comments area below.
December Tastes Like....
Pomegranates: There's nothing prettier than the glistening ruby-like tendrils of this fruit, now in season from California. They look great on rice (for a freshly fallen snow look) and taste great in a mixed green salad (don't forget to use the leftover juice for your vinaigrette). Pom seeds make wonderful garnish on a platter, particularly roast beast or a whole fish.
Clementines: One of life's greatest edible treasures, the portable Clementine can go in your purse, carry-on bag or school lunch, without the worry of where you'll spit the seeds. A wonderful jolt of Vitamin C for protection against those wintry gusts. I'm a fan of throwing peeled clem into salads as well.
Pecans: More than any other time of year, I have a hankering for a handful of this luscious nut, which makes its way into pies and crisps and on top of cakes. Here's a source that's done me well; I'm enjoying my five-pound zipper-style bag. Inevitably, I make a batch of spiced nuts, courtesy of Union Square CafÃ© in New York.
Rosemary figures into those nuts, but it also plays a part in roast chicken, with chopped apples or pears and in a pot of white beans. I am also a fan of sticking a sprig in the bath, when the pace of the season makes me want to run for the hills.
Seeing red: Forget Rudolph's nose or Santa's suit; the ruby-red grapefruit is the red of my seasonal dreams, as is the drop-dead purple-y raspberry shade of the blood orange, here for a limited time only, so hurry! Both are dreamy eaten out of hand or as part of the dinner plate for antioxidants, fiber and yes, a splash of much-needed color.
Sipping pretty: Sooner rather than later, I'll be stirring up a pot of spiced hot chocolate, which makes the world stop just for a few minutes.
A little homemade nog is equally fun, but because it's so rich I can only take it in small doses. In fact, I'm a fan of the soy nogs out on the market.
Candy girl: I have little interest in Halloween candy but become a bit crazed over confections at this time of year, particularly hand crafting them in the kitchen. Chocolate truffles, anyone? (P.S.: I'll be making some this week for my book signing this Thursday night at Tabletop in Dupont Circle!) And yes, I promise a peppermint patty experiment in coming days. Stay tuned...
Seeing Beans: White beans with roasted kale, black bean soup or chili, a midweek pot of lentils, and "Hoppin' John," the New Year's good-luck classic of black-eye peas and fixins -- they're all part of my December repertoire, and well through the winter. I cook beans about twice a week these days, and my favorite source is Rancho Gordo, the brainchild of heirloom bean hero Steve Sando.
Today is chat day: Talk to me today at Noon ET for another edition of What's Cooking.
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