The Taste of Winter

December 16, 2008 at 8:22 am

Rob Gardner

Why the hell is global warming making it so damn cold in Chicago (and non-scientist that I am, I believe that IS what is happening).  I’m damn sick of winter already.  The cold at least.  Winter local eating, I’m not getting the least bit tired.  Last night we ate a very typical winter meal.

My wife, who apprentices at Mado, sponges up all their recipes, making them her recipes.  If Chef Levitt uses milk for his polenta, Chef Sheila now uses milk for her polenta.  If he makes a porcini broth from dried mushrooms for his mushroom ragu, she’ll make a broth from the dried mushrooms she has around (not porcini).  Me, I’m not complaining.  I just do not think Mado uses the very coarse cornmeal from Ted’s Grain’s.

In the Chicago area, we have excellent cultivated, organic mushrooms available year-round from River Valley Ranch.  Although, I think of these mushrooms as an always there veg in the darkest times, we mostly eat them as the main course.  It makes a filling dinner on top of polenta.

On the side, we had some of the last frost-kissed kale.  Like I said, winter eating has its periods; if mushrooms are a balm all year round, then kale is something to go for early.   The last of the kale’s been picked, but you can probably still find it at the remaining markets.  Kale’s not a plant many reach for when thinking tasty dinners, but its flavor now is not severe and its texture always makes it fun to eat.  My wife did a quick sautee with a bit of anchovy that married well to the kale’s structure.

To round out the meal, one big girl and one almost as big, ate apples.

Notes on sourcing: Ted’s Grain cornmeal from Robin’s winter markets.  These markets will not convene again until JanuaryCassie Green sells River Valley mushrooms.  Michigan fruit farmers Seedlings and Hillside Orchards should be at the final two Green City Markets in December.


One Comment

  1. I too love Winter eating. When the ground begins to thaw in late March, a bittersweet nostalgia always sets in for me – a sense of loss for all the Winter dishes that I hadn’t had time to make.

    On a related note, meterologists are attributing the lower temperatures this year to La Nina. This prediction back in April was great fodder for the global warming skeptics. Just today, it was reported on the New York Times’ blog that several meterological organizations issued recaps of the temperature patterns for 2008. The post noted that while the Pacific was colder due to the effects of La Nina, the temperature of the Artic was far warmer than usual.

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