Friday recipes: what to eat in January

If you’ve not read Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, get yourself to the local library and check it out. This 2007 tome recounts the author’s family’s adventures in eating locally on their Southern Appalachian farm, which includes buying from local food producers and growing their own vegetables and poultry.

“Our highest shopping goal was to get our food from so close to home, we’d know the person who grew it,” Kingsolver states. “Often that turned out to be ourselves as we learned to produce what we needed, starting with dirt, seeds, and enough knowledge to muddle through. Or starting with baby animals, and enough sense to refrain from naming them.”avm-book-cover

The book ranges wonderfully from hilarious tales of too many zucchini and sex-starved turkeys to compelling arguments for changing our twisted food production system and tainted diets. As noted on the book’s website, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle “makes a compassionate case for putting the kitchen back at the center of family life, and diversified farms at the center of the American diet.” I highly recommend the book (and any others by this author, incidentally) to anyone who eats.

The author and her family begin their year-long adventure one spring with the first crop of asparagus. The book then describes month-by-month their efforts to acquire and grow food while maintaining a healthful, doable and tasty diet. Today’s recipes are from the chapter about this time of year, titled “What Do You Eat in January?” The answer, of course, is all the foodstuff Kingsolver, her husband, Steven Hopp, and daughters Camille and Lucy have canned, frozen, dried and otherwise preserved in the previous nine months, from legumes to frozen pesto and fruit to those hearty long-lasting heroes of the cold, winter squash and root vegetables.

Assuming you didn’t can buckets of tomatoes last August or dig up bushels of potatoes last fall, it’s okay to “cheat” by purchasing ingredients for these recipes off the shelf. Just enjoy them as good food as well as good food for thought, like Kingsolver’s book.

Vegetarian chili

  • 1 pound dry kidney beans, soaked overnight and drained
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peppers (or 1/2 cup dried)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Olive oil
  • 28 ounces canned tomatoes, undrained
  • 4 cups vegetable stock or tomato juice
  • 3-5 tablespoons chili powder
  • 4-5 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon cumin

Saute garlic, peppers and onions in olive oil until golden, add chopped carrots and cook until tender. Combine with beans and remaining ingredients; stir well. Thin with extra water, stock or tomato juice as needed. Cover and simmer for one hour. If desired, add 8 ounces of elbow macaroni 15 minutes before serving.

Sweet potato quesadillas

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Chili powder to taste
  • Olive oil for sauté
  • 4 flour tortillas
  • 4 ounces Brie or other soft cheese
  • 2-3 leaves Swiss chard or other greens, shredded

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut sweet potatoes into chunks. Cook in steamer basket or microwave until soft, then mash. Chop and sauté garlic and onion in a large skillet. Add spices and sweet potato and mix well, adding a little water if it’s too sticky. Turn burner very low to keep warm without burning.

Oil a large baking sheet. Spread tortillas on it to lightly oil one side, then spread filling on half of each. Top with slices of Brie and shredded chard, then fold tortillas to close (oiled side out). Bake until browned and crisp, about 15 minutes. Cut into wedges for serving.

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