Eating healthy always seems to be a little more difficult in the winter months. Most of the locally produced food items just aren't available, and the tendency is to eat heavier, more filling food. For Chef Jerry Pellegrino and me this is a conundrum, which is why we've asked nutritionist Courtney Ferreira to be with us today.
First of all, Courtney points out that not all locally grown food is unavailable.
Several farmers markets remain open all winter, including the famous 33rd Street Market in Baltimore. Producers of Maryland poultry, meat and seafood are still bringing their food to market or selling it to local groceries. Those farmers with greenhouse or high tunnel operations will be growing fresh produce all winter long.
And then there places like Even'star Farm near Lexington Park who do a fine business with winter hardy mustard greens. There are many winter root vegetables that will keep appearing in the market like sweet potatoes, turnips, and parsnips along with winter squash. And orchard owners like Dave Hochheimer of Black Rock Orchard will have carefully kept apples and pears available for most of the winter.
Where farmers markets are open, our local farmers will still show up with food for sale, but they have usually acquired it at wholesale markets where it has been shipped in from out of state.
We have to remember that we have a very good food transportation system in this country, and it is possible to truck food in from hundreds of miles away, or even from overseas that is quite fresh and nutritious.
Courtney's advice is to buy the freshest most nutritious food you can find, regardless of origin, until our local farmers get cranking again in the spring.
There are some very nice winter-oriented recipes that Courtney recommended. Here's a few.
Pear and Pomegranate Salad
1/3 cup walnut pieces
3 Tbs. cider vinegar
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbs. honey
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper
8 oz. baby spinach
2 ripe pears, such as Bartlett, cored and sliced
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1. Pre-heat an oven to 350°F. Spread the walnuts out on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until lightly browned and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Immediately pour onto a plate to cool. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, honey, mustard, salt and pepper to make a dressing.
3. Add the spinach, pears, pomegranate seeds and walnuts to the bowl and toss gently to mix and coat well. Divide the salad among 4 plates or bowls and top each with about 1 Tbs. blue cheese. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
Sweet Potato Hash
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
6 tbs olive oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded, chopped
1/2 red onion, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
2 strips of fried bacon, crumbled
2 tbs smoked paprika
salt and pepper
chopped fresh parsley
1. Add the potatoes to a large saucepan of salted boiling water and simmer until tender. Drain and dry completely with paper towels.
2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the red onions, bell peppers, green onions, and garlic, and sauté until tender and lightly golden, 5 to 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove to a bowl.
3. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons oil to the skillet, and then add the drained and dried sweet potatoes. Cook in a single layer, stirring occasionally, on medium heat until they are tender, about 6 minutes. Increase the heat to high and cook, without stirring, until the potatoes are golden and crisp, about 2 more minutes. Toss in the crumbled bacon and then sprinkle with the smoked paprika and gently stir in the onion mixture and parsley.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
1½ lb. brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp. kosher salt, plus more
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup honey
⅓ cup sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
¾ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 scallions, thinly sliced on a diagonal
1/4 cup dried currents
tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1. Pre-heat oven to 450°. Toss the sprouts and olive oil in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper.
2. Arrange the cut sprouts face down on a non-stick baking sheet. Roast for about 20 minutes until softened and browned. Remove from oven and set aside.
3. Meanwhile, bring honey to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until honey is a deep amber color but not burnt (it will be foamy, that’s okay), 3–4 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and add vinegar and red pepper flakes, if using, and whisk until sauce is smooth (it will bubble up quite aggressively when you add the vinegar before settling). Return saucepan to medium heat, add butter and ½ tsp. salt, and cook, whisking constantly, until glaze is glossy, bubbling, and slightly thickened, 3–4 minutes.
5. Transfer brussels sprouts to a large bowl. Add glaze, scallions, and currents and toss to combine. Transfer to a platter and top with lemon zest.