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December 25, 2014
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Relish Every Day

A dry season: celebrating without spirits

Though few would argue with the notion that the holidays can drive you to drink, there are those who make it through them without a single tipple. Pity the poor soul who has to nurse a glass of tepid seltzer while the rest of the party is quaffing frosty craft beers and champagne punch. At this time of year, when the festivities are all about fellowship, no one should feel left out, so the best hosts put some muscle into creative nonalcoholic options. This means drinks neither cloying nor insipid but refreshing, nuanced and thoughtfully presented.  Read more

The aftermath

In the wake of all that feasting, it’s hard to believe stomachs will growl once again. But a new day dawns and here come the barbarian hordes, clamoring for their lunch. Leftover turkey? Bring it on! Many people actually prefer that mile-high sandwich (loaded with cranberry sauce and even a layer of stuffing) to the original Thanksgiving line-up. With any luck, no fit of weary pique caused you to discard the carcass of that big bird. There’s gold in there! A pot of turkey soup with wild rice and kale on Friday makes an ideal counterpoint to the orgy of carbs on Thursday.  Read more

Let them eat cake

Apparently there is no evidence whatsoever that Marie Antoinette actually uttered such a callous statement in response to her subjects’ bemoaning their lack of bread. But it has stuck to her shoe for centuries. And cake has henceforth retained its slightly grandiose aura. We do not eat cake every day. It is reserved for special occasions and celebrations. But there is cake of the gussied up, layered and frosted ilk, and there is the more rustic, less labor-intensive stuff. Leaving aside the former to professionals and obsessive amateurs, let’s focus on the latter.  Read more

Green is good

With the cool weather we’ve been having lately, many ripening vegetables have stalled at the green stage. And as soon as the frost descends, any fruit that’s still hanging on your tomato vines is done for. This is sad but not altogether without remedy, for green tomatoes have a charm all their own. Rather than offering up the sweet, juicy contours of their red brethren, they provide a crisp, tart alternative that is delicious in a number of preparations.  Read more

Stalking spring

Consider rhubarb: long, ribbed stalks and not a seed or rind in sight. This is a vegetable, right? But in 1947, a New York court decided that since it’s used as a fruit, it should be counted as such for the purposes of regulations and duties. Thus, with one wave of a bureaucrat’s hand did the vegetable family lose one of its own.  Read more

Wild things

Despite late, unwanted snowfalls, spring has arrived, bringing optimism, birdsong and new life to our fields and streams. As soon as the earth wakes up, it immediately stars putting forth its bounty. In the garden, rhubarb, angelica, sorrel and mint rouse us from our root vegetable slumber and, out in the wild, tender tips of ramps, Japanese knotweed and field garlic present the first vivid glimpses of green. If you’ve never tried eating directly from nature’s pantry, perhaps this is the year you’ll venture into new terrain.  Read more

Green light: The transition to spring

Despite the cold front predicted for next week, I know that spring is on its way. A couple of hellebores (gardening.about.com/od/plantprofile1/p/Hellebore_Pro.htm) have managed to poke up through the snow, determined and perhaps just a bit reckless. I’m looking forward to tramping into the wet woods in search of vernal pools and the salamanders and frogs that inhabit them.  Read more

The gravy train

With all the hoopla surrounding the Thanksgiving turkey—to brine or not, to stuff or not, to baste or not—not to mention the myriad sides, the gravy is often relegated to the back burner, so to speak. But this essential sauce can mask a multitude of sins (dry turkey, gluey mashed potatoes, leaden stuffing) and deserves more careful consideration. There are several schools of thought on what makes the best gravy, though pan drippings and giblets are generally involved, and for some reason it seems to be a frequent source of anxiety.  Read more

The Morning After (a recipe)

The holidays require stamina. You pour your heart and soul into cooking an elaborate feast for family and friends, you linger at the table for hours toasting auld lang syne and then you tumble into bed exhausted. The next day? You get up and do it again, especially if you have houseguests! Talk about the gift that keeps on giving…  Read more

Soup's on

I recently returned from a trip to Oaxaca, the southeastern state of Mexico renowned for, among many other things, its delicious moles [PRON: MOH-layz]. I brought back with me a renewed appreciation for those deeply complex and artfully spiced sauces, but also a rotten case of the flu. As I lay semi-delirious in my sickbed, subsisting on cold oranges and hot ginger tea, I envisioned at the end of this miserable road a big bowl of the hearty and restorative stew called pozole [PRON: poh-SOHL-eh].  Read more