Even though we know winter is coming, every year it seems that the slide from summer to fall begins gently, only to land with a thud as we find that the rotation of meals we’ve been relying on for months no longer sound appealing. “I don’t know what to make anymore,” said more than one of my clients recently.
We want our food to be satisfying, and satisfaction goes beyond eating enough to take care of hunger. The sensory aspects of food matter, too. Taste, texture, temperature, aroma — don’t give these short shrift. Main dish salads or grilled fish and veggies may have been your warm-weather go-tos, but are they equally appealing now that the temperatures have dipped and it’s dark before 5 p.m.?
No, fall and winter call for soups and stews and braises and roasts. For dishes that are nourishing, warming and comforting. Hibernation food, which feels especially appropriate as we continue to spend more time at home as the pandemic continues.
If cooking has lost some of its luster, you’ll be glad to know that each of these recipes makes good leftovers, for the next day if not longer.
Cranberry-Walnut Steel Cut Oatmeal
This recipe can be easily doubled, and reheats well with the addition of a little extra milk or water.
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup milk or plant-based milk beverage
- 1 tablespoon butter or coconut oil
- 1 cup steel cut oats
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½-1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- 1 cup walnut halves, coarsely chopped
- Combine water and milk in heavy-bottomed saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium heat.
- Meanwhile, heat butter or coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. When it’s just starting to bubble, add the oats and stir with a wooden spoon for about two minutes, or until the mixture begins to smell slightly toasty. Set aside.
- When the liquid is simmering, add the toasted oats and stir just to combine. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. The oats should be lightly bubbling.
- After 20 minutes, add salt, cinnamon and vanilla and stir with the handle end of the wooden spoon. Add the dried cranberries and continue to stir frequently for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and allow to rest, for five minutes. Scoop into bowls, top with the walnuts and serve.
Mediterranean Chicken Stew with Lemon, Garlic and Olives
If you want a meaty slow-cooker recipe, but don’t want to fuss with browning, then chicken is your best bet. This flavorful recipe is great when served over couscous (a teeny, tiny pasta). It’s important to use skinless chicken thighs, as the skin can get rubbery in the slow cooker. A note about timing: Generally, slow-cooker meals can be cooked on low or high. If a recipe says to cook for eight hours on low, you can opt to cook for four hours on high, and vice versa. It also helps to know your slow cooker — some tend to run hotter than others.
- 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 large yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
- 12 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 cup Kalamata olives
- 1 lemon, ends trimmed off, thinly sliced and seeds discarded
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
- Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper.
- Place the sliced onions, garlic cloves, olives and sliced lemon in the slow cooker. Arrange the chicken thighs on top.
- Cook on low for seven to eight hours. Scatter the fresh oregano leaves over the top and serve.
Mushroom Farrotto with Tuscan Kale
Farrotto, a traditional Italian dish, is basically risotto made with farro instead of Arborio rice. It’s important to use farro, an ancient wheat, or perhaps spelt. Do not substitute regular wheat berries, as they don’t cook the same. This recipe can be doubled, but any leftovers should be eaten the next day.
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 24 ounces white button or cremini mushrooms, chopped
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 cup uncooked farro, rinsed
- ½ cup white wine
- 2 cups destemmed and ribboned Tuscan kale
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Sea salt or kosher salt, to taste
- Pour the broth into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the mushrooms to a nonstick skillet and turn the heat to medium. Stir the mushrooms frequently until they release some moisture, then stir slightly less often until mushrooms are soft and reduced in size, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Heat olive oil in a large, heavy skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until soft and just starting to turn golden, about five to six minutes. Add the farro and cook, stirring, for two minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring constantly. When the wine has just about evaporated, stir in enough of the simmering broth to cover the farro by about a ½ inch. Adjust the heat so the broth slowly bubbles, and stir frequently.
- When the broth is nearly absorbed, after about 20 minutes, stir in the cooked mushrooms and their liquid. Add enough of the remaining simmering broth to just cover the farro. Continue to cook and stir, adding more broth as the previous addition is nearly absorbed, until the farro is cooked through but not mushy (al dente), and the mixture appears slightly creamy (about 20 minutes).
- Add the kale and stir until it wilts, then stir in the Parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with additional Parmesan.