Even without the bitter cold of 2010 or the blizzards of 2011, winter can feel dreary. Short, colorless days in the post-holiday doldrums make it hard to find traction (read: complete just one New Year’s resolution!). My recipe for draggy times? Very simple: olive oil, onions and garlic.
Now for those of you who don’t cook (or live with some generous soul who does), one whiff of this might get you to start. There’s something so basic, so restful, so inspiring, so soothing, so appetizing about these foods when heated gently in a pan…no wonder chefs call combos like this the Holy Trinity!*
It begins with touch. You peel off the skins and the fragrant root juices sink into yours. The smell rises as you slice. Pour your richest olive oil—don’t skimp; it’s like wine, cook only what you’d want to drink—and heat it to a shimmer. Place the onions and garlic into their greeny-gold bath then let them soften. Within moments the room suffuses with their aromatic essence.
Now I’m sure Alton Brown or Nathan Myhrvold or those food science buffs at Cooks Illustrated could explain precisely which molecules at what temperature produce those olfactory effects but that’s not my deal. All I care about at the end of a bleak winter’s day is food that starts to feed you from the moment you walk in the door.
Mid-Winter Virgin Toddy
While aromatics form the basis of more complicated meals, this simple drink offers quick warmth.
1 inch piece of ginger root, scraped and grated
Set teakettle to heat and prepare ginger root as above. Place tea strainer in a mug, then spoon ginger into strainer and fill mug with hot water. Let steep for 5-10 minutes; the longer the steep, the stronger the spiciness. Add a squeeze of lemon and maple syrup to taste.
*Many cultures use onions or garlic as part of their basic three ingredients. For more combinations, see here and here.
Copyright 2013, Lori Fontanes