Fight off that wintertime chill - Columbia-Greene Media: Food For Thought

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Fight off that wintertime chill

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Posted: Friday, February 14, 2014 12:30 am

Snowed in? Reality, or romantic thought. There is more than one answer to that question. The reality is that we are literally snowed in. Oh, the main streets are clear — and the sidewalks on the main street are clear — with a few icy patches (walk with your head down) — but in actuality we are snowed in.

Because the unrelenting cold doesn’t allow the snow and ice to melt it’s difficult to take our usual walks, parking, even in plowed lots is not always easy — there are icy patches right outside your car door, and the enormous piles of snow are psychologically inhibiting. There’s more snow on the way.

Under the right circumstances, staying in a warm, cozy home with a glistening view of the pavé diamond-like outside, with the right companion by your side (even four-legged ones) can be interpreted as downright romantic. That is, if you have plenty to eat and drink to sustain your ardor.

The best plan for all weather emergencies is a well-stocked pantry — which includes ingredients in your fridge, and freezer.

Because I have a not-so-minor obsession with food, my pantry is filled with ingredients for all situations. I could probably live off shelf, refrigerated and frozen items for a month or more (at some point I’d probably start to miss fresh food though).

I keep a variety of oil — olive, canola, grape seed, sesame - vinegar; Asian rice, apple cider, red and white wine, balsamic - flour; white, rice, corn, whole wheat - rice; for risotto, black, basmati, brown, wild - pasta; a good selection of shapes – cans of peeled tomatoes, and beans, all sorts of baking ingredients including cocoa and blocks of chocolate, honey, soy sauce, onions, shallots, garlic - a refrigerator filled with eggs, lemons, limes, carrots, celery, jams, nut butters, good New York state maple syrup, yogurt — and a freezer filled with meat, chicken, butter, nuts, seeds, and assorted fruit from last summer; apricots, cherries and blueberries.

During the last snowstorm I put my car in my neighbor’s garage, didn’t venture out except for a very short walk for fresh air, and made a few very tasty meals with ingredients already in house.


This dish may be the all-time go-to food for an emergency meal. It’s got it all — or almost — protein/peanut butter, carbs/noodles, fat/oil and roughage. This recipe is from the Television Food Network. Think of it as a master recipe. It can be tailored to the ingredients that you have on hand. Especially the vegetables. The important instruction is the one that teaches you to make the peanut sauce.

Serves 4 – 6


3 tablespoons sesame seeds

12 ounces linguine or spaghetti

1⁄4 cup creamy peanut butter

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon Sriacha — or hot chili sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Zest and juice of 1⁄2 lime

1⁄2 cup loosely-packed chopped fresh cilantro

2 green onions, sliced

1 half head green cabbage, thinly sliced

1⁄3 red bell pepper, diced

1⁄4 cup roughly chopped skinless roasted peanuts for garnish


Heat an oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit. Place the sesame seeds in a pie tin and toast in the oven until light golden in color, 4 to 6 minutes and set aside. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until al dente — about 2 minutes less than the manufacturer’s directions. Do not overcook. Drain, reserving some of the starchy pasta water, rinse and set aside.

For the peanut dressing: place the peanut butter in a large measuring cup and microwave to soften, 15 seconds. Whisk with the soy sauce, vinegar, canola oil, ginger, honey, Sriacha, sesame oil and lime zest and juice in a small bowl*. Thin with starchy pasta water if needed, 1 tablespoon at a time. Dressing should be thick, but pourable.

Place the pasta in a large mixing bowl and add the cilantro and vegetables and toss with the dressing. Top with chopped peanuts and toasted sesame seeds and serve.

* Instead of using a microwave to soften the peanut butter you can add it to a small saucepan with the soy sauce, vinegar, canola oil, ginger and honey to

soften — then proceed according to the recipe.


I made this at about 7:30 p.m. one cruelly cold evening. Serves 2.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a skillet over medium heat, sauté two slices of chopped bacon in a tablespoon of olive oil until crisp. Immediately add 3⁄4 cup garlicky and spicy tomato sauce to the pan. Add 1⁄2 pound pasta of your choice to the boiling water and cook until al dente — about 2 minutes less than the manufacturers’ directions. Add two heaping tablespoons of chopped black olives to the sauce. Use a wire mesh strainer to remove the pasta from the pot and add directly to the skillet. Toss to thoroughly coat with the sauce. Cook for another minute. Serve, and eat. It’ll warm you right up. Oh yes.


Those amazing apricots that I peeled and froze last summer (a particularly good summer for apricots) found themselves very useful as a tart filling last week.

I thawed a quart of frozen apricots and cooked them into a jam with lemon juice and light brown sugar.

Serves 8


21⁄4 cups all-purpose flour

1⁄2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

Pinch of salt

1⁄2 cup plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits

2 eggs

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (I used 1 teaspoon almond extract instead)

1 tablespoon cold water

1 cup jam: apricot, raspberry, peach…


n Combine the flour, 1⁄2 cup sugar, and salt in a food processor. Pulse several times. Add the butter and pulse until fully combined. Add 1 egg and the lemon zest. Pulse until the dough forms a ball on the blade. Divide in half, form into two balls, wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap, and chill for at least 30 minutes.

n Heat an oven to 350 F. Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature, about 15 minutes. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out one of the pastry balls into a circle large enough to cover the bottom and sides of a 10-inch fluted tart pan with removable sides. Press the pastry into the pan and trim away any excess. Prick the bottom. Fill with fruit preserves or jam spreading evenly with a rubber spatula.

n Roll out the second pastry ball to the same size. Cut into strips 3⁄4 inch wide. Arrange half of the strips, 1⁄2 inch apart, over the tart. Repeat with the remaining strips. Placing them perpendicular to make a grid pattern. Trim any excess. There will be leftover pastry. I usually form another ball, roll it out, then cut out shapes such as circles, flowers or hearts, and place them on top in a decorative way.

n Make a wash by beating the remaining egg with the cold water (I used heavy cream instead) in a small bowl. Brush the strips and decorations with wash and sprinkle with the 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake until the top is golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on a rack. Remove the pan sides and serve.

I didn’t use the grid pattern to top the crostata/tart that I recently made — instead I covered it with hearts and dots.

You may recall that a few weeks ago I spoke about one of the auction items available at the Columbia Memorial Hospital benefit that took place at Club Helsinki. It was an item available for 20 people. More than half of the Saturday, March 1 space is now filled. When you hear the menu you’ll want to snag the few remaining spots.

I’ll tease you by saying that you’ll arrive to your tables set with antipasti from each of the participating chefs, a first course of fresh pasta dressed with bottarga, Reisling, sage and butter from Bonfiglio & Bread, a vegetable course and sherry fino and soju soda with spiced plum syrup cocktail from Local 111, pheasant from Hudson Food Studio, Fish from DA/BA, short ribs from The Red Barn, and something decadently chocolate from Mado Patisserie.

There will be a few entr’actes to freshen your palate and appropriate libations to accompany each course. Don’t hesitate — contact Betsy Gramkow at to secure the last few places. Here’s a good opportunity to support your local, and indispensable, hospital.

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