Cooking with Winter Seasonal Ingredients

seared scallops
Pan Seared Scallops are an easy-to-make seasonal treat - and the full recipe is included in this post below
By purchasing local foods in-season, you eliminate the environmental damage caused by shipping foods thousands of miles, your food dollar goes directly to the farmer, and your family will be able to enjoy the health benefits of eating fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables. Buying seasonal produce also provides an exciting opportunity to try new foods and to experiment with seasonal recipes. And it simply tastes better! In these challenging economic times, cooking seasonally also helps your food dollar stretch farther.
Here in the fruit and vegetable paradise of Northern California – the choices are endless. For the winter months of January, February, and March – – seasonal harvests include:
  • Vegetables: Carrot, Daikon, Chinese cabbage, Swede (or Rutabaga), Celeriac, Turnip, Brussel Sprout, Pumpkin, Beetroot, Parsnip, Red Cabbage, Leek, Cabbage, Shallot
  • Fruit: Pear, Tangerine
  • Seafood: Sea bass (Grouper), Scallop, Pacific yellowtail, Pacific cod, Monkfish, Halibut, Lobster, Mussels, Stone Crab
The above list brings out recipes like thick soups of carrot and beet, pumpkin and other favorites. Crab season is in full swing at all seafood markets and scallops are fantastic and easy to prepare.  Here are a couple of great references for what is in season in Northern California and what farms feature it fresh and sustainably:
Here are two recipes that were tested in my kitchen recently that use locally grown, seasonal ingredients.
They are fun and easy.
Ginger Sweet Potato & Roasted Carrot Soup

Ingredients
  • 5 tablespoons sweet cream butter
  • 2 red onions, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipoltle pepper powder
  • 7 cups chicken broth
  • 1 pound peeled, chopped sweet potatoes
  • 2 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • Salt and white pepper
  • Sour cream
  • Parsley sprigs, for garnish
Directions

Roast your carrots in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes – minimally coated with olive oil. Sprinkle the carrots with sea salt and minced garlic (turn them once at the 17 minute point). Don’t roast them too long as they will continue to cook in the soup. Let them cool for five minutes out of the oven – then dice them, and then get ready to make the soup!
In a 6-quart pan, over medium high heat, add butter, chipolte and onions and cook, stirring often, until onions are limp. Add broth, carrots, sweet potatoes, and ginger. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are tender when pierced.
Puree the soup smooth with an immersion blender or do it in batches in a blender – Cover the blender and then hold a kitchen towel over the top of the blender*. Be careful when blending hot liquids as the mixture can spurt out of the blender. Pulse the blender to start it and then puree until smooth and return to the pan.
Once a nice smooth texture has been achieved add cream, stir over high heat until boiling. Boiling the soup at this stage smooths out the flavors and completely integrates the cream. Do not let it boil for long, simply bring it to a boil,  then immediately lower the heat to simmer and salt and pepper to taste.
Ladle into bowls and garnish with dollop sour cream and parsley sprigs. Serves Eight.
*When blending hot liquids: Remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.
Pan Seared Diver Scallops

Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 12 diver scallops, about 1 pound
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup instant flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 ounces arrugala salad greens
Directions
Heat a large skillet or saute pan over high heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil and heat until hot but not quite smoking. Season the scallops with salt and pepper. Dredge in the instant flour, shaking off any excess. Add the scallops to the pan and sear for 2 minutes on the first side. Add the butter to the pan and swirl to evenly distribute. Turn the scallops and continue to cook for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on the second side, or until golden brown and just cooked through. Transfer to 4 serving plates and season with salt and pepper.
In a small bowl combine rice wine vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil and whisk to combine. Toss the greens with the dressing and top with the scallops. Serve immediately.

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