blizzard menus for snowy days

Washington was hit with a bit of a snowstorm this past weekend. In the run-up to the storm I stocked my kitchen with food and water to last for days, and decided to cook my way through the storm, which I watched pile feet of snow on us hour after hour through my lovely tall front windows. It was better than a movie.

A lot of my cooking choices amounted to excuses to use up old items in my fridge or pantry––in part to keep them from going bad (they’d have been the first thing to spoil in the event of a power outage) and in part to make room for all the food I’d just carted in. But I did try out a new recipe for a delicious fig and walnut jam with aniseed, which I’ll explain in detail below. If you follow the blog via Facebook or Tumblr* then you saw the cooking as it happened; here are all the recipes gathered in one place with a bit more clarification and explanation. But first things first: the fig jam recipe, complete with instructions on how to serve with snow.

Fig and Anise Jam with Walnuts

Adapted from Rose Water & Orange Blossoms, a fantastic Lebanese cookbook by Maureen Abood, which I received for Christmas and already completely adore.

The goal of this recipe (besides creating a fun garnish for snow) was to use up several half-full bags of figs from the back of my kitchen cabinets––a mixture of regular and mission figs. The amount I had left determined how much jam I could make, which wound up being about a quarter of the original recipe and filled a half-pint mason jar.

You will need:

1 cup roughly chopped dried figs
1 tablespoon anise seed
Juice of half a lemon
Half a cup of sugar
Squeeze of honey (not in the original)
Shot of whiskey (also not in the original, but it seemed like a good idea)
Half a cup of chopped walnuts
1/3 cup of water

(Note: this is blizzard social media photography, people, aka Instagram-filtered iPhone shots, not the SLR! I won’t apologize but I will tell you to adjust your expectations…)

First, mix the water, lemon juice, honey, whiskey, and sugar and bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer until it begins to thicken (five minutes or so).

Meanwhile, toast your anise seeds and walnuts lightly (I do this on a heavy cast iron skillet and medium low heat, and just toast them till they begin to smell lovely).

Add the figs to the liquid mixture, and again bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Stir often, until the figs start to break up. Mine were taking a while so I added in a splash extra water and a bit more honey five minutes in to this step, and then let the mixture continue to reduce, taking probably ten minutes in total (rather than just the five recommended in the book). Some of your fig pieces will be more broken up than others, but that’s ok––you don’t need it to be all one consistency.

Next, take the mixture off the stove and mix in the anise and walnuts. Allow to cool before transferring to a jar.

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The big finish, of course, is to eat your new yummy jam with SNOW CREAM. Which is very easy: first you go out and gather a huge bowl of fresh snow––and I mean snow that’s at least a foot off the ground and has had no dogs or people or acid rain or gutter runoff within a ten-foot radius. This is the whitest, most pristine snow you can find; otherwise it’s not worth it.

Stash the snow in your freezer and mix about a cup of milk, half cup of sugar, and splash of vanilla in another mixing bowl. Then add a cupful of snow at a time till it gets to a scoop-able consistency. I don’t think it’s worth pinning down an exact snow-milk-sugar ratio; you just have to play with the ingredients till you get to a desired consistency and level of sweetness. You can keep it in the freezer until you’re ready to serve. If you don’t have fig jam on hand, Kahlua does very nicely too…

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(Snow whiter than milk = essential.)

A few more highlights from the weekend:

1. Frozen pizza makeover. I took a plain boring frozen pizza from the grocery store and added some leftover vodka cream tomato sauce, sauteed chard, and two fresh eggs. My egg technique is to let the pizza bake about half its manufacturer-indicated time before cracking the eggs on top, and then checking periodically for desired levels of runniness.

2. Can we have a moment for how beautiful chard is? I cut the stems out of the leaves for a recipe like the one above, then put them in a jar for snacking. They’re great with hummus and much prettier than celery, obviously.

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3. Risotto with mushrooms and baby kale. This one is quite straightforward and excellent winter food for sharing with your neighbors who are snowed in nearby.

4. Leftover creations: on the left, below, is a pasta dish that began with a jar of already-opened pasta sauce and spruced it up with vodka, good French creamy cheese, and a touch of cream (the leftover sauce from that batch made it onto the pizza above). The salad finished off some greens, an avocado, and a handful of slivered almonds, all to make room for more similar food items I’d bought at the store. The key to the salad is a genius dressing of half red wine vinegar and half tahini which I learned from the excellent blog Another Root.

On the right is a breakfast of the last bit of lebneh and the last bit of hummus in the fridge (both soon to be replaced by fresh batches). Pomegranate molasses and olive oil garnish these dips but I should mention that the fig jam is exceptional with yogurt too…

*Finding time to blog has been a challenge over the past year; I averaged just one post every two months in 2015! My goal is to post at least once a month this year, but also to be better about posting short recipes, articles, photos, and tips on my Facebook page and my Tumblr, so be sure to follow those for more frequent content.

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