We've had good luck making some hearty wintertime meals for the table and freezer. Soon enough, both of us will be back at school and work (knock on wood) carrying lunch to our desks. These three easy meals have been among our go-to dinners this winter:
1. Carrot Ginger Soup
This recipe is likely mashed up from several different sources. Truth be told, it is very forgiving and I usually don't consult a recipe or even measure ingredients. Eyeball it. You'll be fine. We make a big batch--the quantities noted below typically yield around 16-18 servings (as I recall...). This soup is a beautiful color and freezes very well.
- 5 pounds carrots
- 1 cup roughly chopped ginger
- 2-3 sweet onions
- 4-6 tablespoons butter
6-8 cups stock (chicken or veggie)
Melt butter in a large stockpot over medium heat
- Roughly chop onions and cook in the pot until soft
- Peel carrots and cut into 1-inch chunks
- Peel ginger and cut into 1/4-inch dice
- Toss carrots and ginger into the pot and stir briefly
- Add stock (and water if necessary) to cover vegetables in the pot. Bring to low boil and cook until carrots can be easily pierced with a sharp knife.
- Using an immersion blender, puree the whole mixture in the stockpot. It is somewhat likely that the resultant soup will be too thick--in this case, add more stock or water until it is the desired consistency.
- Salt liberally to taste. (If the soup tastes bitter and flavorless, you need more salt.)
2. Curried Pork Loin
Literally a no-brainer main course that goes well with almost any side and/or starch. Find the best quality meat you can and don't overcook the pork. Use your meat thermometer early and often and you and your guests will enjoy four-star-quality pork loin at home. Leftovers are particularly delicious on sandwiches.
- Pork tenderloin, any size (though I find that the larger loins are difficult to cook evenly all the way through the meat)
- Dijon mustard
Make a wet paste with the mustard and curry powder. Cover the loin with a thin layer.
- Let the thusly prepared loin rest 2-10 hours in the fridge.
- Set a broiling pan about 5" from the hot broiler. (You may be able to make this recipe on an outdoor grill--we haven't yet tried.)
- Broil/grill the loin, turning occasionally so that all sides cook evenly. Cook the loin until a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the loin reads 145 degrees. Depending on the heat of your oven/grill, thickness of your loin, and the starting temperature of the meat, this will probably take between 8-15 minutes. Go by temperature, not by time. (The USDA says that 145 is safe, but if pink pork turns your stomach, cook to 150 or 155 degrees.)
- Remove the loin from heat and let it rest on the countertop for about 10 minutes. Slice and serve.
3. Meatballs and Red Sauce
I'm a sucker for Italian food and could probably live on penne and tomato sauce alone. A few months ago, I started making a simple tomato sauce from (almost) scratch rather than buying jars of pasta sauce off the shelf. I think I saw the recipe posted on Mark Bittman's NYT column....
- 28 ounce can stewed or whole tomatoes
- Onion, halved with skin on
2-4 tablespoons butter
Combine can of tomatoes, onion half, and butter in covered saucepan. Season with black pepper.
- Stew over medium-low heat 45-60 minutes or until tomato structure has broken down to desired consistency. Remove onion and discard. (If using whole tomatoes, you will likely have to mash them with a fork at the end of the cooking period.)
- Serve immediately over pasta and/or meatballs.
We're lucky to have a good meat counter nearby and pick up ground pork, beef, and/or turkey whenever we stop in. I've been experimenting with variously seasoned meatballs. The current household favorite is a pork/beef mixture seasoned with chopped onion, fennel seeds, black pepper, and a bit of cayenne pepper. The cayenne adds a lot--experiment with an amount suitable to your tastebuds.