Beans, Onions, Eggs, and a little Spinach: A January Cuisine

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Our seed order came Saturday, which is always a sign that winter won’t last forever and we’ll be working in the greenhouse again soon. Actually, John and our friend Peter have already started leeks and onions there to transplant in April. With this week’s temps in the high 60s, we’re beginning to think about spring while we wait for the gardens to give again.

What do farmers eat in winter? If we’re eating seasonally and locally—meaning what we’ve put up or still have laying around the farm—our cuisine is more limited than what we eat when the gardens are producing. Still, we’ve got plenty of food to last us through the winter.

Our Stonebridge freezer is full of peppers for stuffing, tomato sauce, applesauce, and berries. We’ve also dried tomatoes and shelled beans for winter use. After the deep cold of the last couple months, a few rows of spinach are coming again in the bluehouse and we’ve just seeded kale in the greenhouse too. The storage room of the barn is full of last season’s carrots and potatoes, late keeper apples from the Western slope, a trug of winter squash, and lots and lots of onions from last fall’s bumper crop.

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A couple years ago, John and I got over our fear of pressure cookers and started making our beans that way. What a difference in texture and a good savings in time, as well. We throw in carrots, potatoes and garlic, but never salt because that can toughen the beans. We eat bean soup, freeze some, and eat the rest in burritos or enchiladas with our own salsa. This year we grew black and white Oregon Peregions, large red kidneys, and golden buckskin, all flavorful and filling.

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People usually think of onions as the first step in cooking a meal rather than the foundation itself. Onions play a prominent role in lots of our winter dishes, especially when caramelized. Our pizza the other night was heaped with tasty golden onions and they’re also great as the filling in quiche or a layer of lasagna. French onion soup topped with broiled bread and cheese is especially hearty. Salting the onions in the skillet helps them brown more quickly—or at least I like to think it does.

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The longer days at the end of January bring a bonus to our winter meals because that’s when our chickens start to lay again. We don’t light the coop, believing it’s better for the chickens to take a rest. We have to buy a few eggs in the winter, which aren’t at all the same color, freshness, or flavor as our own. So when we get the first egg of the year, we celebrate. Here’s the first three we’ve gathered in 2015.

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I’m especially excited about the lightest egg because it was laid by the Speckled Sussex we raised last season. She’s a gorgeous bird, my favorite all-around variety of chicken. We also raised Americanas for blue eggs, but we haven’t seen any of those yet, except for the eggs our neighbor shared with us last week when her chickens started laying a bit earlier than ours.

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With all this wealth of food, what are we having for dinner? Eggs baked in tomato sauce and spinach, with onion, of course. Saute an onion until golden and then a little spinach until wilted. Add to some chopped tomatoes or tomato sauce, season with ground cumin, sweet or spicy paprika (we dry and grind our own), and salt and pepper. Divide in four oiled ramekins, crack an egg in each, and sprinkle with cheese. Bake 15-20 minutes at 400, until the yolk is set to your desired firmness. Easy, healthy, and good—my ideal of a meal.

Some folks might see our winter meals as boring; we think of them as an opportunity to use up what we have and ready ourselves for the next season. As I write in A Bushel’s Worth, “The winter wipes clean the slate of last year’s misgivings, knowing spring will offer us a new chance to re-write our dreams.” 2015 will be our 24th season as a CSA. Enthusiastic inquiries are coming in; returning members are happily re-subscribing. John’s built another cold frame; I’ve been sprucing up the Sunflower room and updating our outreach information. We don’t know yet what the season will bring, but we are sure whatever bounty or loss may come, we’ll be sharing it with a wonderful community once again.

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10 Comments

Filed under ecobiography, sustainable agriculture

10 responses to “Beans, Onions, Eggs, and a little Spinach: A January Cuisine

  1. Edissa Nicolas

    Yummy. Awesome. Pretty. Missing you and the farm. Still no chickens here, sadly….

  2. What is the difference is between a green house and a blue house? Also have to look up what a trug of winter squash is. Thanks for stimulating my curiosity and my taste buds.

    • Good questions! A trug is a plastic basket used for picking vegetables. We like them because they’re light-weight, easily cleaned, and colorful. Sometimes in the field we organize trugs by color for different varieties of veggies. A blue house is a green house painted light blue inside, really just a way to differentiate it from the original greenhouse. I guess we like color distinctions on this farm!

  3. Kayann,
    Loved this one. My mother always said with a lilt as if singing, “If winter comes, can SPRING be far behind?…” Also I just started cooking beans to die for in a pressure cooker. My first ever venture into pc cooking. My mother used one all the time…one of those rattley, bangey, steaming things that scared me to death. But this new one is so great-quiet, easy fast and the BEANS !!! oh my. If you have more recipes let me know. love.

  4. Great post and the picture at the end is excellent. Thanks.

  5. Lorna

    Fun post, great photos…I am also loving all the Stonebridge food we have been eating out of the freezer and cold room. Made potato leek dish for dinner tonight! Last of the leeks 😦 Beautiful chicken by the way…

  6. Your 24th season! Congratulations. I am making those ramekin eggs soon!

  7. The Trip to Stonebridge? Now that would be a three-quel.

  8. johnmmartin

    Boring? Are you kidding me? It was a food excursion worthy of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon

  9. carol

    Thanks for this reminder that winter must end!

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