Wintertime is a bit slow for gardening, a bit short on daylight and a bit long on cold windy nights that are uninspiring for evening walks. But inspiration never rests! In the winter, I find that inspiration follows us indoors, particularly into our kitchen, transforming our everyday meals into something a little special and our special occasion meals into an adventure.
And by adventure, I do mean the kind of meal where you try something you've really never ever tried before that has the potential to cause bodily harm. Like smoking sweet potato/white potato mash in an applesauce (chinois) sieve and a canning kettle. Unfortunately, I do not have photos from this because I was too busy trying to escape the smoke that completely filled the kitchen. The smoke eventually emptied the room after opening all windows and the exterior door, but it remained infused into the root vegetables and tasted amazing! I must thank Kelley Flynn, chef at the Palette restaurant, for explaining how one might go about infusing smoke into a vegetable. He prepares an delectable smoked parsnip and potato mash at his restaurant. I wish we had learned that trick last year, when we were inundated with root vegetables from our winter CSA.
It is important to recall the dark days of winter and any inspirational recipes when planning for next year's garden. We were fortunate to have sweet potatoes and white potatoes available from local farms, but parsnips are significantly more difficult to find. Thus, parsnips are on my list of things to grow next year! I've been re-reading Eliot Coleman's book "Four-Season Harvest" and I'm newly inspired to try cold-hardy greens and to have Adam build me some cold frames. We love salads year-round and it would be a real treat to pick our own salad greens this time of year. Other gardening inspiration comes from having to buy shallots in the grocery store because my shallots didn't produce much at all this year - and oh! the grocery store shallots are enormous!
Tonight's inspiration came in the form of pickled eggs, much more mundane but still a little adventurous. I use a recipe adapted from the University of Georgia's National Center for Home Food Preservation - try the Dilled Eggs recipe.
I first became acquainted with the pickled egg at Clark's Ale House in Syracuse, New York. There was an excellent selection of beers but only two items on the menu at Clark's - pickled eggs and roast beef sandwiches with horseradish. I say "was" because Clark's Ale House closed its doors on September 25th, 2010 - we were very sad to hear of its closing.
So, in memory of our favorite drinking establishment in Adam's hometown, we put together the following recipe, the Clark's Ale House Memorial Salad:
Mixed salad greens, with sliced pickled eggs, grated horseradish cheddar cheese, shredded roast beef, finely sliced red onion and croutons tossed with a honey mustard dressing.
To make the honey mustard dressing -
3 parts Honeycup honey mustard dressing to 1 part olive oil to 1 part balsamic vinegar to 1 part water - blend together and toss with the salad.
If you can get it, enjoy your salad with any Middle Ages Brewing Company beer, which was always on tap at Clark's and brewed just on the far side of downtown Syracuse.