hibernation celebration

When you have survived as many winters in the upper midwest as I have (a full quarter century’s worth!), you are bound to have high standards for “hibernation fare.” These are the recipes the very thought of which will help you ward off frostbite when your scarf is frozen to your face and you can’t feel your toes at the bus stop.  This is the type of food best enjoyed while sitting on the couch, wearing your comfiest sweats and two pairs of wool socks, watching your favorite football team in a victorious effort on the Frozen Tundra.

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Hibernation fare is one of those categories where you have to be true to your deepest comfort food whims. I have a bit of an unorthodox approach seeing as I’m not a meat-and-potatoes type and I’ve never been the biggest fan of soup. No hot dish for me, but if that’s your thing, by all means bring on the tots. I tend toward chunky, filling-but-not-heavy stews and curries. To solidify a spot in my winter rotation of recipes, a dish should have a little bit of kick and it should be tastier as leftovers for lunch two days later than the day you made it. Bigtime bonus points for inclusion of tomatoes or squash. Ex: this well-loved white been stew. Deb’s formula for perfection in lentil form. Or this newcomer to the list, Thai red curry with kabocha squash. I think I could drink the broth with a straw as the antidote to all things that are January in Chicago. Adjust the spice to your liking, adjust the squash to what you have on hand (though if you can find kabocha, its pumpkiny goodness is extra good) and serve some Joanna’s January Cake for dessert. Stay warm and stay tuned for a whole winter’s worth of hibernation recipes to come from the sugarcured kitchens

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1 large kabocha (or other orange) squash

10 oz tofu, cut into 1/2″ cubes

1 large handful green beans, cut into 2″ pieces

1 red bell pepper, diced

1/4 c basil leaves, chopped

1 T oil

1 15oz can coconut milk (light or regular)

3 T red curry paste

1/4 c water

2 T brown sugar

2 whole thai red chilis

1 T fish sauce (optional- I omitted it but I’m sure it would be a tasty addition if you have it on hand)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash in half. Line a baking sheet with foil and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Place the squash halves cut side down on the tray and roast for about 30 minutes until tender but not totally mushy. Let cool.

In a large saucepot, heat oil over medium heat. Add the curry paste, mashing it to incorporate it with the oil. Slowly whisk in the coconut milk until no clumps remain. Add water, basil, sugar, chilis, and fish sauce (if using) and bring to a simmer. Add red bell peppers and green beans and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes until the veggies are tender.

Peel the roasted squash and cut into 1 inch chunks. Add the squash and the tofu to the curry and heat just until they are warm. Serve over rice.

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