by Carol Riley, Staff Writer
January. The first month of a new year filled with the promise of new beginnings. I always feel a little thrill of excitement and anticipation of what the year will bring, and because this is a column about food, I get excited about what is available in the markets for January.
Citrus is a star during the winter months, plentiful and delicious grapefruit, oranges, lemons and limes. Grapefruit is one of my favorite fruits. Originating in Barbados, this gem is low in calories and loaded with vitamin C. I’m sharing a recipe for Grapefruit and Avocado Salad that brings a burst of color and flavor to your menu. This salad is a wonderful complement to shrimp or crab. Grapefruit loves the richness of avocado, and avocado loves the acidity of the citrus. If grapefruit is a problem for you, feel free to substitute a Cara Cara navel orange, believed to have developed as a spontaneous bud mutation on a Washington navel orange tree.
Root vegetables are also plentiful during the winter months. Carrots, onions, and potatoes are perhaps the most popular but beets, celery root, kohlrabi, parsnips, radishes, rutabagas, turnips, and winter squash are also popular. Roasted winter vegetables are a healthy and delicious way to get vitamins A, C and K and improve your digestion. Beets are known to help lower blood pressure. My pick in this group is Butternut squash. Rich in minerals and disease-fighting antioxidants, this low-calorie, fiberrich winter squash may help you lose weight and protect against conditions like cancer, heart disease, and mental decline. A recipe for one of my favorite soups follows—it’s a vegan recipe but don’t be put off if vegan is not your thing. This velvety-textured soup with a delicate flavor is a winner, and roasting the squash makes it easier to remove the seeds and flesh and brings an added depth of flavor to your soup. Enjoy!
Grapefruit Avocado Salad
The vinaigrette recipe makes more dressing than you will need. Refrigerate the extra in a jar and save to dress another salad!
- 2 ripe avocados, peeled and sliced
- 2 grapefruits, peeled, segmented, seeds removed
- Lettuce (butter lettuce is nice here)
- 1/2 shallot, minced (1 tablespoon)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 1/2 teaspoons lime zest
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Combine ingredients for vinaigrette in a jar and set aside while you make the salad. Arrange lettuce on a serving plate, alternate slices of avocado and citrus, drizzle with vinaigrette and serve.
Butternut Squash Soup Ingredients
- 1 (3 to 3 1/2-pound) butternut squash
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided, or to taste
- 6 bushy sprigs fresh thyme, divided
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 medium carrots, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 (13.5-ounce) can light coconut milk
- 1 cup water (or vegetable broth), plus more as needed
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 to 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup, to taste
- Optional garnishes: homemade croutons, fresh thyme, coconut milk, cayenne pepper and/or black pepper
- Cut the stem end from the squash. Cut the squash in quarters, season with salt and pepper, and lay cut side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast in a preheated 400°F oven for one hour until a paring knife slides easily into the squash. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
- While the squash roasts, make the soup base. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, carrot, 4 sprigs of thyme, bay leaves, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Sauté until the onion is very tender and translucent and the carrot is nearly tender, 7 to 10 minutes. If the onion begins to brown, drop the heat a bit. You don’t want the vegetables to brown.
- Add the coconut milk and water or broth. Adjust the heat so the liquid simmers. Simmer for about 10 minutes to infuse the flavors into the broth.
- Remove from the heat and use tongs to pluck out and discard the thyme and bay leaves (don’t worry about removing any tiny thyme leaves that drifted into the broth)
- Add the lemon juice, maple syrup, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste) to the pot. If using a standard blender, transfer the roasted squash and coconut broth to the blender.
- Note: liquid is hot so leave the blender top slightly open. If using an immersion blender, put the squash into the pot with the broth.
- Blend until very creamy and smooth with no visible bits of vegetables. If the soup is too thick, add more water or broth as needed and blend again. Taste, adding more salt and/or pepper as desired.