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Using seasonal recipes brings culinary discoveries and staves off boredom through the gray winter months of the Pacific Northwest where I live. My favorite cookbook for following the seasons is Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express. I’ve mentioned this book before, for its unusual recipe style: descriptive paragraphs rather than lists and measurements. The short recipe descriptions invite creativity and “mixing and matching” to substitute ingredients on hand.
For each season, Bittman offers 101 recipes, guiding me through breakfasts, soups and salads, entrees and desserts. This week I paged through the Winter and Fall sections and selected a number of ideas. I don’t always make the ones I choose, but they never fail to inspire me!

Choices depend on what’s already in the fridge, food I’m hungry for, and often, something new. Something I’ve not done before. This past week my plan included Bittman’s Fall recipes for Cream of Turnip Soup  (I had a spare turnip in the vegetable bin) and Baked Fish with Oregano, Lemon and Olives. From the Winter selections, I planned to make Chicken with Apples and Sage. Unbelievably, the local Market of Choice was out of chicken breast on Monday night, so I scratched that plan. I bought some fish and two red meat items: a large “kebab” of ground lamb and beef and two small pieces of Tri-tip. In cooking for one, I try to get cuts that are 6 to 8 oz. These usually provide enough protein for me for two or three meals. With that plan in mind, here’s how the week’s dinner menus actually worked out.

Monday: Cooked a Red Lentil and Barley soup with chicken broth and stewed tomatoes and cooked the lamb-beef kebab on my stove-top grill. I turned to Bittman once more for a Indian-inspired yogurt sauce from his Winter recipe, Indian-Style Lamb Kebabs. A mixed green salad with smoked Gouda, pears and a pear champagne vinaigrette rounded out the meal.

Tuesday: I cooked again. I made Bittman’s Baked Fish using Ling Cod, and a side dish of Brussels sprouts with bacon and raisins sourced from Bon Appetite’s online recipes.

Wednesday: I needed to make something quick to get to an evening meeting. I recombined some leftover pappardelle pasta with the leftover fish, some spinach, grated asiago and nicoise olives. All went into a skillet with some butter and shallots. Quick and tasty!

Thursday: Enough cooking! I went out to dinner at Eugene’s Cafe Lucky Noodle. I ordered Risotto Balls with Fontina and Almond-crusted chicken over pasta with vegies. I ate two of the three balls and about one-third of the entree. I finished the leftover restaurant food on Sunday night and Monday’s lunch.

Friday: Cooked the Tri-tip with a modified online chimichurri recipe from Emeril on the Food Network site. The recipe called for flat leaf parsley, basil and oregano, but I didn’t have those items so my version featured regular parsley, sage and thyme. I added the leftover risotto ball and more of my Brussels Sprouts dish.

Saturday: A surprise! A friend called and said she had made some buckwheat grain in chicken broth. She offered to add it to whatever I might have on hand, which was a variety of leftovers and four small corn tortillas. Back to Bittman! Sometimes it’s just a suggestion that inspires! I looked up his taco recipes. He pairs beef with corn. And pork (which I did not have) with an apple/fennel slaw. Thinking about the ingredients I had on hand, I made us each a fish taco with the remaining fish from earlier in the week and a beef taco with the remaining beef. The fish was topped with a fresh slaw of tart apples strips, napa cabbage and red cabbage. The beef was combined with pan-roasted corn and red peppers, with the chimichurri sauce. We accompanied both versions with minced cilantro and fresh avocado. The buckwheat was our side dish topped with a southwest flavored bruschetta.

Sunday? Ate up more leftovers and made some plans for the upcoming week! Hmm. The turnip is still awaiting its fate.

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