Winter warm-ups

Here are 5 must-try foods that serve food and comfort

A mix of lime juice, orange juice, dry white wine and raisins add depth of flavor to the savory Cuban-Style Chicken Stew. (Photo by Weldon Owen)

A mix of lime juice, orange juice, dry white wine and raisins add depth of flavor to the savory Cuban-Style Chicken Stew. (Photo by Weldon Owen)

With summer a memory and the colors of fall faded, winter opens up new food cravings. We yearn for hearty, soothing, warming dishes. For food that’s bright with color and alive with earthy flavors to keep our appetites keen.

During the colder months, we can warm up at the stew pot or thaw our hands in front of the oven. We feel more like cooking and look forward to a filling meal.

The recipes here include some standards, such as a soul-satisfying mac and cheese, made even better with vibrant spinach. Chili, too, is a favorite, and here it’s prepared with turkey, with a slow-cooker to feed a crowd of football fans.

Citrus is at its sweetest in winter. Celebrate its sparkle with a Cuban-inspired chicken stew, where the meat is marinated in a tangy combo of lime and orange juice. Citrus again provides dazzle in a super-delicious upside-down cake graced with slices of blood oranges.

Earthy root vegetables, especially carrots and parsnips, are at their tastiest at this time of year. Roasting them with a savory coating of punchy spices adds to their appeal. So eat up.

Cuban-Style Chicken Stew

PG tested

This stew embraces the sunny flavors of Cuba. There’s a salty hit from the alcaparrado (a mix of olives and capers), along with tart and sweet tones from the citrus and raisins. The recipe called for a whole, cut-up chicken but about 3½ pounds chicken parts, such as drumsticks and thighs, work just fine.

¼ cup fresh lime juice
¼ cup orange juice
3 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
3½- to 4-pound chicken, quartered (backbone
discarded or saved for stock)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, divided
1⁄3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large green bell pepper, seeded
and thinly sliced
1 large white onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 cup dry white wine
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
½ cup jarred alcaparrado
or 1⁄3 cup pimiento-stuffed olives and 2 tablespoons capers
¼ cup raisins
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted

In large bowl mix lime and orange juices, garlic, chicken, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and set aside for a few minutes.

Heat oil in heavy Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Remove chicken from marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Reserve marinade. Working in batches, cook chicken, flipping once, until browned, 8 to 10 minutes, reducing heat if necessary. With tongs, transfer chicken to plate. Discard all but 3 tablespoons fat from pan.

Add bell pepper and onion to pan, reduce heat and cook until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add wine and deglaze, stirring and scraping up browned bits from pan bottom until reduced by half, 4 to 5 minutes. Return chicken and any juices to pan.

Add reserved marinade, potatoes, alcaparrado, raisins, tomato sauce and a half cup of water and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook, keeping potatoes immersed in liquid until chicken and potatoes are tender, 50 to 60 minutes. Stir in peas, season with salt and pepper, spoon into bowls, and serve.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

— Adapted from “Saveur Soups and Stews” by the Editors of “Saveur” (Weldon Owen; 2015)

Souk-Spiced Roots

(Haarala Hamilton)
(Haarala Hamilton)

PG tested

Celery root, aka celeriac, can be hard to find, so we used 2 large purple-top turnips instead. This is a lively side dish, very different from the usual roasted vegetables.

2¼ pounds large carrots, a mix of colors, if possible
1½ pounds large parsnips
1 celery root
Olive oil, for drizzling
Flaky sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground
black pepper
2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ to 1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In small bowl, mix all spices and garlic powder.

Peel the vegetables and cut into similar, rough 2-inch pieces. Divide between prepared baking sheets. Drizzle generously with oil and season well with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the roots, and using your hands, toss well in the oil and spices, coating each piece.

Roast about 50 minutes, turning once, until roots are nice and brown around the edges. After 20 minutes of roasting, open and close the oven to let steam escape.

Serve hot.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

— Adapted from “Sirocco: Fabulous Flavors From the Middle East” by Sabrina Ghayour (Clarkson Potter; May 3, 2016; $30)

Turkey Chili

PG tested

Not in the mood for turkey? Make this instead with ground beef or pork. It’s perfect chilly weather food, rib-sticking and nourishing. Just right for a football-game crowd. Suggested toppings are sour cream, shredded cheese, scallions, salsa, guacamole and chips.

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds ground turkey
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 to 5 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
3 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 each (15.5-ounce) cans red kidney beans, black beans and pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 cups fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels
1 (4-ounce) can diced green chilies (optional)

Heat a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat and drizzle in oil. Once hot, add ground turkey and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until the pink color is gone, about 5 minutes.

Add onion, garlic, chili powder, salt and pepper. Mix to evenly combine. Cook, stirring often, about 3 minutes or until the onion has softened.

Transfer turkey mixture to a slow cooker. Add diced tomatoes and their juices, beans, tomato sauce, corn and green chiles, if using. Stir to fully mix.

Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 2 to 4 hours.

Serve, if you wish, with bowls of toppings.

Makes 6 to 8 hearty servings.

— Adapted from “Upscale Downhome: Family Recipes, All Gussied Up” by Rachel Hollis (Thomas Dunne Books; Oct. 18, 2016; $19.99)

Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Spinach

(Ben Fink)
(Ben Fink)

PG tested

This couldn’t be tastier or more winter-cozy. Plus the spinach makes it satisfying and good for you. Whole-wheat pasta would add to the healthful and hearty factor.

½ pound elbow macaroni or fusilli
Kosher salt, divided
2¼ cups whole or reduced-fat milk
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon paprika
Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
Dash of cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 (8-ounce) package sharp cheddar cheese, regular or light, shredded
½ cup panko crumbs
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 8-by-12-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. Bring large pot of water to a boil. Add pinch of salt to the pasta. Cook according to package directions, leaving it al dente. Drain in colander.

Meanwhile, in medium saucepan, heat milk over medium heat until bubbles start to form at edge; do not boil. Remove from heat. Whisk eggs in medium bowl. Gradually ladle in a scoop of hot milk, while whisking, to temper eggs. Then whisk eggs, paprika, nutmeg, cayenne, 1 teaspoon salt and 4 grinds black pepper into milk.

In prepared dish, spread half the pasta. Sprinkle with half the spinach, then half the cheese. Repeat, making a second layer. Pour milk mixture over. Cover with foil.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes until heated through. Meanwhile, in small bowl, mix panko and oil working them with your fingers to coat crumbs. Uncover pasta and sprinkle panko over evenly. Bake, uncovered, 15 to 20 more minutes, until crumbs are golden. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 4 hearty servings.

— Adapted from “The Power Greens Cookbook: 140 Delicious Superfood Recipes” by Dana Jacobi (Ballantine Books; 2015)

Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake

(Hannah Queen)
(Hannah Queen)

PG tested

Blood oranges are in season just a short time, only in the wintry months. Outside they resemble a regular orange, perhaps with a little blush, but inside, they’re striking, more maroon than blood-colored. This cake is one more reason to wait for and savor winter.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ cup packed brown sugar
2 medium blood oranges, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Juice and zest of 1 blood orange
1½ cups all-purpose flour, spooned into cup and leveled off
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch round (2-inch deep) cake pan.

Melt butter in small saucepan over low heat. Add brown sugar and stir and cook until dissolved and bubbly. Pour into prepared pan; spread with metal spatula as evenly as possible. Arrange orange slices on top, overlapping just a little.

In medium bowl, whisk together granulated sugar, eggs, oil, vanilla and orange zest and juice.

In large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pour oil mixture into dry ingredients, stirring until just blended. Scrape batter over oranges.

Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and cake shrinks from sides, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes. Loosen sides and invert cake onto plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 8 servings.

— Adapted from “Honey and Jam: Seasonal Baking from My Kitchen in the Mountains” by Hannah Queen (Stewart, Tabori and Chang; 2015)