winter vegetables

Comfort food: Romanesco Rice

This summer, one of the dishes that I made countless times for the volunteer groups was cauliflower rice...and, people liked it! I certainly didn't invent the recipe (as The Kitchn recipe proves), but I was first introduced to this sneaky trick by a farming friend who was on the Paleo diet and broccoli and cauliflower happened to be in season and in abundance. The gist of the recipe: you can use cauliflower as a substitute for rice, couscous or any other starchy grain with the help of a trusty food processor or blender. Brilliant, right?

My local grocery store randomly had a sale on romanesco - a beautiful type of broccoli (see cover photo), identical in taste to cauliflower and most other things in the brassica family. So, it was Romanesco Rice time. The recipe below is adapted from many other wise people before me, but this is what I do and it's a good primer. It's great for a quick meal, especially when topped with a poached or fried egg (my fave), crispy tempeh or any other protein of your choice:

Romanesco Rice 


  • 1 small head of romanesco, chopped into large cubes
  • 2 carrots, chopped into large cubes
  • 1 large onion, red or white, chopped into quarters
  • 1 large clove of garlic, chopped in half
  • 6 small mushrooms of your choice (baby bella, button, shittake, etc.)
  • 2 tablespoon of coconut oil, or fat of your choice
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 pinches of black pepper
  • 1 tiny pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1-2 tsp of toasted sesame oil (optional and depending on your taste)
Pulse Romanesco and other vegetables until you see a fine, grainy texture like this. 

Pulse Romanesco and other vegetables until you see a fine, grainy texture like this. 

  1. In a food processor, pulse onions and garlic until fine but not a paste. 
  2. In a cast iron skillet, heat coconut oil over medium heat and add the onions and garlic.
  3. Return to food processor and pulse romanesco, carrots and mushrooms until the size of rice or a fine grain. Depending on the size of your food processor, you may want to do this in batches.
  4. Transfer the pulsed vegetables into the pan with the onions, add salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender.
  5. Season to taste: add more salt, pepper, or I added a dash of toasted sesame oil. This is a very strong flavor, so only use a little.

There you have it: Romanesco Rice. Yum! Try with other brassicas and mix and match other vegetables and seasonings that you included in the dish. Now, go eat some vegetables.


Comfort food: Herby buckwheat with roots and 'shrooms, topped with a poached egg

There are some dishes you just crave. Mine: Buckwheat with sautéed roots and a poached egg. It's a go-to meal for any time of day, especially during the fall and winter months when root crops are abundant. It was my preferred breakfast of choice before a full day of working on the farm. It's satisfying, comforting, healthful and budget-friendly. All of these vegetables are in season and available at winter farmers' markets in your area (often for less money than at the grocery store!). If you're unfamiliar with buckwheat and have only had it in granola or mushy porridge form, you might dismiss this one but don't! In this recipe, buckwheat - a naturally gluten-free grain (actually, a fruit seed!) - is savory and enhances the flavor of the pan-steamed and -sautéed roots and 'shrooms. This recipe is adapted from Cythnia Lair's wonderful Feeding the Whole Family, and it's one to bookmark for sure. It calls for kasha, which is roasted or toasted buckwheat groats, but plain buckwheat groats work too!

Herby buckwheat with roots, 'shrooms and a poached egg


Breakfast of champions! (A.Gross, 2014)

Breakfast of champions! (A.Gross, 2014)

  • 2-3 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled chopped and diced
  • 3 stalks of celery, peeled, chopped and diced
  • 1 large potato, peeled (optional), chopped and cubed
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, cut and chopped
  • 1 cup buckwheat or kasha
  • pinch of freshly ground pepper
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 Tbl of dried tarragon
  • 1 Tbl of dried rosemary
  1. In a large saute pan, heat the coconut oil. Add onions, celery, carrots, salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes; saute until the onion is soft.
  2. Have your water boiled or ready to boil. Add potatoes, mushrooms, tarragon and rosemary to the pan; saute 2-3 minutes. Add buckwheat to the mixture and stir. Pour in boiling water. Turn heat to low. Cover pot and let steep 15 minutes, until all water is absorbed.
  3. Fluff up and season to taste.

Now, poached egg time. They sound intimidating, but they aren't. This recipe by Alton Brown is the easiest, least threatening that I can find...even though eggs are the least threatening ingredient possible! IF you can't wrap your brain around egg poaching, simply top the buckwheat mixture with a fried egg. Still delicious and satisfying!

Notes and tips:

  • Save your scraps! When you peel your veggies, save them to make stock. If you prepare your veggies in advance, make the stock and replace the 2 cups of water called for in the buckwheat recipe with your homemade stock. You can also save the stock for later use.
  • Switch up your roots! There are so, so many root crops that would be delicious in this recipe: parsnips, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, beets, turnips, salsify, celery root. Go to your local farmers' market or the produce department at the grocery store and experiment. Remember: Some roots take a little longer than others to cook, especially when you are preparing them on the stovetop. Take this into consideration when you are adapting the buckwheat recipe.
Glorious roots! (Photo taken at the Westport Farmers' Market, November 2013, A.Gross)

Glorious roots! (Photo taken at the Westport Farmers' Market, November 2013, A.Gross)

Winter work

Winter is not a season, it’s an occupation.
— Sinclair Lewis

When people find out that I work on a farm during the winter in Connecticut, I do get a few odd looks and the usual set of questions like "There's stuff growing now?" "What do you do?" "Aren't you cold?" Farmers in New England no longer have the luxury of simply retiring for the colder months, and, as a farmworker, I don't really have the option or financial luxury of taking the winter "off." Demand for local food during the late fall to early spring is increasing among consumers, and many farmers are adapting - some begrudgingly - to fulfill this need.

If you watched the video, you should realize that there's nothing romantic or glamorous about winter growing. I've worked a few winter farm seasons now, and I'm still trying to make up my mind if I want to do season extension on my future farm...or if I should just pack up and move somewhere tropical. Some part of your body will always be cold, your nose runs, everything seems much heavier to lift and you seem to be even more beholden to the elements (i.e., loss of light, freezing temperatures that affect water use, the impending doom of snow, etc.) than usual. But, there is something sort of grounding (others may say "soul crushing") about experiencing a farm during these bleaker and starkly beautiful months of the year. Here's a glimpse into what's been going on in my world of early winter season farm work, including indoor farmers' markets, skinning greenhouses and harvesting roots and greens before the really cold temperatures set in.