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As I write this post, the wind howls a chilling autumn song through the cracks in my kitchen windows. The last of the maple tree’s leaves cling to the branches desperately, relinquishing to the wind one by one and silently slipping to the ground. Heavy gray clouds block out the once carefree blue sky of summer and cry icy raindrops.
The shift has happened. Autumn is here with winter close on its heels. And I can’t help but shed a tear or two along with the sky.
Please don’t mistake me for a summer-loving beach bum…I’m an autumn girl through and through. The fuzzy sweaters, the colorful gourds, the crisp afternoons. I’d take autumn all year round. It’s winter that gets me blue.
For me, fall—however lovely it may be—is always tainted with a teensy hint of gloom as winter glowers on the horizon. With snow and ice in store, plus sub-zero temperatures and days on end of leaden clouds, I’ll admit that the prospect of winter can really get me down.
But the one blessing in the midst of this wintry descent—the diamond in the snowbank, if you will—is that cold weather has a way of pulling me by my apron strings into the kitchen. The warmth of the oven and flickering stove have a way of comforting me, of cheering me up. When I’ve just about had it with the wind and the cold, cooking is one outlet that seems to make everything better.
With time, I’m beginning to see winter as a restorative season. A time of rest, reflection, and some darn good food. This Kale and Porcini Rice Pilaf says all things winter to my tastebuds. The earthiness of the kale and porcinis lend a hearty hand to the rice, bulking up a traditional pilaf into something far more substantial and flavorful. Pair it with roasted chicken or turkey and a green salad, and you have a delicious cold-weather meal to warm you up from the inside out.
I hope you’ll join me as I cook my way through the cooler seasons. With dark winter greens, pears, oranges, root vegetables, and squashes in store, who needs summer after all?
Kale and Porcini Rice Pilaf – serves 4
1/2 ounce (1/2 package) dried porcini mushrooms
1 tbs. olive oil
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 1/4 cup water
1 cup long grain brown rice
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
1 cup finely chopped dinosaur kale leaves (stems discarded)
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
In a small pot, cover the porcinis with at least 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Remove porcinis from liquid with a slotted spoon, reserving the liquid. Roughly chop the mushrooms and set aside.
In a medium pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, until soft and translucent—about 3 minutes. Stir in the rice and granulated garlic. Add 1 1/4 cups water and 1 cup of reserved mushroom stock to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover the pot, and cook until rice has absorbed the liquids and is fluffy—40-45 minutes.
Using a fork, stir the reserved chopped mushrooms, kale, and peas into the rice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover the hot pot again with lid and allow pilaf to rest for 5-10 minutes. This allows the kale to tenderize.
*Note: dinosaur kale is also called lacinato or Tuscan kale.