Temperatures throughout the county were noticeably cooler this past week, particularly in the early morning and evenings. Many of our local growers experienced the first frost of the year on their farms, especially in the more inland areas.
The final outdoor grown tomatoes, green beans, peppers, and eggplant are being harvested from the plants, making a final appearance over the next couple of weeks.
There are many crops, however, that thrive in the winter, easily sustaining the yearly frosts. Members of the Brassica family, such as kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, will be readily available through the winter months. Their growth is slowed during the cold weather season, but can be found in abundance over the months to come.
Carrots — and other root vegetables such as beets and celeriac — also do extremely well during the winter months. Such vegetables become sweeter in the cold weather, and this week you will notice a significant boost in sugar levels, particularly with regards to carrots. Winter through spring is the absolute best time to purchase fresh carrots locally as they reach their peak flavor.
Carrots are excellent when enjoyed raw over a salad, but with the cold weather, I tend to incorporate them more regularly into cooked preparations. They are delicious alongside a roasted chicken with potatoes, added to a hearty beef stew or incorporated into your favorite stir-fry.
The past few weeks for me, it has been all about soups. There is nothing like a soup to take the edge off from the cold weather, also delivering an abundance of nutrients to help combat the elements and germs circulating this time of year.
With a bag of dried split peas in my pantry, and some ideal soup ingredients in the fridge, this is a very simple soup to prepare in the slow cooker, utilizing some leftover roasted turkey or ham if you so choose.
Split Pea and Carrot Soup with Roasted Turkey
1 pound dried split peas, rinsed.
1 medium yellow or white onion, diced.
5 medium carrots, peeled and diced.
4 celery ribs, diced.
2 medium, Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced.
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped.
32 ounces low sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth).
2 bay leaves.
1 teaspoon ground cumin.
1 teaspoon seasoned salt.
½ teaspoon freshly cracked pepper.
1 cup fresh cilantro leaf, coarsely chopped.
Optional; 2 cups diced roasted turkey meat or cooked honey ham roast.
Place all ingredients, except for the cilantro and meat, in a slow cooker. Add additional water, enough so that the liquid level is about 2 inches above the ingredients. Turn to high and cook for about 5 hours or until the peas are soft.
Mix in diced turkey or ham if desired. Finish with fresh cilantro.
Yield: Serves 8-10.