Gung hay fat choy, as they say in Hong Kong. Happy Lunar New Year! We are eating bowls of beef & pork jiaozi—Chinese dumplings—dressed with sesame-chili oil, rice wine vinegar, and scallions. We keep count of the dumplings so that we both get an equal share. They are that good. Have a great weekend, dear friends. Eat some dumplings and/or noodles, and do something wild and crazy, after all it’s the beginning of a whole new year.

 

We made a big pot of Butternut Squash Ginger Soup at the beginning of the week and it is time to start slurping. It couldn’t be simpler to make: butternut squash, a russet potato, an onion, an apple (all peeled and chopped), a big knob of ginger peeled and grated, the peels from 2 tangerines; all simmered in chicken stock then puréed. Oh, if you like it hot add some crushed red paper flakes.  Salt and pepper, of course. Before you know it we’ll be sipping cold soups—35 days until spring.

 

Today, on this Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day, we are playing it in the middle—neither fasting, nor over indulging in aphrodisiacs. So, we are having a modest lunch: fat wedges of ripe Cowgirl Creamery Mt Tam on walnut-studded toast slathered with salted butter; French breakfast radishes; and two thimbles of 2014 Foradori Fontanasanta Manzoni Bianco, Vigneti delle Dolomiti to keep us hydrated. We are promising ourselves to practice more self-discipline tomorrow—but no kneeling in raw rice.

 

 

We’ve been seeing “baby” artichokes in the market for the last few weeks and cannot resist them. These little guys, about the size of a jumbo egg, are not immature—just small. They grow on the same plant as the big thistle does, but closer to the ground, shaded by the large saw-tooth leaves. They never develop a fuzzy interior choke, so with minimal preparation, the little darlings can be eaten whole. We snap off the tough outer leaves, trim the stem, cut off the pointed tip, then braise them—in white wine and olive oil, with a cut-up lemon, sliced onions, and garlic, some fresh tarragon or mint, crushed red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper—until tender. We serve them warm from the pot with the aromatic juices spooned on top, or as a salad as we did for lunch today: baby artichokes dressed with good olive oil and lemon served over earthy lentils.