Winter can be a tricky time for those of us in cold-weather climes when it comes to getting our daily dose of vegetables. While spring, summer, and fall bring with them a plethora of gorgeous and varied produce, the months from November to March can make it feel like we’re living in a vegetable drought. Fortunately, a number of urban agriculture companies and farmers in Chicago — most notably, Gotham Greens, Mighty Vine Tomatoes, Metropolitan Farms, Closed Loop Farms, and The Urban Canopy — are utilizing innovative growing and storage techniques to provide delicious local produce year round. So make the most of what’s available and try out these seven wholesome recipes that make winter vegetables the star of your plate.
If I had to choose one dish to sustain me through the cold winter months, curry would take the cake. Not only is it incredibly comforting, it’s also inherently versatile, serving as a blank canvas for whichever vegetables and spices you have on hand. This stunner from Minimalist Baker features familiar winter staples of sweet potatoes and red cabbage, roasted until tender and then stewed in a sauce of fresh ginger, garlic, spicy red curry paste, turmeric, and coconut milk. A powerhouse dish on its own, this one’s even better served over brown rice and topped with a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Get the recipe on Minimalist Baker.
Beets are the crown jewels of the winter produce canon, ranging in hue from deep yellow, to rosy pink and the familiar ruby red. This recipe from Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes puts these beauties front and center in this simple starter salad. The beets are first roasted with a bit of oil to concentrate their sweetness and develop a tender texture. After a quick chop, they’re mixed with a handful of micro greens (another year-round produce star) and a sprinkling of chopped, toasted pistachios before getting topped with a spoonful of basil vinaigrette. Light, refreshing, and oh-so-chic. Get the recipe on Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes.
I know what you’re thinking: Aren’t apples fall produce? Indeed they are, but thanks to modern storage crop systems (which hold fresh-picked produce at low temperatures so they can be eaten at other times of the year), locally grown apples and myriad other fruits and vegetables can be purchased and eaten year round. Cooking Classy puts apples front and center in this one-pan dinner that pairs thick bone-in pork chops with a stock-based sauce combining sliced apples, red onion, apple cider, mustard, fresh sage, and rosemary, and a bit of butter for good measure. A balanced dinner that hits the table in less than 30 minutes! Get the recipe on Cooking Classy.
Its always helpful to have a few meatless entrée recipes up your sleeve for those days when you need an extra dose of veg. Pinch of Yum’s Vegetarian Swedish Meatballs are an excellent option to add to your weekly lineup, adding a fresh spin to a traditionally heavy dish. The meatballs themselves are made up of wild rice mixed with finely chopped mushrooms (a popular winter crop in Chicago) to harness that familiar umami flavor. After rolling the mixture into your preferred-size portion, the meatballs are baked until cooked through and then simmered in thick, silky gravy (lightened up by the use of vegetable stock rather than milk or cream). A fantastic dish on its own or served atop a healthy serving of spaghetti. Get the recipe on Pinch of Yum.
Tomatoes are one of the few vegetables (or fruits rather) that most of us wait year round for come summer. Fortunately, Chicago’s own hydroponic tomato company, Mighty Vine, has developed an indoor growing setup that produces gorgeous tomatoes all 12 months of the year. Brooklyn Supper’s Baked Chicken with Tomatoes and Garlic is a beautifully simple way to highlight tomatoes in all their glory by roasting them alongside chicken thighs and lots of garlic. After nearly an hour in the oven, you’ve got a vibrant dinner that will transport you right back to summer. Get the recipe on Brooklyn Supper.
A good stew recipe is a must have this time of year for those nights when only a stick-to-your-ribs meal will do. My New Roots’ Garlicky Kale and White Bean Stew is one such dish and features another superhero of the winter food genre — kale! The recipe combines this crazy-popular green with onion, garlic, canned tomatoes, and velvety cooked white beans for a powerhouse vegetarian dinner. Be sure to drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil for extra goodness. Get the recipe on My New Roots.
Vegetables aren’t just for cooking, especially come wintertime. Certain types of cold-season vegetables are ideally suited to baking based on both their flavor and textural contributions. These Healthy Carrot Muffins are an ideal example, taking a traditional carrot cake recipe and giving it a healthy spin by upping the shredded carrot quota, using coconut oil in place of canola, whole wheat over all-purpose flour, maple syrup over granulated sugar, and Greek yogurt over sour cream or butter. The resulting muffin is just sweet enough with a tender crumb and an intense punch of carrot flavor. Get the recipe on Cookie and Kate.
Where to purchase these local items:
- Select Whole Foods
- Local Foods
- Indoor farmers markets: Green City Market, 61st St. Market, Logan Square Farmers Market
- Co-ops: Dill Pickle, Sugar Beet
- Green Grocer Chicago
Maddie LaKind is a Chicago-born personal chef, caterer and writer. Her love of gastronomy began with an introduction to the Food Network as a teenager and has since blossomed into a deep-rooted passion. She spent her early career in the food world working at the famed Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan, before moving on to other notable spots including Detroit’s Sister Pie bakery, and Floriole Bakery, Read It and Eat bookstore and The Social Table in Chicago. In her spare time, she can be found practicing yoga, hosting dinner parties for friends and sifting through her ever-growing cookbook collection. Maddie is also a supporter of PAWS Chicago. Since adopting her two cats from the shelter, she has served as a volunteer and donated her cooking services as an auction item at fundraisers.