By Elliott Prag

Winter Foods

Nature provides an abundance of food that will keep us nourished and warm. While we go about our favorite wintertime activities—skiing, skating, or just couch surfing—a local, seasonal vegan diet stands ready to fuel your internal furnace.

Whole grains and beans are versatile, easy to cook, and delicious in stews, soups, casseroles, and porridges. I like the “supergrains” that have historically heated things up in the coldest climates: kasha in Russia, barley and rye in Northern Europe, millet in Northern China and Eastern Europe. Pair your favorite grains with beans—lentils, chickpeas, black beans, split peas, and pintos, to name a few—to generate even more heat.

Sweet potatoes, burdock, turnips, parsnips, carrots, rutabaga, carrots, daikon, butternut squash, acorn squash, and kabocha squash are winter-ready vegetables. Late autumn and winter even provide us with warming greens, the heartier varieties such as collard greens, kale, and cabbages.

Nuts, seeds, and healthy cooking oils (extra virgin olive oil, virgin coconut oil, cold-pressed sesame oil) are powerful weapons in our winter warming arsenal.

The subject of staying warm isn’t complete until we talk about cooking. The reason we’re attracted to simmered, stewed, pressure-cooked, baked, and roasted foods in winter is because they warm the body. If we eat only raw foods in cold weather, we’ll be cold.

Three-Bean Chipotle Chili with Cashew Sour Cream
Yield: 12 servings (12 cups)

8 chipotle chilies
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup tomato paste
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium onions (1 pound), small dice
1 medium carrot (1/2 pound), large dice
1 sweet potato (8 ounces), large dice
2 poblano peppers (1/2 pound), large dice
1 red pepper (1/2 pound), large dice
3 avocado leaves
2 tablespoons sea salt
10-ounce package frozen organic corn
1 cup pinto beans, soaked overnight
1 cup black beans, soaked overnight
1 cup kidney beans, soaked overnight
10 cups water or vegetable stock
1 28-ounce can tomatoes, chopped
6 limes (2 limes juiced, 4 cut into 12 wedges)
1 ounce cilantro, stemmed and roughly chopped
1/2 bunch scallions, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 350° F. Bake chilies on sheet tray 10–12 minutes until fragrant and puffed. Remove seeds from chilies, and powder remainder in coffee grinder. Set aside 2 tablespoons chili powder.

In 1-gallon pot, heat oil over medium flame. Add chili powder, cumin, oregano, tomato paste, and garlic. When ingredients start to sizzle, immediately add onions, carrot, sweet potato, poblanos, red pepper, avocado leaves, and salt. Sweat vegetables for 10-15 minutes covered, stirring occasionally.

Add corn, beans, and water (or stock). Bring chili to boil, reduce to simmer, and cook covered for 1 hour or more, stirring occasionally until beans are tender. Add tomatoes, and cook until chili is thick.

Add lime juice to taste. Garnish when serving with cilantro, scallions, and cashew sour cream (recipe below).


Cashew Sour Cream
Yield: 2 cups

2 cups cashews, soaked 4 hours to overnight (discard soaking water)
6 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 teaspoon or more sea salt to taste
2 scallions (white part only), chopped
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1/2 cup water

Combine all ingredients in food processor until smooth and creamy.

Elliott Prag is a chef-instructor at Natural Gourmet Institute, a leader in health-supportive culinary education based in New York City. Prior, Elliott was the executive chef at Kibea Restaurant in Sofia, founded Siegfried & Prag (a private catering business), and worked in the kitchens of many NYC natural-food restaurants.


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