Cold-Weather Cooking


By Sarah Leah Chase

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Whether your winter blows with snow and rain or is just a sunbelt state of mind, a trove of delicious, soul-warming fare awaits in COLD WEATHER COOKING, from the author of The Nantucket Open-House Cookbook with over 214,000 copies in print.

Guided by a sense that winter is the season for seasonings-from ginger, garlic, and rosemary in Mixed Winter Squash Provencal to the cilantro and walnut crust on a dazzling Roast Rack of Lamb-this gifted cook and author provides dishes that are even gutsier than her summertime favorites. She pays special attention to the late harvest, helps cooks make the most of fall fruits and vegetables, offers chapters on winter grilling and cooking over the hearth.

More than 300 recipes range from bracing drinks for the first sign of autumn to glorious spring dishes for an Easter celebration. Warm Tomato Pie. Wild Rice, Mushroom, and Oyster Bisque. Pasta with Gorgonzola and Spinach. Plus Scallops in Sweet and Hot Lime Sauce, Deviled Beef Ribs, Broccoli with Toasted Hazelnuts and Pancetta, Sweet Potato Pancakes, Pumpkin Bread Pudding, Chestnut Mousse Cake, and Christmas Truffle Tart. Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club’s HomeStyle Books. 112,000 copies in print.



It was during the annual Academy Awards broadcast in March that my thoughts began to turn toward writing the acknowledgments for this book. As I gradually succumbed to my also annual snooze through the greater part of the ceremonies, I made a personal pact to do my best to communicate a roster of culinary credits far more sincere and scintillating than the hypnotic Hollywood drone going on within my drowsy earshot. Here goes . . .

More diverse than the ingredients that simmer and stew together in my cold-weather recipes are the people who have consumed and critiqued the results of my epicurean fanaticism. Enthusiastic tasters dotting the Atlantic seaboard—from Baltimore to Manhattan, Boston, Nantucket, and Blue Hill, Maine—are to be kissed and commended for throwing calorie and cholesterol care to the wind during my copious tasting dinners. Dining on as many as twelve rich winter dishes and desserts at one sitting is a tough though tasty task. I truly appreciate your unselfish expansion of both taste buds and waistlines and the enrichment it has added to the process of creating this cookbook.

My parents, in particular, have been extraordinarily gracious in allowing my family visits to take the form of friendly takeovers of their coastal Maine kitchen. High tides of thanks for the support and understanding in permitting “Babette to prepare yet another feast!” My brother Jonathan equally commands a generous pat on the back for organizing the series of Blue Hill Cold-Weather Cooking tasting dinners and for letting a suspect sibling have free rein in his restaurant kitchen. In cooking together we passed the ultimate test of family harmony with both flying colors and flavors.

Those friends who shared favorite recipes with me cry out for at least one clinking together of a goblet of good red wine. Let me offer a velvety nip of Nuit-Saint-Georges to my aunt Diane (De) Madden, Al Cummings, Olga Drepanos, Sterling Mulbry, Elena Latici, the Powers family, Hammie and Ginger Heard, John Mancarella, John Roman, and Toby Greenberg. Another toast, of something crisp and effervescent, goes to Sheila Lukins for teaching me the secret of adding brown sugar to savory dishes and to John Boyajian for making my passion for caviar and foie gras affordable.

I am thrilled that artist Judith Shahn has created as arresting a cover for this cookbook as she did for the Nantucket Open-House Cookbook and that Gretchen Schields has warmed the interior pages of my book with delightful illustrations. My vivacious photographer friend Cary Hazlegrove deserves special mention for always keeping me amused and sailing even when not snapping shots for cookbook publicity. I am grateful to Workman’s Lisa Hollander for designing, then laying out my long winter’s work more than once (!) and to my friendly editor Suzanne Rafer for continuing to perform her demanding job superbly, cheerfully, and diplomatically. Throughout all, my agent Reid Boates has remained a steady and gentle voice of sound guidance in the increasingly complex world of publishing.

Lastly, I would like to acknowledge how touched I have been by all the fans who have taken the time to write me letters. In these fast, fax times, such thoughtful candor fuels my culinary energies just as much as my travels to distant gastronomic ports.

The Long Simmer

“In the writing process, the more a story cooks, the better.”

—Doris Lessing

“My candle burns at both ends;

It will not last the night;

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—

It gives a lovely light!”

—Edna St. Vincent Millay

I have always been fascinated by the nuances of temperature. When I reflect upon the things that made me feel the most secure as a child, the memory of cozying up against the warm doors of my mother’s double-decker oven as the evening’s meal simmered comes instantly to mind. This must have instilled within me a first unconscious sense of the special interplay that exists between a sense of nourishment and degrees of temperature.

Years later, when I was to open my Que Sera Sarah food shop on Nantucket, the role of temperature again surfaced, but in a very conscious and different way. The preparations in my shop were specifically created to taste best when served cold or at room temperature. This was a calculated effort on my part to use food as both an expression and a reflection of the carefree coolness of the summer lifestyle on Nantucket. The challenge to chill became so much of a consuming passion for me that over time, both my customers and curious passers-by began to wonder what I did with myself when the days became crisper than my summer soups and salads.

In many ways this book is born out of the summer tourist’s queried refrain to every seasonal island shopkeeper: What do you do during the winter on that island? After a near decade of exhausting my potpourri of respondent quips such as “I maintain the cutting edge on my chopping knives through my other profession as a neurosurgeon,” I’ve decided to be less evasive and more revealing about the warmth of my autumn-to-spring culinary existence. Besides, now that I’ve recently come to my senses and left behind life in the public and perishable lane of running a daily food business (I sold my Que Sera Sarah shop in 1989), I find myself growing a little nostalgic for an audience to entertain with a more truthful answer.

For me cold-weather cooking commences neither with the first frost nor the winter solstice, but rather with the late August and early September exodus of summer vacationers from Nantucket. Then sunlight hours are already waning, beach time is becoming less predictable and more precarious, and the nights seem cooler and blacker as they become streaked with the seasonal splurge of silvery shooting stars. The humid days that had been spent mercilessly chopping and dicing ingredients for refrigerator cuisine in order to avoid firing the oven are now happily traded for dewy mornings that begin with the harmonized click of switches for both oven and coffee brewer. When I wrote about summertime in my Nantucket Open-House Cookbook, quoting a line from Seneca (“When shall we live if not now?”) seemed like a natural. Yet, as soon as Labor Day passes and a September morning dawns with a thermometer reading of sixty degrees or less, I become inspired by a different sort of Seneca-like notion: I think, “When shall I, or anyone for that matter, cook if not now?”

Cravings for the bounty of prime farm vegetables are not diminished but rather augmented by the influx of a new crop of heartier, season-end recipes. Sliced beefsteak tomatoes cast off summer’s simple vinaigrettes to slip into nourishing garden soups and cheesy pies. Eggplant eases away from its ratatouille companions to spiral solo into a toasty pizza roulade, while the ever-plentiful zucchini finds palatable new life in Italian based risottos and zuppas. Picnics take place on thick blankets in sheltered alcoves of sand dunes, beach-plum heath, and filigreed woodland. Cocktail and dinner parties sustain their warmth as much from assertive foods as from colorful company. Pork loins prefer the oven to the outdoor barbecue and shrimp forgo their glacial cocktail beds for the singe of the au gratin dish. The secret design of nature never ceases to fascinate as summer’s last fertile hurrah lingers to launch the initial kickoff to cold-weather cooking with intense and indelible flavors.

As the colors of the landscape turn from summer brights to autumn golds and russets, so too does the produce palette shift to hues of butternut squash, pumpkin, parsnip, rutabaga, and red cabbage. The air takes on the crispness of an orchard apple and the tingle of a tart cranberry. Thoughts turn to Thanksgiving and serious feasting on—not only the turkey—but all the accoutrements from savory dressings, ruby relishes, sweet potatoes, and creamed onions to flaky pies, soothing puddings, and old-fashioned brown betties. It’s hard to pay enough culinary homage to such a harvest cornucopia, particularly with the breathless activities of the Christmas season fast approaching.

For many, the December holiday season is associated with the hustle and bustle of shopping, decorating, and well-wishing to friends and family either next door or scattered halfway around the globe. For me silver bells and decked halls fuel my unique brand of “gastroromanticism” and spur me into a frenzy of flamboyant entertaining. Caviar is my catalyst as the dinner table becomes my oyster as well as my foie gras, lobster, rack of lamb, truffle, and trifle. The choice between wrapping escargots in prosciutto or gifts in fancy yuletide paper becomes a tough one. Champagne toasts flow, mulled libations simmer and spice the home, while Christmas cookies of all flavors and nations adorn coffee tables, gift baskets, and guest room bedsides. The notion of cold-weather cooking as bleak and functional finds no audience in the sugarplum fairyland of my December kitchen.

The whipped-up winds of January nor’easters, however, bring on a whole new shifting of “cuisinary” gears. Herein lies the real meat in the vast spectrum of cold-weather cooking. With the twinkling lights and glittery decorations of the previous month packed away for another year, winter becomes a reality. It is at last time to turn attention to serious tasks, inward inflections, and outdoor combat with the wicked elements of weather. The angst of income-tax preparation and the frostbite of snow shoveling require specific sorts of foods—namely straightforward soups, stews, and casseroles.

The need to nurture is at its peak in January and February when the notion of spending all day slaving over a hot stove seems preferable to most other activities. Cooking takes on the aura of a pleasurable and fulfilling winter project akin to knitting a sweater, studying a Wagnerian opera, reading the collected works of Tolstoy, or viewing a selection of movie classics on the VCR. Low mercury readings and 4 P.M. sunsets signal the best time for baking breads, slow-cooking beef stews to rib-sticking richness, learning how to make a Mexican mole from scratch, or harnessing the patience to stuff squid sacs and cabbage leaves.

For outdoor enthusiasts, winter serves up a paradise of alliterative activities from skiing to sledding, skating, snowshoeing, and snowsculpting. But whether one has a sporting streak or not, I’m convinced that the pristine aftermath of a fresh snowfall energizes the explorer latent in all of us. As the landscape is cleansed, altered, and strangely silenced by iced-over ponds and puddles, snow cover and curvaceous drifts play tricks on normally perceived boundaries, urban and rural alike. The urge to stroll through such a becalmed and enchanted winter wonderland is infectious. Equally infectious is the appetite engendered by all snow-spiked activities. Grilling over an open fireplace and twirling heartily sauced strands of pasta are splendid winter ways of sating hungers invigorated by life in a cold climate.

The downside to winter is that it rarely knows when to give way to the regenerative forces of spring. If only March could truly be counted on to “come in like a lion and go out like a lamb!” I personally feel especially sorry that March is so universally despised since I was born close to the Ides and like to keep my birthday a rosy occasion. So, when the weather lets me down by stubbornly clinging to winter, I lift myself up by escaping into a culinary world of inventive fish dishes and poetic spring feasts. The ability to view spring as a state of mind rather than an actual change of seasons is at the very heart of the Pisces personality, after all. . . .

The sort of cooking that mediates the chill of a blustery, kite-flying, daffodilish day becomes a distant cousin to the dishes that imparted warmth during those first nippy nights back in September. Spring cuisine favors lamb, veal, and chicken over autumn’s pork, while warmed vegetables continue to play a vital role—only they are now much more delicate than their sun-drenched counterparts from late summer harvests. Grassy green asparagus bundles, fiddlehead ferns, and crunchy shelled peas reawaken our palates to freshness and pave a delicious finale to the long and varied array of warming foods that sustain the sweep of chilly times.

Although I have written this cookbook from the perspective of my own New England seasons, my general sensitivity to temperature makes me aware that the sensation of cold weather is a relative experience. While I used to be amused by my Southern cousins’ donning of woolen coats and calfskin boots in the very type of weather that would encourage me to pack away such winter wear, I now appreciate the insight those actions add to my fascination with when and why we eat the foods we do. Just as a calendar is never a totally predictable guide to the course of the seasons, longitude and latitude don’t necessarily define how cold is perceived and reacted to by a given individual.

A final note about my cold-weather recipes is that they are often not as simple as my summer recipes. Dishes from the dark depths of winter, in particular, require extra creative coaxing, and thus time, to bring flavors alive. The cookbook field has grown considerably since I first co-authored the Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook in 1984. There are now cookbooks to cover almost any dietary need, predilection, and/or restriction. I continue to write my books for people who look to cooking as a pleasurable pastime, cultural exploration, and artistically fulfilling outlet. Many of my recipes are better suited to entertaining and special occasions than to the pressures and constraints of workaday living. In fact, a vast portion are unabashedly created to leave a glowing impression, so you’ll probably want to share them with your nearest and dearest unless, of course, you prefer to beam alone. While the media tells us that nesting and family life are back in vogue, my recipes parallel that trend by leaning toward a highly domestic, hands-on approach to food preparation and serving. If you have become as suspicious of plastic pouched, processed, and fast foods as I have, you’ll probably enjoy the sense of returning to a monogamous relationship with your meals—single-handedly taking foods all the way from market to chopping block to oven to table.

Still wondering what I do in the winter? I burn my culinary candle, if not others, at both ends!

Sarah Leah Chase

So Long, Summer

The waning of summer’s long, steamy days stirs up mixed emotions. The first sign of a day too chilly to go to the beach or sport about unencumbered in sleeveless splendor definitely makes me melancholy. Yet, at the same time, I find myself welcoming the post-Labor-Day nip and zip to the air as it reinvigorates artistic juices parched dangerously dry by the heat and hedonism of a Nantucket summer. As the fall approaches, my inventive fire seems to run a course parallel to the crescendo of color change that sets the September and October landscape ablaze.

As a cook, I no longer want the lazy August ease of dressing a garden-ripe tomato with merely a drizzle of olive oil and smattering of shredded basil leaves. No, September makes me wish to savor the prime harvest of deep red tomatoes with searing, simmering, stewing, and scalloping in warm pies, soups, and side dishes. Since salad making is my foremost culinary passion, the rustle of a crimson leaf underfoot fails to deter me from inventing yet another fresh chicken, potato, or crunchy vegetable blend. I warm up my new creations by intensifying flavors with dried apricots and figs, smoky ham, vibrant roasted peppers, piquant capers, and musty, dark olives.

Nor does the autumnal equinox signal the end of my alfresco picnic afternoons. Rather, it announces tailgate time, when the bikini, bicycle, and beach towel are traded in for a sweater, rusty station wagon, and tattered wool blanket. There are pizza roulades oozing eggplant and goat cheese, cornmeal-crusted empanadas and applesauce cakes begging to be packed into baskets destined for fall foliage outings.

Much to my regret, the one thing that does come to an end with Labor Day on Nantucket is the social smorgasbord of summer friendships. To deflect the sorrows of such partings, I send cherished pals off with memorable farewell feasts that straddle the seasons of both summer and fall. The grilled fish and tangles of angel hair that greeted my island companions in June become, in the span of a few months, crackling roast pork loins and pumpkin-and-prosciutto-layered lasagnes that honor the generosity of rich harvests and camaraderie alike.

Sicilian Eggplant Caponata

The intrigue of this lusty relish comes from the interplay of oven-roasted vegetables with sweet (raisins and chocolate) and pungent (anchovies, olives, capers, balsamic vinegar) ingredients. Caponata makes a great hors d’oeuvre simply spread on crackers or pita toasts, an extraordinary condiment for beef or lamb burgers, and a toothsome accompaniment to the roasted meats that warm up autumn menus.

½ cup golden raisins

¾ cup dry red wine

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, shaved or chopped into bits

3 medium eggplants, peeled and cut into ½-inch slices

2 large onions, cut into ½-inch slices

½ cup olive oil

1 can (28 ounces) plum tomatoes

3 tablespoons drained capers

5 anchovy fillets, minced

1 cup Calamata olives, pitted and sliced

1 jar (5½ ounces) pitted Spanish olives, drained and sliced

1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced, or more to taste

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

½ cup shredded fresh basil leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. The day before serving, place the raisins in a small saucepan and cover with the wine. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, add the chocolate, and stir until just melted. Set the mixture aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

3. Brush the eggplant and onion slices with the olive oil and place in separate large roasting pans. It is all right if the vegetables overlap a little bit. Roast the vegetables in the oven, turning once, until they are soft and lightly blistered, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool until easy to handle.

4. Meanwhile, drain the juice from the tomatoes into a large mixing bowl. Stir the raisin mixture into the juice. Chop the tomatoes and add along with the capers, anchovies, olives, and jalapeño chile.

5. Chop the roasted eggplant and onion into coarse chunks and add them to the tomato mixture. Finally add the vinegar and basil and season the mixture with salt and pepper. Cover and let the mixture mellow overnight in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature or slightly warmed. The relish will keep up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Makes 12 cups


A colorful and intense condiment to have on hand to enrich many end-of-the-summer foods. While this pepper relish is frequently paired with scrambled eggs or grilled fish steaks, I’m most partial to it spooned lavishly into a warm crusty roll with a few thin slices of hard sausage and a glaze of melted mozzarella—my idea of a heavenly sandwich to eat while tucked into a beach dune on a blustery September afternoon.

¼ cup olive oil

1 large onion, sliced into thin crescent slivers

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into ½-inch-wide strips

2 yellow bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into ½-inch-wide strips

1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into ½-inch-wide strips

2 ripe large tomatoes, seeded and cut into ½-inch-wide wedges

¼ cup slivered fresh basil leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is a light golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the pepper strips and sauté 5 minutes more. Add the tomatoes, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook uncovered until the tomato juices have evaporated, 10 to 15 minutes more. Stir in the basil, salt, and pepper. Remove from the heat and serve either warm or at room temperature. Peperonata will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Makes 2½ to 3 cups


Ribollita, a thick Tuscan porridge of vegetables, is a type of minestrone that is ladled over slices of stale bread and grated Parmesan. When the soup is reheated (ribollita means “reboiled”), the bread disintegrates, making a deliciously hearty soup.

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

4 carrots, peeled and minced

4 ribs celery, minced

1 cup minced fresh parsley

2 teaspoons dried thyme

2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch chunks

3 small zucchini, thinly sliced 1 small head green cabbage, shredded

1 can (28 ounces) plum tomatoes, undrained

8 ounces beet greens or Swiss chard, trimmed and coarsely chopped

10 ounces fresh or thawed frozen spinach, coarsely chopped

2½ quarts chicken broth, preferably homemade

2 cups dry red wine

1 cup canned cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

8 slices (each 1 inch thick) stale French or Italian bread

1½ cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese


½ cup extra virgin olive oil

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

4 scallions, trimmed and minced

1. The day before serving, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large stockpot. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, parsley, and thyme. Sauté 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

2. Add the potatoes, zucchini, cabbage, tomatoes, beet greens, and spinach; toss to combine with the other vegetables. Stir in the chicken broth and red wine. Simmer the soup uncovered until the vegetables are very tender, 1¼ to 1½ hours. Fifteen minutes before the soup is done, stir in the cannellini beans and season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Ladle one-third of the soup into a clean stockpot. Cover with 4 slices of the bread and ¾ cup Parmesan. Cover the bread layer with another third of the soup. Make a layer of the remaining bread and ¾ cup Parmesan. Cover with the remaining soup. Refrigerate overnight.

4. About 30 minutes before serving, reheat the soup over medium heat, stirring frequently, until hot. Ladle the soup into large soup bowls and garnish each serving with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of Parmesan and scallions. Serve at once.

Makes 10 to 12 servings

Nantucket Tomato Soup

I have always been an incredible fan of tomato soup, and there is none better than a batch concocted from the sunny September harvest of local farm tomatoes. So rich and nourishing is the flavor that I become fleetingly convinced that life would be perfect if such a tomato soup could be replicated 365 days a year. Paradise reigns at least one month each year as my rosy stockpot simmers to aromatize both kitchen and soul.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 large onions, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 carrots, peeled and minced

3 ribs celery, minced

12 vine-ripened large beefsteak tomatoes, seeded and diced

1 cup dry white wine

4 to 5 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

¾ cup heavy or whipping cream (optional)

½ cup shredded fresh basil leaves

1. Heat the butter and oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and cook uncovered until the vegetables are soft and translucent, 15 minutes more.

2. Add the tomatoes to the pot and toss to combine with the vegetables. Add the white wine and enough chicken broth to make a thick soup consistency. Let simmer uncovered 40 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Purée half the soup in a blender or food processor and combine with the original mixture. If using cream, add it when puréeing the soup. Reheat the soup and stir in the basil just before serving. Serve the soup hot; although if it is Indian Summer weather, the soup is quite delicious at room temperature.

Makes 8 to 10 servings

Orzo and Roasted Vegetable Salad

One late-September day when a catering client of mine had been anticipating a hefty platter of risotto at a wedding rehearsal buffet and the entire island of Nantucket was uncharacteristically devoid of Arborio rice, I summoned a handy box of orzo to the rescue. It so happened that visiting in-laws, guests, and even the apologetic chef liked the makeshift alternative enough to name it a favorite.

2 medium eggplants, peeled and cut into ½-inch, chunks

2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into ½-inch dice

2 yellow bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into ½-inch dice

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 to 1¼ cups fruity olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 pound orzo (rice-shaped pasta), cooked according to package directions and drained

1 bunch scallions, trimmed and minced

12 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

½ cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

⅓ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted

⅓ cup fresh lemon juice

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

2. Toss the eggplant, peppers, and garlic together in a roasting pan. Drizzle with ½ cup of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables in the oven, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly blistered, about 45 minutes.

3. In a large mixing bowl combine the cooked orzo with the roasted vegetables. Stir in the scallions, feta, mint, and pine nuts. Dress the salad with the lemon juice and enough of the remaining oil to moisten thoroughly. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Transfer to an attractive bowl and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Makes 8 to 10 servings


On Sale
Jan 11, 1990
Page Count
432 pages

Sarah Leah Chase

About the Author

Sarah Leah Chase, who founded the Massachusetts specialty food shop and catering business Que Sera Sarah, collaborated on The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook. Her other books include Nantucket Open-House Cookbook and Cold-Weather Cooking. Currently she writes a weekly food column for Nantucket’s Inquirer and Mirror newspaper and is recipe consultant to Ina Garten. Sarah and her husband, Nigel, are the owners of Coastal Goods, a retailer of fine seasoning blends. They live with their son on Cape Cod.

Learn more about this author