I like winter food. Stews, soups, braises. Slow cooking, fragrant steam, warmth from the oven. Hurry up and wait food.
You do a little planning ahead, some chopping, some searing, some combining, and then you lean back and let the gentle heat and moisture do most of the magic to your meal.
I added some of my own magic to my braised lamb shanks with white beans the other day. A little bit of summer.
I wanted to use some of the tomato sauce I froze last summer, made from nothing but fresh, sweet tomatoes and a little olive oil. Perfect for bathing the kind of bone-rich cheap cuts that need long simmering to get tender and release a bit of gelatin (and when did cheap cuts stop being cheap — have you noticed?). A good glug of red wine. Handful of diced carrots and a minced spring onion. A bay leaf from the tree on the patio, tied up in some cheesecloth with a short sprig of rosemary and two little cloves.
To those flavors I added a few pinches of dried fennel powder that I had collected last summer and put up in a little jar. It was like instant sunshine.
The pollen has mellowed since last year, its sharp anise edginess softened now to an almost caramel flavor, much milder than fennel seeds. It still tastes weedy, wild, even a touch illicit (why, because I picked it from the parking lot behind the Mormon church?).
It was kinda THERE, but barely.