11 Foods You Should Be Eating This January
January used to be the month in which seven of your 14 children and two of your best farmhands succumbed to typhus, but now that we have indoor heating and Spam, sudden death is much less likely to occur during the most punishing part of winter.
Although the modern technological dreamworld that brought us canned mystery meat has also made it possible to pick up a bunch of mangoes and live a South Pacific fantasy while it sleets bullets outside, you’re still better off trying to stick to in-season foods. The problem? Not much is in season in January, but there are still some foods in their natural storage period that will help you stick to sustainability, tropical fruits be damned:
Say it with a fake Italian accent, and you'll be magically whisked away to a land where people speak in bad Italian accents. And eat broccolini. Like the Kalette, broccolini is a sin against nature, having been created as a hybrid of broccoli and kai-lan -- it was originally marketed as "aspabroc," which, gross. That said, these guys have a less-aggressive flavor than broccoli, and are really nice grilled or charred under the broiler. They'll give you all the sweeping health benefits of other cruciferous veggies (otherwise known as brassica), so keep them simple with some garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil.
Pears really take a backseat to apples, probably because there's nothing worse than a terrible pear -- nothing! At all! Ever! -- but wow, when you get a good one, there's not much that's better. Also, have you ever poached a pear? DO IT. You'll be loading up on fiber, which you need if you want to poop.
Gigantic scallion? Freakishly large chive? Actually, leeks are their very own plant, though "leeks" is a terrible name for a food that people should be eating. They're a kind of allium, putting them in the same family as onions... a family that goes to town on your gut, in a good way. In other words, eat leeks if you want better digestion. Whip up a batch of potato-leek soup for a winter classic that'll make your depression and student loans disappear! (Results may vary.)
One of the most criminally underused vegetables in American cuisine, fennel has a soft licorice flavor and the consistency of celery. What's not to like? Have you ever stuffed a chicken with fennel? No? THEN YOU'VE NEVER KNOWN PLEASURE. So, once you do that, you'll have a perfect accompaniment to your whole chicken, provided you've thrown it in the oven so that you don't just have a raw chicken full of fennel on your dinner plate.
Fennel's a great non-fruit source of vitamin C, not to mention all the fiber and potassium. Or, if you're looking for something significantly grosser, but bizarrely fascinating, check out this study, which proves that "fennel is an effective means to manage the symptoms of vaginal atrophy in postmenopausal women and is devoid of side effects."
DON'T PUT SUGAR ON THAT GRAPEFRUIT! What the hell are you doing?! Sure, there may have been some criticism of tropical fruits a few paragraphs back, but let's let bygones be bygones, shall we? Citrus tends to travel well, and you want to be scurvy-free in January, so you're going to want to load up on vitamin C in the form of grapefruits, plain, unadorned.
Any clown with a canvas bag can pick up butternut squash; it takes a true gourmand to seek out butternut's smaller, more flavorful sister, the honeynut. This is the one that was invented with the help of international culinary star Dan Barber -- say what you will about celebrity chefs, these squash are pretty tasty. An ideal way to use them is as a sauce, for fettuccine or gnocchi or whatever the kids are calling spaghetti these days. Just chop it up with some celery, garlic, carrots, and onions, saute in oil or butter, cover with water, stew until all ingredients are soft, then blend. The result is a creamy sauce without the, you know, cream, and you get all the beta-carotene that comes with squash's orange flesh.
Well, these are just fun! It's not every day that you get to eat black foods. Granted, they're borderline inedible when raw because they're so peppery it feels like someone injected wasabi into your soft palate, but if you roast them you'll take the edge off enough to slice them and add to sandwiches. You could do a quick pickle by slicing them into manageable pieces, boiling equal parts water and vinegar with a hefty amount of salt, then adding the radishes to the mixture after it's cooled a bit. These guys are also members of the brassica family (the one that has all the fun/health benefits), so eat them.
Look, it's brassica season. There's nothing anyone can do about that. So just accept it, OK? One of the great things about tatsoi is that it'll be your source of greens throughout the winter, as it can be harvested in temperatures below freezing. And if you need to be told how to use greens, well, look no further than the first word of the next food.
Salad turnips (hakurei turnips)
You're not going to believe this, but turnips are also members of the brassica family, which is essentially like the Duggars of the vegetable world, minus the accusations of sexual assault. Anyway, you might think that salad turnips should be used on salads, and you'd be exactly right. Put them on a tatsoi salad. They're like a much milder radish, pretty inoffensive in almost every way, Duggar references notwithstanding.
Oh, hey, look at that, something that isn'ta brassica! Of course, celery root (or celeriac) is still basically a hoary globule, which you're going to be eating a lot of during the winter. It's January, after all, but that doesn't mean you have to waste the days knitting and waiting for grandma to finish making the celeriac soup. Slice it up thin, sprinkle your favorite cheeses all over it, toss it in the oven, and make a celeriac gratin. Fancy! You'll get loads of vitamin K and phosphorus to boot.
It's minus a million degrees outside. You've eaten every radish in the house. All the celeriac gratin is gone. You may have overdosed on dietary fiber. Settle your stomach, and your nerves, with a hot toddy. This month that seems like it never ends is the worst time of year to attempt "Drynuary."
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