We all get the blues. There’s no way around it. I looked up what the experts have to say about it and they recommend Vitamins. Up your doses of B, C, and D, they say. Buy a natural-light lamp, get some excersize. All of which are good ideas. Some of them may even work, although they never have for me. The best, most reliable tool that I have found to fight depression is to laugh with friends and eat great food.
So, whenever I’m really blue I plan a dinner party like I did last night. And even though cleaning the house and cooking may seem like the very last thing I want to do when the S.A.D. hits, it’s actually exactly what the doctor should order. Having people over clears the emotional cobwebs. A vacuumed house, a pot of fragrant stew simmering on the stove, and an open bottle of wine waiting to be sipped always overwhelms the winter blahs.
So feeling a little more S.A.D. than I wanted to I came up with the most anti-depressive menu I could think of. Mostly it stars easy-to-make, elegant, rich but not overwhelmingly so food that takes a back seat to conversation. The porchetta style pork is a recipe from Mario Batali from the new, amazing cookbook Eat Like a Manwhich is coming out in May. Broccoli rabe is rich with vitamins that boost serotonin, and chocolate cake – well chocolate cake is chock-full of polyphenols and joy. And who ever met a potato, dripping with olive oil, fresh mint and garlic that didn’t make them smile? Happiness is always chic! This menu serves 6 people, the anti-depressive ideal.
For an apertif I served Dark and Stormies…just about how I have been feeling lately.
Anti-Depressive Menu to beat the mid-winter Blues
- Porchetta Style Pork Shoulder
- Sautéed Broccoli Rabe
- Minted potatoes
- Sublime Chocolate Cake
Porchetta Style Pork Shoulder
This recipe is fairly simple. It’s like making a jelly roll. The most important work is done at the butcher’s. You need to ask for a 3-4 lb piece of boneless pork shoulder (weirdly, also called butt) and have him butterfly it for you so that you have a flat piece of meat, about 8 inches by 14. When I got home I also did some pounding to get it a bit flatter.
- 3-4 lb boneless pork shoulder (butt)
- salt & pepper
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 1 bulb fennel, fronds chopped and reserved, bulb thinly sliced
- 2 lbs ground pork (you can use sausage meat)
- 2 Tbs fennel seeds
- 2 Tbs freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbs chopped fresh rosemary
- 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced.
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 4 red onions, halved
- butcher’s twine
1 – Preheat the oven to 350. Sprinkle the butterflied piece of pork with salt and pepper.
2 – In a sauté pan heat the olive oil until smoking. Add the onion and fennel bulb and sauté until softened and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the ground pork, fennel seeds, rosemary, and garlic and cook. The smell will be amazing! Allow to cool a little and add the chopped fennel leaves and the eggs.
3 – Spread the mixture over the pork and roll up like a jelly roll. Tie with butcher’s twine in 4 places and place in a roasting pan on top of the red onions. Place in the oven and roast for 2 1/2 hours, until the internal temperature reaches 160. Remove and allow to rest for 10-20 minutes. Cut into 1 inch pieces of and serve.
Sautéed Broccoli Rabe
- 3 lbs broccoli rabe
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 2 Tbs canola oil
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- red pepper
1 – Work in two batches. First, boil salted water in a large pot and blanch one large bunch of the broccoli rabe. When it looks dark green take it out with tongs and drain in a colander. You don’t want to over cook it. Put the second batch in the cooking water and repeat.
2 – In your sauté pan heat a mixture of the olive and canola oil, fry the garlic until it is cooked but not brown. Add the red pepper flakes to taste. Sauté the first batch of broccoli rabe, until it is covered in oil, garlic and red pepper. Salt to taste. Remove onto a serving plate and repeat with the second batch. The broccoli rabe can be served room temperature, in fact some people think it’s better that way, so you can make it ahead of time.
Potatoes with mint and garlic
- 2 lbs potatoes (red, yellow, small white all work well this way)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 Tbs chopped, fresh mint
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped up into bits
- salt and pepper.
1 – boil the potatoes in a large pot of salted water.
2 – Meanwhile, in the bottom of a big bow combine the mint, garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper. When the potatoes are cooked put them on top of the oil mixture and stir, getting all of the fragrant goodness mixed over the potatoes. Salt and pepper more if they need it.
Sublime Chocolate Cake
Go to Broke and Chic for the recipe!
By Samantha Gillison | Samantha is the author of The Broke and Chic Project, a blog dedicated to thrifty, fabulous dinner party menus. She lives and cooks in Brooklyn, New York.