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Cross-Country Ski Picnic

by Rosemary Furfaro

Although snow doesn't fall here in San Francisco, I feel the seasonal changes nonetheless. It could be the thrill of the holiday season or it could be the tinge of chill creeping into my bones from the damp winters of this otherwise perfect climate. But, when my sensors pick up on these annual transformations, I have thoughts of snow and cross-country skiing.

I am an Upstate New York girl at heart, and even though I vehemently deny missing the wet, white stuff each year, I do miss a trek intowoods blanketed with that first snowfall. My friends back east always celebrated the first of many promising snowfalls with a combination of food and fun in the quiet woods just north of our city. If we got out early, we had the trails all to ourselves for a few hours -- just enough time to work up a ravenous appetite and an insatiable thirst for the spirits that we brought in our rucksacks.

Since all of us cooked for a living, each skier supplied one part of the simple, rustic meal. One meal that I remember as particularly satisfying was the mixed ethnic lunch of Southwestern Turkey Chili, assorted Mediterranean sheep's milk cheeses, loaves of crusty bread with a spread of Potted, Smoked Trout, Mulled Wine (for those of us who wanted more warmth than the spicy chili could provide), and a spiced, hot apple cider. Dessert was a seasonal assortment of fresh fruits.

Although cross-country skiing requires an overnight stay for most northern Californians, a weekend trip to one of many spots in the Tahoe area is well worth it -- especially if you're like I am and occasionally yearn for a snowy landscape. Be sure to dress in light, warm layers that can be peeled off as your body builds up heat from the exertion of skiing. Bring a backpack to cart your discarded clothing and to carry your essentials for your outdoor meal.

Southwestern Three Bean Turkey Chili
serves 6 with leftovers
I used to serve this to my lunch customers at my restaurant in Central New York during our brutally cold, snowy winters. If you prefer, you can easily make it vegetarian by omitting the turkey. Although the list of ingredients looks intimidating, it is a relatively easy recipe to make.

4 tablespoons olive oil (a bit more may be needed)
1 pound ground turkey
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 stalk celery, sliced thinly
1/2 cup grated fresh carrot
1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 square of Mexican chocolate, preferably Ibarra brand
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 tablespoon ground coriander
3/4 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon New Mexican chile powder
2 teaspoon Ancho chile powder
1 one pound and 10 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 12 ounce can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup Mexican beer
1/4 cup orange juice
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup each of cooked black beans, pink beans and pinto beans (can substitute any with kidney beans)

In a deep saucepan, saut� turkey in olive oil until all pink is gone. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon. Reserve. Add garlic and onion and saut� for 5-7 minutes over medium heat until soft. Add bell peppers, celery and carrot. Saut� for 10 minutes until vegetables are soft. (You may need to add a bit more oil to the pan so vegetables won't stick.) Add remaining ingredients except cooked beans. Stir well to blend. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes. Then add beans and cook one hour more, stirring occasionally.

This can be served by itself or topped with cheddar or jack cheese, chopped green onions, sour cream and a lime wedge.

Potted Smoked Trout Spread
makes 2 cups
Although we had the luxury of eating freshly smoked trout from Ireland, try to find good quality smoked trout at a reputable fish store. Quite often it comes from the Pacific Northwest.

1 side of smoked trout, skin removed
1 8 ounce package cream cheese
2 green onions, thinly sliced
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 teaspoon Italian parsley, minced
1or 2 teaspoons heavy cream

Shred the trout with a fork and reserve. Place the remaining ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and blend to form a smooth spread. Remove and stir in the smoked trout. Pack in a ceramic crock with a locking lid and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using to allow flavors to mellow and texture to become spreadable. Serve on crackers or bread.

Mulled Wine

1 bottle good quality Cabernet Sauvignon
1/2 inch piece of cinnamon stick
3-4 whole allspice seeds
3-4 whole cloves
1/8-1/4 cup sugar
one long piece of navel orange peel

Combine all ingredients and heat, but do not boil, until liquid is steaming. Cover and let sit for one hour off heat. Gently reheat to steam again and strain liquid into a two quart thermos. Seal lid tightly. Serve steaming hot.

Rosemary Furfaro is a freelance food writer.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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