These Gray Days + RECIPE: Caramelized Shallot Dip

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Boy oh boy has it ever been gloomy here in my beautiful home state of Wisconsin. Honestly, since we returned home from Maui a little over a month ago I would guess that 95% of my waking hours have been under cloudy skies and it seems like pretty much everyone in my life is handling this new theme of gray in November quite badly.

It’s funny. For a long time, I never really believed that emotions could be tied to the weather. The warm or cold, the abundant sunshine versus the gray and rainy: I thought these were things that affected crops, construction, and road conditions, but definitely not moods. We have coffee and Netflix, puppies and trail runs. Sadness needn’t be real.

Then I got sad a few winters back and realized every other person in my life was also a little less themselves and a little more sullen. Since then I’ve noticed every single February and March in Wisconsin is pretty much the same: energy levels are low and everyone is just waiting for some of that warmth and sunshine to appear. It’s disconcerting that the Wisconsin winter blues is coming SO early this year (it’s not even officially winter!), but with no sun, no snow, chilling winds, and a whole lot of brown following a summer of minimal sunshine, I can’t say I’m all together surprised.

I’m actually coping with the gray better than usual. I got myself a life coach for my 30th birthday (due to a meltdown I won’t bother going into here) and it’s been helpful in all the ways I dreamed it would be. My emotional intelligence has at least doubled. So for once, I’m embracing the low energy. I’m not fighting it.

I’m socializing only a moderate amount (instead of my usual fall frenzy) and bunkering down at home more. I’m immersing myself in spreadsheets and farm survey results, using my gray-infused analytical mind to get straight to the business of figuring out exactly what our CSA program will look like next year and how to automate systems to make this complicated vision come to fruition. I’m moving slowly in my kitchen, putting more intention into feeding the people I love than is customary for me this time of year. In a lot of ways, I’m really embracing the gray letting it slow me down and be okay binge- watching episodes of the Great British Bake Off because that is what my body is telling me to do.

And when I do get out, it’s even better than I imaged because I didn’t force it. Like this past Saturday when our dear friend Jenny invited our farm to bring a product for tasting to her beautiful, two-week old space The Grove Market. Jenny’s mission is beautifully tied to ours, all about local food and building community in our sweet little town of Evansville, so she hosted a lively Vendor Spotlight series. We hand-delivered a basket of pearly pink shallots and a giant batch of Caramelized Shallot Dip (recipe below) for tasting.

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The new space was elegant, bright and full. Raleigh’s CSA members were there, former grade school teachers were there, and our favorite CSA coffee partners Rusty Dog were behind the counter smiling and handing out samples. We chatted easily, first with community friends than with a Janesville-area farmer we’d never met who’s doing incredibly innovative things in the local food space. My dip was a hit. It was a perfect moment in a perfect space.

That’s what I want my falls and winters to be about, especially when they’re so gray. I want less hurry, less expectations, and less should. And instead I’ll find more space, more intention, more love, and more beauty. And if that’s what the gray means, well then there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Happy December to you all beautiful friends. May the start to your holiday season be bright in exactly the ways that you need.

-Leek

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CARAMELIZED SHALLOT DIP
Adapted every so slightly from Bon Appetit

Makes 2 cups
Takes 1 hour (mostly inactive)

1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cups diced shallots (about 3 large)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1-1/4 cups whole fat Greek yogurt

  1. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. When it just begins to get a little brown (about 2 minutes), add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add shallots and stir to combine. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for 20 minutes. Add sugar ad cook 25 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. You want them to be nice  and golden.
  2. Remove shallots from heat and add vinegar.
  3. Allow to cool for 5 minutes then add to a medium bowl. Add yogurt along with remaining olive oil and salt. Stir to combine, taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
  4. Serve immediately with crackers or pretzels or chill before serving.

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