A Menu for December (Parsnip Soup, Beef and Mushroom Stew, Ginger Cake)

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We got a tree, a Christmas tree, and it’s my first one–Rabbi Schlomo, plug your ears–and it’s making our apartment seem so festive. Somehow I thought getting a tree would be a big ordeal: with the lights and the stand and the balls and the baubles. But, actually, it was a totally easy process. On the advice of my friend John, we went to the Target in Eagle Rock where we stocked up on all the tree necessities (a tree skirt, to attract male trees; lights, balls, etc.) and then we bought a tree right outside at a pop-up tree farm. The tree came on a stand so we just carried it through the door, stood it up, and started wiring the lights. Voila. Now all we had to do was to have people over to enjoy the tree, which is why I spent some time figuring out the perfect December menu.

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Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew

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Cooking out of season is a little more acceptable on the west coast, where seasons are peripheral. Yes, it got a little chilly out here in L.A. in January and February; I was wearing long sleeves in March, but life didn’t change the way life changes so dramatically when it gets cold back east.

So why not make beef stew in June? That was my philosophy when I unpacked Amanda Hesser’s mammoth New York Times Cookbook and discovered a recipe by that most fabulously ferocious food writer, Regina Schrambling, for Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew.

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