It’s so exciting! Winter is definitely on its way out! Next weekend, it will be officially be Spring. I’ve been noticing how much lighter it is when I leave work each evening. With the time change tonight, it will be light even later. I suppose that means it will get light later in the morning to compensate (and it will be really hard for me to get up in the morning).
Our bounty from the Winter CSA has dwindled, but we still have some vegetables left. They have stored well in plastic bags in the refrigerator. (We also have half a dozen butternut squash left in a basket in the basement.)
I was able to put together a delicious shepherd’s pie with ingredients we had on hand: ground beef from Chestnut Farms, root vegetables from Shared Harvest CSA, and other odds and ends in the refrigerator, taking my herbal inspiration from Simon & Garfunkel (Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, & Thyme). I diced and roasted the vegetables the night before to make this easy to throw together after work, so it came together quickly.
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 parsnips, peeled and diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
1 rutabaga, peeled and diced
1 celery root, peeled and diced
1 tsp sage, divided
1 tsp rosemary, divided
1 tsp thyme, divided
1 onion, diced
1 lb ground beef
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup beef broth
½ cup chopped parsley
2 baking potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
½ cup yogurt
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350F. Toss diced parsnips, carrots, rutabaga, and celery root with 2 Tbsp olive oil and ½ tsp each of the sage, rosemary, and thyme. Spread the vegetables in a single layer onto a large baking sheet. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are tender and slightly caramelized.
Place the peeled potatoes into a pot of water. Bring to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes). Before draining, set aside ¼ cup of the potato cooking water. Drain the potatoes. Whisk the potato cooking water into the yogurt. Mash the potatoes with the yogurt mixture and a generous seasoning of salt.
In a large skillet, heat the remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion and ground beef. Saute, breaking up the meat as it cooks, until the onions are soft and the meat is cooked through, about 5 minutes. If the meat gave off a large amount of fat, drain the fat before continuing.
Add tomato paste, beef broth, and the remaining sage, rosemary, and thyme to the meat. Cook until the sauce thickens up. Stir in the roasted vegetables and the parsley.
Pour the mixture into a 2-quart baking dish. Spread the mashed potatoes over the top of the meat.
Bake until edges of the mashed potatoes start to brown, about 25-30 minutes.
Howard and I shared a quiet dinner at home on New Year’s Eve. We had a few lamb shoulder chops from Chestnut Farms. I had never cooked this cut before, only rib chops and loin chops.
Browsing through a few cookbooks indicated shoulder chops needed a slower cook than the chops I was used to. I found a yummy-looking recipe that baked the shoulder chops on a bed of potatoes and onions.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t read the recipe all the way through. Around 6:00, Howard popped open a bottle of champagne, and I opened the cookbook. Uh-oh, the lamb needed to bake for almost 2 hours. I guess I was starting (or ending) the year with rather poor planning.
Howard looked in one of his ever-trusty Cooks Illustrated cookbooks and found that the shoulder chops could be simply broiled. I traded in the bed of potatoes for a pot of lentils and some roasted carrots and celery root. Dinner was ready in the half the time. Redemption!
While dinner cooked, we sipped champagne and nibbled on salmon caviar and crackers and some local oysters (Wianno, Wellfleet and Island Creek, all from the Cape, courtesy of Whole Foods).
After dinner, we watched a movie (Away We Go) and managed to stay up until 11:45 before dropping off to sleep. Seeing midnight no longer seems as important as it did when I was younger.
Our New Year’s Eve dinner was quiet and romantic. On New Year’s Day, we invited our friends Laury, John, and Isabel for dinner. We had a pork roast from Codman Farm. I made a spice rub from garlic, lime juice, cumin, and cilantro to go on the pork plus Cuban Sweet Potatoes and Braised Cabbage to go with the meat. The big hit was the sweet potatoes. It had similar flavors to the pork, and the whole bowl disappeared fast.
The year is off to a great start with two things that are really important to me: spending time and sharing meals with some of my favorite people, and eating food that has been sustainably and humanely produced, from local farms. I’m looking forward to more of the same in the year ahead.
Cuban Sweet Potatoes
2 lbs sweet potatoes
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
½ cup chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
Preheat the oven to 450F.
Peel the sweet potatoes. Cut them into ½-inch slices. If the rounds are large, cut in half again (into half moons). Toss the potato slices in a bowl with olive oil. Spread them out on a baking sheet (or two) in one layer. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are nice and tender.
Combine the garlic, cilantro, and lime juice in a big bowl. Add the hot sweet potatoes and toss. Season with salt and pepper to taste.