It’s yam time. When I saw yams were next on the list I finally thought I must have been smoking crack when I put this list together, because aren’t yams winter-y? And haven’t we established that spring has sprung? And then I thought, isn’t yam just another word for sweet potato (which I handily defeated in the fall)? Like how corn and maize are kind of the same thing. Aren’t they? I wasn’t really sure about any of this so I decided not to wholly abandon yams until I had consulted an authoritative source, like…my parents, the people who instilled in me absolutely no values about eating fresh food. Naturally. Continue reading “battle 28–yams–day 1, void”
Remember how I very cleverly scheduled the pumpkin battle to fall during the week of Halloween? I did the same thing for sweet potatoes and Thanksgiving, because what’s more Thanksgiving-y than sweet potato soufflé? I mean besides, turkey. And pumpkin pie. And cranberry sauce. And corn casserole. Besides those things, what’s more Thanksgiving-y than sweet potato soufflé? Nothing.
As an adult Thanksgiving is probably my most favorite holiday, and I say that with all due respect to my former favorite holiday, Christmas. When I was a kid, all I did was dream of Christmas and all those presents under the tree. I would count the days and minutes from, like, June. I’m probably the only person in the universe who isn’t offended when people start putting up Christmas decorations the day after Halloween, because historically, as soon as Christmas was over I would sink into a deep depression for weeks, and then perk up for a minute because my birthday is in March, and then fall back into a gloomy funk until Christmas rolled around again. That’s a torturously lengthy present-less stretch and time goes sooo sloooow when you’re seven and entirely dependent on other people to give you things (and you need things), because you don’t have a job.
Then I grew up and got a job. And that’s when Christmas became my second favorite holiday. Because with a job I can make Christmas happen for myself any time of the year, but what my job won’t do for me is cook a turkey. And I love a turkey. And leftover-turkey sandwiches. And gravy. And just about everything else that goes with Thanksgiving dinner. Love. It. And now, I love sweet potatoes, too. Holy yum sweet potatoes yum yum.
St. Thanksgivingfairyclaus visited me twice this year: once for pre-Thanksgiving with friends, and once for regular Thursday Thanksgiving at my folks’ place. Both times I was in charge of sweet potatoes, and I wanted to make it special and different for both occasions. As a rule I’m not a very traditional, sentimental kinda girl, but when it comes to holidays and food, I’m by the book. However, this project has given me so many opportunities to branch out and really try new things that I didn’t want to stop that momentum, so I considered recipes that were both traditional and edgy (or ‘frou frou,’ as my dad likes to say).
I decided pretty early on that I would save the most traditional dish, sweet potato soufflé, for Thanksgiving with my parents and would try to find something a little more fun for pre-Thanksgiving with friends. For the friends version, I decided on a roasted sweet potato recipe from the Martha Stewart holiday magazine. Fancy!
Saturday morning before pre-Thanksgiving, David and I went to the Morningside Farmers’ Market to buy sweet potatoes for dinner that night.
(Side Note: While we were there we saw Jerusalem artichokes and I took a picture for Jess to prove they exist just in case they aren’t there again when Jerusalem artichoke week rolls around. That would be a bummer. Darn.)
Several of the farmers had sweet potatoes, but I really liked the ones Christa had used for sweet potato quesadillas, so I went in search of those. I bought, I don’t know, a bunch, and then wandered around the market feeling very earthy and hip. I’ve always thought neighborhood farmers’ markets are a good idea, in theory, but what with not eating vegetables and all, I never had reason to frequent them. While I was having this little self congratulatory revelation I noticed a big crowd standing around one tent and OMG! It’s celebrity chef Scott Peacock! Who also happens to be the executive chef at Watershed, my all-time most favorite restaurant in the universe forever to infinity and beyond. Morningside Farmers’ Market: epic success.
(Side Note No. 2: If you love Scott Peacock, like me, or even if you don’t but you love me and you know I know what the shit I’m talking about, and I do, he’ll be back at the MFM November 21 working with….sweet potatoes.) (Wait, that already happened…what day is it?) (Wait, does this mean Scott Peacock was working with sweet potatoes the day I saw Scott Peacock and I somehow didn’t notice that because I was too busy drooling over Scott Peacock? Epic fail.)
At home, the roasted sweet potatoes came together very quickly and easily. It was so easy I thought, hey, why don’t I take this extra time I’ve got (which was about five minutes) and start a whole new cooking project? Great idea! So then I pulled out some green tomatoes and fried those bitches (which made us about an hour late). So, the Potties’ final contribution to pre-Thanksgiving: fried green tomatoes and maple-glazed roasted sweet potatoes. If we’d have gone to pre-Thanksgiving last year, the absolute best, most frou frou item I could have contributed would have been monkeybread, which would have been delicious in a 12-year-old, spend-the-night party kind of way.
Pre-Thanksgiving was so awesome. Lots of good friends, great food, and remarkably excellent sweet potatoes. Many, many thanks to all my friends who shared with me the best of the best from their kitchens, and especially to those of you who made your shit without onions.
Maple-glazed Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- 4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Juice and zest of 1 oranges, zest reserved
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
Preheat oven to 450°F. Place potatoes on large baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring once. Mix orange juice, sugar and syrup in a small bowl and drizzle over potatoes. Return to oven for another 10 minutes. Remove to serving dish and garnish with fresh orange zest.
In case any of you actually read this regularly and have noticed posts have become slightly more infrequent in the last few weeks, let me catch you up on what’s happening with Julie v. Veggies right now. You may remember that I had a minor (major) panic attack when summer turned to winter and the vegetables went to shit. That slowed my enthusiasm significantly. Then pumpkin week happened, which picked up my spirits, but then my vacation happened, which put the brakes on the speed I picked up from pumpkin. In the midst of my vacay exhaustion—and, might I add, the time change, which I hate (seriously, fall, WTF)—I discovered I had one vegetable on the list twice and one week on the list with no vegetable at all.
The project is kicking my ass a little. I’m not saying vegetables are beating me, I’m just saying the project could be a little nicer. Project, back off a little, eh?
So here’s where we are on the schedule now: I’m all caught up on pumpkin and kohlrabi; cauliflower happened next, and even though I have done it I haven’t written about yet; I have a week off (this week); and sweet potato is scheduled for next week to coincide with Thanksgiving. I was going to use this off week to catch up on posts, but instead I started early with sweet potatoes. So I’m going to simultaneously try to catch up and tell you how it’s going with sweet potatoes.
Another thing that happened in the last couple of weeks was David and I got a new housemate. Remember Christa from squash casserole night? Christa has been following the blog very closely and was so worried the project would eventually get the best of me if I kept fucking things up in the kitchen as regularly as I have been, that she thought it was best for everyone if she just moved in to show me how it’s done. And Christa knows how it’s done. Holy good goddamn dinner. The woman can cook.
Monday was supposed to be the first night of my off week, but Christa had brought home some locally grown sweet potatoes, educated me on the difference between conventional and local or organic sweet potatoes (which I totally knew), and started dreaming up all the things we could do with said sweet potatoes. I just watched it all unfold in awe. I was in a bit of a trance and secretly strategizing ways to keep Christa forever, when she whispered (or maybe e-mailed) the words ‘grass-fed brisket.’ I snapped to attention and said fuck my week off, we’re having meat and potatoes, my friends.
The challenge with meat-and-sweet-potato Monday was that one of my many, many, many vegetarian friends was joining us for dinner. I don’t know how, as carnivorous as I am, I have managed to collect so many vegetarians, but I’m sort of swimming in them. And if there’s one thing they’ve taught me it’s that they do require, for nutrition and other purposes, meals more substantial than meat-and-potatoes-minus-the-meat. I racked my brain for things vegetarians eat and asked our dinner companion, Vegetarian Erin, “Um, how about some tofu?” That seriously happened.
But Christa, because she’s amazing, said, “What if we do sweet potato quesadillas?” Obviously.
Then she started pulling things out of drawers and cabinets—utensils I couldn’t identify, spices I’ve never heard of, food I didn’t know we had—waved a magic wand and made the most spectacular, magical meal of sweet potato-y, black bean-y, habanero pepper-y, garlic-y, cheesy quesadillas. And mine had brisket. Wonderful. Heavenly. Too good.
I have to say, even though this project is kicking my ass a little, I have eaten better in the last three months than any other single period in my life. I don’t hate it.
And Christa may or may not forevermore be chained to a chair in my basement. You don’t know.