Well, we made it. We've hit the midwinter mark; the days are getting a little longer, and we've dug out from the first (and hopefully only) major snowstorm of the year. The holidays have passed, and now there's only February to muddle through until Spring seems feasibly around the corner. Luckily, even February has its comforts--in our house, it's a fire in the fireplace on sharp, icy evenings, records skipping on the record player, and the oven ticking warmly and happily away in the kitchen. But February can feel a bit mundane when it comes to cooking with fresh food, especially when trying to eat seasonally and to work within a budget. By the end of it, you'd be happy not to encounter another root vegetable for another year--but then you still have March to get through.
I'll begin with the sweet potato--one of the more accessible of the root vegetable bunch. I've been simply roasting them, sometimes with or without butter, maple syrup or brown sugar, forever. But it's like finding gold to discover some new, complimentary flavors to change up something so time-tested.
This recipe for Coconut Oil Roasted Sweet Potatoes is one that I can't get enough of. The flavors are so familiar and yet presented something unexpected--peppery, warm, sweet, unusual, even. And there are only three steps to get this done (recipe courtesy of NY Times Cooking):
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Peel 1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes (Jewel or Garnet yams are easily found this time of year, or try Covington Sweet potatoes) then roughly cut into 1/2 inch cubes.
2. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a small saucepan. When liquified, pour over sweet potatoes. Toss with 2 tsp. light brown sugar, 3/4 tsp. sea salt, 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg, 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper.
3. Shake out potatoes onto a cookie sheet or roasting pan and roast for about an hour--I roasted mine at a much higher temperature for a much shorter amount of time out of necessity and they still turned out great. Just shake the pan and be sure to keep an eye that they don't burn.
If you've been searching for more creative ways to cook root vegetables, Bon Apetit magazine has an interesting collection available online. Or, you can always keep it simple by cutting up a medley of different vegetables--carrots, parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes, and onions are a good way to start--keeping them a similar size, but don't drive yourself crazy. Cube 1-2 tbs. of butter, add a tbs. of olive oil, salt, pepper, and some springs of an aromatic fresh herb like rosemary or thyme. Mix it all together, then toss it onto a baking sheet in a single layer, and cook at 450 degrees for 20-30 minutes or so (vegetables should be able to be pierced by a fork when done). Then pour yourself a glass of wine, hunker down and dream of spring.
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Green Circle Organics specializes in local and organic produce, dairy and minimally processed, locally produced foods. Since 2003, we've been operating out of the historic Lancaster Central Market, providing a channel for farm fresh, organic and specialty foods to reach city dwellers and visitors. Check here for recipe ideas using the seasonal produce and other goods we sell at our market stand and for our Produce Box home delivery service.