Archive for May 12th, 2009

unsweetened. My favorite seasonings for sweet potatoes are salt and spices. During the fall season of the Randle Farm CSA, we got a ton of organic, honey-sweet sweet potatoes. We experimented with different preparations. On Thanksgiving, my brother-in-law, Ned, spent a lot of time grating a pound or two with my hand-held, flea-market Wonder Shredder, then threw them into a skillet warmed with some sage brown butter. They stuck. Badly. Something about the starch.


So, my stand-by preparation is to roast spears. First, Jack peels them meticulously, avoiding his precious digits. Then I cut them into thick “fry”-shaped spears. I grind up some coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, and salt with a mortar and pestle, and toss the spears with the spices and either olive or sesame oil. So good!

Oh, and if you still have sweet potatoes in May, and they start to sprout, you can make them into interesting creatures:

sweet potato creature


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Randle Farms is one of the CSA possibilities in the Auburn area.  They grow a wide variety of produce, and also offer eggs, beef, pork, and lamb, all of which is organic. When we joined in the fall, our first pick-up included two frozen lamb shoulders.  I had to do some research before cooking these hunks, and then had to turn my knife in all directions to carve the meat off the oddly shaped bone and make relatively uniform-sized chunks.  Because braising is the best way to cook this sinuous cut, I tried two variations on stew—one classic French, and the other Moroccan. Both were delicious, but the Moroccan spices and the mystery ingredient—honey—really brought out the distintiveness of the lamb.

Ras el hanoutThe dish is a variation on Mrouzia, traditionally made after the celebration of the slaughter of the lambs, and characterized by its sweet-spiciness.  The main spices are in the blend called Ras el hanout, which is popular across North Africa and the Middle East.  The blend includes cumin, coriander, cardamom, clove, paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg, peppercorn, turmeric, and mace.

First, in a dutch oven or heavy pot, whisk together the 2 tsp. Ras el hanout, 2tsp. salt, ½ tsp. black pepper, ¾ tsp. ground ginger, a pinch of crumbled saffron threads, and 1 cup of water.  Stir in 3 pounds of lamb chunks with 2 more cups water, 1 chopped onion, 2 minced garlic cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks, and ¼ cup butter.  Simmer, covered, for about 1½ hours.

Then add the sweets: stir in 1¼  cups raisins (I prefer goldens), 1¼ cups whole blanched almonds, ½ cup honey (which you can get locally), and 1 tsp. cinnamon.  Simmer, covered, for another 30 minutes.

Finally, uncover the pot and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until stew is thicker (about 15 minutes).  Serve with bowls of moist, fluffy cous cous.

Here’s a link to Randle Farms (randlefarms.com) where you can see the lambs munching clover.  (The photo at the top is theirs.)

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