Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sweet Berber Pie


I am cultivating a relationship with the sweet potato beyond the Thanksgiving table. Thus far I've successfully incorporated sweet potatoes into curries and chilis (next up: Sweet Potato Challah). But no experiment to date has gone as well as the Sweet Berber Pie.

I wanted to reboot the standard Shepherd's Pie recipe with sweet potatoes, lamb, and supporting flavors from the Moroccan/North African region (hence the Berber name, taken from the Berber people of Morocco). The flavors turned out almost exactly as I planned and I will definitely make this again. Here's the recipe:

1 lb. ground lamb or beef (or substitute 2 cups cooked farro/kamut for meatless version)

2 sweet onions, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 Cup Pine Nuts, toasted

2/3 Cup Dried Fruit: currants, golden raisins, cranberries, apricots, plums, macerated in red wine/orange juice

Spices: cumin, cinnamon, coriander, garam masala, turmeric, Aleppo pepper

Chopped Raw Kale, about 2 cups

Cooked Sweet Potato, I used 3 medium-sized

Butter, Orange Juice, Salt & Pepper to taste

Agave Syrup

1 Head Cauliflower

1/2 Cup+ Chopped Pistachios

Pomegranate Arils

Meat Layer:

Toast pine nuts and set aside. Macerate dried fruit in red wine and/or orange juice. Brown ground meat with salt and pepper and set aside; sauté onion and garlic in drippings. Add chopped kale and cook 2-3 minutes until kale is wilted. Add ground spices and bloom 1-2 minutes. Add meat and toasted pine nuts back to pan. Add macerated fruit and liquid and stir to combine. Pour into a casserole dish lightly sprayed with nonstick spray.

Cauliflower Layer:

Begin with a raw head of cauliflower, remove outer leaf stems but do not core. Grate ½ Cup of raw cauliflower on largest side of box grater and set grated cauliflower aside. Set head on flat side and cut ½” slices. Brush lightly with olive oil. Season with salt, pepper and garam masala and bake in a 400 degree oven until edges are starting to brown. Layer baked slices of cauliflower, or break up into bite-sized chunks and scatter, over the browned lamb.

Sweet Potato Layer:

Bake or steam sweet potato until cooked and press through a ricer. Add butter, salt, pepper and orange juice and mash. Spoon mashed sweet potato over cauliflower slices.


Toss grated cauliflower and chopped pistachios with salt, garam masala and a drizzle each of olive oil and agave syrup. Scatter over mashed sweet potato. Bake 25-30 minutes at 375 or until topping and edges are starting to brown. Finish with pomegranate arils before serving.

Vegetarian/Vegan Mod:

Prepare farro or kamut according to directions (you could use couscous but I think a heartier, chewier grain would be more satisfying). Saute onion and garlic in olive or coconut oil and follow remaining directions for meat layer, substituting grain for meat in the final mix. Coconut oil can also be substituted in sweet potato mash for a fully vegan dish.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hot Wet Garden Pics

It's almost 80 and on its way to 90 in Chicago today, just following the single heaviest recorded rainfall since 1871. My tomato plants have taken a beating for the last month and aren't looking so lovely, but that doesn't mean there aren't wonderful things happening elsewhere in the yard:

This spotty, mutant robin has been hanging around for a few weeks now. He's not particularly afraid of me or the cats.


Six kinds, all mixed together, in a 4' square.

Cicada, just chilling, on one of the tallest sunflower stalks.

Eggplant, Applegreen. Almost ready for pickin'

Basil: Sweet Italian Large Leaf, Superbo, Thai

Monday, May 30, 2011

Geum Triflorum - Prairie Smoke

Our yard bun Angus.

I am mildly obsessed with my Prairie Smoke, recently acquired. It whips its hair back and forth.

Farmers Breakfast

Up early to work the ground before the heat sets in. Fuel:

Eggs baked in Tomato cups (first-of-the-season hothouse tomatoes from the farmers market), baked 25 minutes @ 425 with salt and pepper.

Steamed Baby Asparagus

Soy Breakfast Sausage

English Muffin!

Monday, May 16, 2011


I am disappoint, Avenue. Why? I witnessed a gruesome Point-of-Sale interaction while in one of your stores on Saturday, and I've officially Had Enough.

But before I take you to task, Avenue, it's important that you know that I am critical of you because I love you. I've been officially in the land of women's plus size clothing for a few years now, and it is generally a huge bummer. I can only buy clothes from Old Navy online, because plus sizes aren't typically stocked in stores. Presumably this is because fatties are unpleasant to look at, and if they were walking around in an Old Navy store and spending their filthy fatty money, it might give non-fatties the idea that Old Navy is a store for fatties, and we can't have that. But Avenue has an actual selection of items that I can try on in-store and usually not feel bad about it. Win!

So that said: Avenue, I have noticed you doing a thing that a lot of the stores are doing these days, and I am troubled by it. Would you jump off a bridge, Avenue, if all the other stores were doing it? So I beseech you: stop with the pushy, point-of-sale add-ons by your increasingly desperate staff. I don't want your credit card. I am already on the email list and I receive your snail mail coupons (I also enjoy saving 30% on my entire purchase, the whole reason I was in one of your stores on Saturday.), and I really do not need any more goddamn magazines, especially ones that require credit card info for the "free" trial that ends after the 3rd issue and then starts automatically charging for the subscription I didn't want in the first place. But whenever this sort of silliness is offered to me, I understand the scam and firmly and consistently say "no."

However, when the customer ahead of me in line is obviously not a native English speaker, and obviously does not understand what she is getting herself in to, I have a problem. And I do not blame the cashier who executed the sign-up maneuver with disturbing slickness, because I am also aware of the growing trend of corporations pushing precisely these sorts of add-ons, and tying employee pay and performance to sign-up quotas. Granted, that is not necessarily a new thing either, but it's gotten really pervasive and insidious and you should not have to financially screw over little old Asian ladies to keep your stupid retail job, so for the love of my size 18 ass, cease and desist with these predatory practices, or sadly, I will take my business elsewhere.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

re: Terror Porn

So Osama bin Laden had porn. So do most people. Can we all agree that OBL having porn is Not A Thing? The overwhelming majority of people yank it and most of them use visual assistance, THE END. Seriously, there are other things we could be talking about, like how awesome The Killing is.