smoked sweet potatoes with farro and lemon aioli
Further Tales from the Towpath. Every morning since the boys have been back in school, David and I have been going for a bike ride on the towpath. Flying down this green tunnel with the man I love, on the bike he bought for me the year we got married, seventeen years ago, is an every day thing, but I don’t have to remind myself of how important it is, how valuable. You think about all the things that have changed and are changing every day, and all of the things that have not and will never change. Riding a bike still feels like flying, it’s still exhilarating, just as it was when I first learned. The air is colder every morning, the sun lazier each day to climb up and burn off the chill. This morning was the kind of cold that makes your ear-bones hurt and renders your fingers useless. As David said, it was miserable and beautiful at the same time. The mist rose off the water in small smoky tornadoes, and it revealed hundreds of spider webs all around us. It was as though we’d put on spider-sensing glasses. In the grass some webs are vague and formless, like tiny tactile clouds you could scoop up with your hands, and some look like small tents or funnels, as if a little circus had pulled into town. In the bushes and trees, the mist clung to Halloween spider webs in little clusters of light. Hundreds!! I like to think about this arachnid community, which is always there, though we don’t see it and think about it. I like to think about them busy with their lives, going about their business just as we are, all the humans on the canal, walking with purpose or ambling along, alone with our thoughts or deep in conversations. When we went camping one night, we discovered that if you shine your flashlight in the grass, a wolf spider’s eyes reflect back bright and green. It was as if the grass was full of sparkling emeralds! Full of them! Who knew there were so many spiders about! Earlier in the summer, we let a baby tree frog, raised from a tadpole, free in our back yard, and the other day, David found a big healthy tree frog, who clung to his hand like it was a warm and solid comfort. The same frog? We’ll never know. And that same night we saw screech owls wheeling around in the trees, and heard their tremulous song all night long. They live in our neighborhood! They hang out in our yard, whether we hear them or not. Well, I feel lucky that they’re there, grateful to get a glimpse of them from time to time, and glad to be reminded again that we’re not the center of everything, we’re not the most important, we’re part of a big teeming world at work all around us.
Lemon pine nut aioli
One day last week David made a fire in the back yard and the boys helped him burn up all the little twigs and sticks. Because I’m always thinking about food, I decided to try to smoke some sweet potatoes I’d gotten from the farm. I peeled them, wrapped them in foil, and buried them in the bottom of the fire, where I let them smolder for an hour or two. They turned out very nice! Soft inside, crispy outside, smoky and good. I made some french lentils and then cooked the farro in their broth. We had arugula under and tomatoes on top, like a big warm salad. My favorite part might have been the lemon pine nut aioli we drizzled over. Vegan, creamy, tart-sweet and delicious!!
Here’s Slim Gaillard with Sighing Boogie, just because I like it!
4 or 5 medium-sized sweet potatoes. If you don’t have a fire in your back yard, you could roast them in the oven (at 425, diced and tossed with olive oil, for about 25 minutes, or until soft inside and crispy and brown outside)
French lentils made like this. You’ll use about a heaping cup and save the rest for another recipe.
1/2 cup farro
1 cup lentil cooking broth
1/3 cup toasted chopped pecans
Combine in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer 10 – 15 minutes until the broth is absorbed and the farro is toothy but tender. Fluff with a fork and stir in the pecans.
1/3 cup pine nuts
zest and juice of one lemon
2 or 3 fresh sage leaves or 1 t dried
1 t maple syrup or honey
1 t capers
1 t dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper
Combine everything but the olive oil in a food processor and process until fairly smooth. While the machine is running, add the olive oil in a smooth drizzle. Process until smooth and creamy. Add a few tablespoons of water so it’s just as thin and smooth as you like it…mine was the consistency of heavy cream.
Pile some baby arugula on a pretty plate. Top with farro, then lentils (or mix these together first) Then pile on the smoked chopped sweet potatoes, some chopped tomato, and some grated smoked gouda. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle lemon aioli, or serve the aioli in a little pitcher for people to add as they like.