Spring has almost arrived in New York and my head is full of fresh mint leaves, snappy peas and blooming flowers. It's a time of renewal and awakening, a season for starting fresh. Yet, as the busyness of spring approaches along with prospects of new ventures on warm days, I reminisce fondly of the comforting quiet and slow pace of winter months. While I tend to live my life constantly looking forward, as so many of us do, there is value in glancing back and taking stock.
As I look back on the past few months, I am hit with a new appreciation for winter. It sounds silly to say so as I stand on the precipice of spring and the golden summer beyond, but there are a few things I'll miss from the colder, quieter months. The solitude winter brings is often draining and less than joyful for me, but it offers an opportunity to turn inwards and address my worries, truths, and desires. This winter brought with it a sense of calm and determination to do what I do best, to push myself to get to the place where I know I can be. This winter's soft light, slow-moving energy and cold crystallization of thought and being gave me the opportunity to take a new perspective. To zoom out and strategize, to step back and take a look at the overall picture.
I'm grateful, always, for the flip of a switch, for the moment when I realize what it is that I want, what it is that I can do. So today, before charging headlong into spring and the buzzing energy it brings, I'm taking a moment to appreciate what this winter has served. A sense of purpose, a knowledge of self, and a feeling of being grounded. This sense of grounding is imperative for moving forward, for without it I am on a journey to somewhere unknown. By finding my ground I can waltz with confidence down my chosen path.
So here's to being grounded, to feeling certain, and to winter. Here's to beautiful communities of like-minded folks who lift my spirits and bury my roots in fertile soil. To those whose own missions of leading the way in cleaning up fashion's supply chain, of furthering sustainable living in all it's definitions, of bringing food from local ground to the plates of those who need it. To the ground itself, we celebrate you, too. Thank you for feeding us through the months of crisp cold and slowed-down time, for without your fruits and roots, I could not be connected with a sense of place or be grounded at all.
This recipe highlights the very roots that come from local soils, the hearty, starchy heros who alone provide nutrition through the winter. By celebrating the roots, the most basic of basic ingredients, we celebrate seasonal eating and the season of winter itself. So as you go about your spring cleaning, don't skip the root cellar (aka refrigerator drawer), instead clear it all out with one last hurrah for the steadfast, rough-hewn gems of wintertime and a recipe that honors their work.
Every single vegetable in this recipe was provided by Local Roots NYC. You can sign up for their summer CSA share here!
Local Root Gratin
Prep time: 90 minutes. Cook time: 60 minutes.
Ingredients to fill a large casserole dish with cheesy, herby, flavorful local roots:
THE GRATIN (all veggies are optional, use whatever starchy roots you have!):
- 1 cup carrots, peeled & thinly sliced into rounds
- 3 cups sweet potato, peeled & thinly sliced into rounds
- 1-2 cups parsnip, peeled & thinly sliced into rounds
- 1-2 cups rutabaga, peeled & thinly sliced into rounds
- 1-2 cups radish, peeled & thinly sliced into rounds
- 1-2 cups turnip, peeled & thinly sliced into rounds
- 3 cups sautéd kale
- 2 cups sautéd mushrooms
- 2 cups vegan shredded cheese
- 3 cups stale bread
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup almonds
- salt + pepper
- chili peppers or flakes
Directions (this recipe is a fair amount of work, but it isn't really complicated. Just read things through before getting started and consider splitting up the work into two separate days):
- Add broth, potato, carrot, onion to a small pot and boil on medium heat until you can poke the potato through with a fork.
- Add all ingredients to a high powered blender along with a few spoonfuls of the vegetable's cooking broth then blitz until creamy and smooth. Add more broth a spoonful at a time to get the desired consistency (smooth but not too thick to pour and definitely not watery).
- Use immediately or store in the fridge for up to 1 week.
- Place a cup of sauce and a cup of water in a large saucepan then bring to a simmer.
- In batches, simmer all vegetable rounds for 5 minutes then set aside. Be sure not to overcrowd the saucepan so vegetables do not stick together or lose their shape. Add more sauce and water to the pan as needed.
- Heat oven to 350*F.
- In a large casserole dish, lay vegetable rounds out flat to cover the entire bottom of the dish.
- Add a light layer of sauce, salt + pepper, and herbs. Then evenly disperse a layer of kale, mushrooms, and vegan cheese.
- Add a drizzle of sauce and then another layer of rounds, slightly overlapping the veggies.
- Repeat steps 5 & 6 until all of the vegetable rounds are used up, making sure to evenly disperse sauce throughout.
- Add remaining sauce and vegan cheese on top.
- Add bread, garlic, almonds, a handful of vegan cheese, generous herbs, chile pepper, salt + pepper to a food processor and blitz until a rough crumb forms.
- Spread breadcrumb mixture on top of the casserole.
- Cover in tinfoil and bake for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, uncover then continue to bake until golden brown on top, browned on the edges, and bubbling.
- Let cool before serving, and enjoy with chopped parsley or other fresh herbs on top. This will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week - just reheat for half an hour in the oven before serving!