Filled with the tastes & textures of fall.
Recently I’ve been considering what it is we see and how it is we see it. I know, pretty heady stuff, but because it’s leaf-peeping season here in the Upper Valley I’m hyper-aware of my surroundings. So strange—temperatures are warmer and drier than usual, much of what is typically brilliant red and gold has turned brown and fallen to the ground. It’s almost as if the leaves are a tree’s tears, falling uncontrollably. Global warming is making its presence known.
It makes me sad―but then we get a bit of rain and fog. Suddenly colors appear that have been there all along. It’s the extreme sunlight that has made everything seem brown, but the light filtered through nature’s grey lenses changes everything. I open my eyes, turn a corner to find a full community of trees colored the most amazingly brilliant red. I was lucky, I caught them at dusk just when the light was hitting them perfectly. Stunning.
So, my takeaway is that when things are extremely harsh we cannot see the beauty in front of our eyes. The political discourse in the US has become so harsh that it’s easy to forget there are honest, truthful, generous people in the world who are doing great things all the time. They―the volunteers who bring food to the needy, the neighbor who stops to say good morning, school teachers who bring out excellence in children, and more. These people don’t get the recognition they deserve. The beauty they create is largely unnoticed. I’m committed to changing that. Even if it’s something small, like a stranger offering to bring my cart back at the grocery store, I promise to notice and let them know they are appreciated.
Our farm share is filled with root vegetables this season. Some, like the sweet potatoes, are a bit homely to begin with, but I see huge potential in them. This dish of Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes was inspired by the season. The potatoes are roasted to bring out their natural sweetness. Their tender filling is combined with apples, cheddar cheese, sauteed onions, and fresh thyme. The reserved roasted shells are filled and baked once more. When they come out of the oven, this fragrant dish is a perfect balance of sweet and savory. Make it the center of a meal that includes a green salad and cider. It will ground you.
I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon.
Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes
Yield: 4 Servings
4 large sweet potatoes
¼ cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon fresh lemon thyme plus more for garnish
1 small red onion, finely minced
1 small apple, peeled and diced
½ cup cheddar cheese, grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Rinse and dry the sweet potatoes. Place them on the prepared baking sheet. Cut a few slices on the top of each and place in the oven. Roast until tender, about 45 minutes.
Remove the potatoes from the oven. Allow them to cool until they are safe to handle.
While they are cooking, melt the butter in a small pan. Add the thyme, chopped onion, and chopped apple. Sauté until fragrant, about 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside.
Cut off the tops of the cooked sweet potatoes. Scoop the potatoes into a large mixing bowl, taking care to leave the skins intact. Put the cooked vegetables into a large mixing bowl with the potatoes. Add the cheddar cheese, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Scoop this mixture into the potato shells. Place back on the prepared sheet pan.
Bake until golden and puffed, about 30 minutes.
Serve hot garnished with fresh thyme leaves.
This recipe was adapted from Make It Ahead by Ina Garten.