In my youth, back in the Cretaceous period, I used to love watching horror movies. I say, “love,” even though every time I saw the commercial for The Shining I would plaster my back against the wall too terrified yet perversely fascinated to move. Ironically, I spent 2 weeks sleeping on the floor in my sister’s room after I finally begged and pleaded my way into being allowed to watch it cuz I was, um, not interested in sleeping alone in my room. Needless to say, I had and have a very industrious imagination. The fact that our basement was identical to the one in The Amityville Horror was just a bonus. Of course, now that I’m married to someone who goes on multiple business trips a year and we have a furry chicken that starts growling and barking like Cujo when a newspaper flutters across the sidewalk, I’ve learned to temper my phantasmic thrills with a good dose of mundanity. Meaning, this dish is about as close to Rosemary’s Baby as I’m going to get.
Sometimes I eat something in a restaurant and it just resonates so well with me that I want to recreate it at home. While tooling around North Beach in earthquake country last weekend, we returned to L’Osteria del Forno, a tiny (like 5 small tables) eatery serving northern Italian cuisine. While the thin crust pizza wasn’t as good as we remembered it (we’ve become spoiled by Neapolitan pizza living 4 blocks from Ken’s Artisan Pizza), the simple yet flavorful rustic entrées were worth the trip down memory lane. One of our dishes was a thinly shaved room temp, perfectly medium-rare roast beef drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice served with a side dish of rosemary roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes and a breath of olive oil. Since I’m utterly addicted to starches and carbs, this side dish seems like it was made with me in mind 🙂 The sweetness of the sweet potatoes, toothy Yukon gold potatoes, zesty rosemary and just enough salt to set off the other flavors are classic Italian simplicity at its best. Now wait a minute here, you just waxed poetic about this perfect amalgamation of simple flavors and now you’re tossing in preserved lemon and garlic?! Well, um, yeah? I can’t help myself, tinkering is my Achilles’ heel, that and cute fuzzy creatures. I have a couple quarts of preserved lemons burning a hole in my pantry from this summer’s pickling frenzy and garlic makes everything taste better, right?
Hmm, only one thing to take note of:
1) Try to keep your veggies pieces as uniform as possible in size as this will ensure even cooking cuz charred bits and undercooked starch is never a fun dining experience 😦
2) Okay, two, 2 things to take note of [spoken in high-pitched British accent.]. Why leave the skin on potatoes and yams? I like the texture as the skin crisps up more with roasting and fiber is a good thing, no? But seriously, the skin (actually the pulp just beneath the skin which would be removed with peeling) also contains vitamin B6, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, thiamine, and even iron among other things. w00t!
3) Wait, wait, three, THREE things to take note of (I’m sorry, I can’t help myself hehe). What’s the difference between a yam and a sweet potato? According to the Huffington Post, the USDA has been tacit in the perpetuation of a sham, cuz the pale yellow “sweet potatoes” and their orangey fleshed “yam” cousins are actually siblings! They’re actually both varieties of sweet potato cuz someone’s daddy had a wandering eye 😉 Oh, and true “yams,” indigenous to Asia and Africa, tend to be sweeter than our misnomered sweet potatoes.
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (don’t worry, most of it ends up in the zip bag)
1/2 yam ~ 1/2 lb, skin on and cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 lb baby potatoes, skin on and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 tsp preserved lemon, minced (or 1 tsp fresh lemon juice and 1/2 tsp lemon zest)
1/2 tsp (1/2 clove) crushed garlic
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 tbsp fresh (1/2 tsp dried) rosemary, chopped and exorcised
Preheat oven to 375F.
Place all ingredients in a gallon-sized zip bag and shake to evenly coat the veggies. I like to leave some air in the bag so what I’m shaking can move around more easily and mix better.
Bake in an oven-proof dish or baking sheet for 30-40 minutes. Stand safely in your pentagram and sip some Riesling 😉 Potatoes will be ready when browned and easily pierced with a fork. This takes me about 30 minutes with convection. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serves 2.