Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My 2011 Goals and Sweet Potato Pecan Pie

As you may or may not remember, I've been hired by an organic farm for the 2011 growing season. First, I must get celebratory impulses out of my system, not unlike Colin Firth the other night.... so, YAY!
Or maybe I'll just celebrate with some PIE.
Now that I have that out of my system, I find myself wondering what role this blog is going to play in the upcoming year. I originally created it to chronicle my WWOOF-ing adventures, which have somehow morphed into accepting an internship on a family farm. My reasons for having this blog haven't changed much, though. And since I'm starting so soon - March 21st, to be precise - I want to take some time now and reflect on my goals.

Document my adventures, thoughts, experiences, etc. Just like a real diary... only a lot less private. I'll keep my own separate journal for my less public musings. Here, not only do I want to keep track of what I'm doing and learning every day, but I want to write about issues facing small family farms, organic and sustainable agriculture, food culture, and so on. All heavily seasoned with my own personal commentary, of course.

Hone my writing skills. While I love to write and think I'm pretty good at it, I know I have a lot to learn. A blog is as good a platform as any to practice writing regularly. Which brings me to...

Write regularly. When I keep a journal, I'm very good about writing regularly, but something - an inherent need for sleep, perhaps - often causes me to give up on keeping up to date when I get busy. And I'm sure this year is going to be nothing if not busy. So I'm setting a goal for myself to update this blog at least once a week. I'll revisit this after I start work, but I think this is a doable amount, leaving me plenty of wiggle room.

Run out of space on Picasa. What I mean by this hyperbolizing is, I want and need to do a great job of visually documenting this year, despite having a lardball of a digital camera to lug around. Besides, blog entries are so much more interesting when they have pictures accompanying them.... as anyone who compares my last few entries to a month or two ago can attest.

Now that all that seriousness is finished, let's talk about pie.

My grandad is visiting us right now and will be leaving soon, so I decided to make a gigantic dinner tonight, which was received with great acclaim. It consisted of pasta puttanesco and a spinach and fennel salad with strawberries and shitake mushrooms, topped with goat cheese and a floridly-colored homemade dressing that involved pureed strawberries.* And, to wrap up, a Sweet Potato Pecan Pie. Capitalized.

Nothing says "I love you, Grandpa!" like anchovies, garlic and salmon-colored salad dressing.
Here's the back story: last year, I had a Julia Child page-a-day calendar. Since I was living off the AmeriCorps $4.50 per day food budget, I couldn't try very many recipes, so I ended up saving them all. This weekend, I spent many an hour organizing the recipes, gluing them individually onto sheets of paper, cross-referencing them and putting them in a binder. I know it seems strange, but one thing you must understand about me is that I get weirdly excited about organizing things...especially if it involves color coding.
As I was putting the recipes in their nice, safe little page protectors, I happened to stumble upon one for Sweet Potato Pecan Pie. I like sweet potatoes, I thought. And I like pecans. And I LOVE pie. And wonder of wonders, I had all the ingredients, including sweet potatoes from the Indy Winter Farmer's Market. Unfortunately, I did have to resort to a frozen pie crust, for time was simply too short. But otherwise, the pie was a resounding success, and was absolutely perfect as a mid-winter dessert. Safe to say, the pie will be reappearing for Thanksgiving 2011.

Sweet Potato Pecan Pie

1 9-inch frozen deep-dish pie crust, thawed and pierced all over with fork
(Again, you can make your own crust. I definitely will next time. But this way is certainly time-saving.)
1 1-lb sweet potato, pierced with fork
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. salt
(Yes, I know it's the devil - you can substitute honey or sorgham or whatever you want. You can also boil water and sugar and make simple syrup.)
 2 large eggs
1 cup pecan halves

Preheat oven to 400 F and bake crust until pale golden, about 8 minutes. Set aside and reduce oven temp. to 350 F.

Cook potato in microwave on high until tender, about 6 minutes per side. Cut in half and scoop flesh into medium bowl and mash - measure out 1 cup and set rest aside. Whisk brown sugar and next 5 ingredients into mashed potato; spread mixture over pie crust.

Whisk syrup and eggs in bowl to blend, and stir in pecans. Pour over potato mixture.

Bake pie until filling is set, puffed, and brown - about 45 minutes. Let cool before serving.

*No, we did not go out and buy strawberries in February. What a notion. My parents get a co-op sort of deal through Green Bean Delivery, through which they get a box every week full of local, organic produce. At least, it's supposed to be local... they seem to have some difficulties in winter, and I've noticed a lot of items coming from Florida... kiwis, lemons, oranges, and the like. At least it's organic, although it raises questions. Check out the FRESH: The Movie blog for a discussion about what goes into a food mile, Part 1 and Part 2.

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