Miracle Cure for Root Fatigue

Carrots. Parsnips. Beets. Rutabagas. Celeriac. Kohlrabi. Radishes. Yadda. Yadda. Yadda.

Our LFFC farmers’ high tunnels and hoop houses have gifted us each week with a small bunch of kale or spinach or cress or rocket (and last week, green beans!), but easily two-thirds of each sharebox has been roots—and as much as I love ’em, here, at the dead center of the Winter CSA Season, fatigue has set in.

Root, Root, Root
Week-7 roots. And that ain’t the half of it.

Mostly, I’ve been roasting everything, since one prep provides a side for dinner and a base for soups or salads the next day or two. Efficient, sure, but I was starting to feel like I was using up my share of veggies more than I was enjoying it. This is supposed to fun, not a slog.

It took a decidedly un-veggie dinner to bust me out of my salt-pepper-olive oil (or miso) rut.

Zahav, one of Philadelphia’s top restaurants, pretty much shut down its regular menu and its main dining room and became, for the whole month of February, “Lamb Shack.” Cheers to Amy and Laurel for having birthdays that fell during that span.

Lamb Shack
At $36 a head (and no corkage fee!), Zahav’s February Lamb Shack may have been the dining deal of the year.

Chef Michael Solomonov‘s exalted, pomegranate-braised lamb shoulder, which you normally can score only if you have a party of at least nine (and you order a few days ahead of time), deserves all the column inches it receives. But the preceeding salatim—particularly the tehina-bathed beet salad—gave me hope that I’d survive the rest of the root season.

Soom
Tahini, Tehina. Let’s call the whole thing sesame paste.
Lemon-Tahini Dressing

Adapted from my circa-1980, barely-still bound copy of Mollie Katzen’s New Moosewood Cookbook. Everything—except, of course, the lemon and tahini and water—is optional here. Keep it thick to use as a dip, or thin it way out to dress a green salad. Add cumin or cayenne. Parsley or dill (or cilantro). Don’t be afraid to think beyond veggies, either. Creamy, nutty-sweet, and as savory as you want, it makes a great sauce for fish—and even subs nobly for mayonnaise on a sandwich or as a binder for chicken salad.

  • 1/4 cup tahini (sesame butter, also known as tehina)
  • juice of one medium lemon
  • 1/4 to 3/4 cup water (not too cold)
  • 1 small clove garlic, smashed or minced (optional)
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of cayenne, cumin, harissa, za’atar, or paprika (optional)
  • fresh parsley, dill, or cilantro, chopped (optional)
  • splash of extra virgin olive oil (optional)

Combine tahini, garlic, and lemon juice. For larger batches, you’ll probably want to use a food processor or blender, but I usually just stir everything with a fork or small spatula right in a Ball jar or measuring cup.

Lemon Juice
I like lemon. A lot. But a whole lemon here may be too much for you, so start with a half and add more to taste.

Note that the mixture at this point will be very stiff and paste-y.

Paste
It looks weird at this stage, but don’t worry; creamy is right around the corner.

Add 1/4 cup of the water. Stir vigorously. (If you’re using a machine, stream in the water while the motor’s running.) Add more water until you get the consistency you like.

Herbage
Season to taste with salt, spices, and fresh herbs.

That’s it. Store in a sealed jar in the fridge for up to two weeks. For versatility, I generally keep the base batch pretty thick, then mix in more water as I use it.

Salt-Baked BeetsRoasted CarrotsLunch Salad

So far, spoonfuls from this recent jar have perked up salt-baked beets, roasted carrots, and a lunchtime salad with beets, carrots, parsnips, farro, and leftover grilled chicken breast.

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