I am skiing this week in Colorado. I have never been a huge fan of skiing, for many reasons, and every year I say it is my last year skiing and the following year I always find myself back up on that mountain again.
I don't like being cold, and I don't like feeling fear or being out of my comfort zone. This is a problem, big problem, because skiing is (cold) and skiing is 80% confidence 10% not giving a shit if you fall on your face, and 10% skill. When you doubt yourself, you get nervous, when you get nervous you make mistakes, when you make mistakes, you fall. Unless you're going to walk down that mountain when you're at the top, there is no other way but to go down and go down like you mean it.
There is a life lesson in there somewhere, I am sure of it.
I am proud to say that this week was my breaking point. These past few days I not only conquered my fears, but I did things I never thought were possible (for me). I'll spare you any cheesy fear overcoming talk, and don't worry, I am not slapping one of those 90's "No Fear" stickers on my ski helmet, and I am not dropping cooking to become a ski instructor. I do have to say though, that getting over my fear of steep slopes and bumpy trails was such an crazy awesome feeling.
This was good for me, since I am one of those people who stay wayyy in the comfort zone. My comfort zone is in my kitchen, coming up with recipes, feeding people. I am cautious about how I spend my time, and I will politely back out of things that make me feel uncomfortable. It was good for me to have that rush that you get when you overcome a fear … maybe it is something I should try and do more often.
As you can imagine, my favorite part about skiing is long, leisurely lunching and the hunger you feel at the end of the day. It's a deserving hunger, a hunger I also get when I run long distances or take a really brutal workout class. I reward myself with a big, delicious lunch and dinner because my body needs it and my soul wants a little pat on the back.
When I have that kind of hunger, I like things that are hearty and filling like these loaded sweet potato and root veggie fries. I am so happy to be seeing things like kale and quinoa salads on almost every menu out here this week, and healthy options at many of the restaurants. I would love for places to take it one step further and add things like shiitake bacon an option over real bacon … baked sweet potato fries as an option for regular french fries. Things are definitely moving the the right direction, maybe that won't be such a stretch someday.
loaded sweet potato ( + root vegetable) fries with shiitake "bacon" + garlic tahini
For these loaded, baked fries, I used a variety of root vegetables in addition to sweet potatoes. Celery root, turnip, rutabaga, all make delicious additions to this, but if you want to play it simple you can use all sweet potatoes. Shiitake bacon is one of the coolest tricks you can do with a vegetable, and this dish screams for them. If you've never tried it before, this is a great way to get into it and start making them.
a few people as an appetizer or snack
for the skiitake bacon:
2 cups of shiitakes, sliced lengthwise
1-2 teaspoons of braggs amino acid (or tamari, or a low sodium soy sauce)
for the fries:
1 large sweet potato, sliced into wedges that resemble thick-cut french fries
1 celery root, sliced into wedges
1 turnip, sliced into wedges
a drizzle of olive oil
salt + pepper
a sprinkling mix of dried herbs such as parsley, oregano, rosemary, thyme
some red pepper flakes or cayenne if you like spice
a sprinkling of cornmeal
for the tahini:
1/3 cup of tahini
1/3 cup of water
1 garlic clove, minced
the squeeze of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 teaspoon of salt
a tablespoon of nutritional yeast (if you want a slight cheese flavor)
a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
for some additional toppings:
2 green onions, sliced thin
1 mild, red chili, seeded and diced
some micro greens
Make the shiitake bacon:
- Pre-heat the oven to 300º.
- On a parchment lined baking sheet, toss the shiitake slices with the braggs amino acid (or tamari/soy).
- Bake for 50 mins to 1 hour, tossing the shrooms every 15 minutes or so. You want them to become very very crispy and dry (think bacon bits). Set aside to cool, while your making the fries.
While the shiitake bacon is cooking, make the tahini and prep the sweet potatoes and root veggies:
- Place all of the ingredients for the tahini into a blender, and blend until it is smooth. Taste, and adjust any seasoning as necessary.
- On a large parchment lined baking sheet, very lightly drizzle olive oil over the vegetables and toss to coat. Then sprinkle the salt, pepper, and herbs of your choice over the fries and toss again. Lastly, sprinkle a dusting of cornmeal over the veggies and toss to coat. You want a thin layer of cornmeal over the fries, this will make them nice and crispy, but be careful not to overdo the cornmeal.
Bake the veggie fries, and assemble:
- Once the shiitakes are done, raise the over temperature to 450º.
- Bake the fries for about 45 minutes, until the are golden brown and crispy.
- Allow them to cool slightly before dressing. Then, once they have cooled, add the toppings. I like to drizzle the tahini over top, and then crumble the shiitake bacon all over, and finish with the other toppings like green onion and red chili.
- Enjoy immediately, while warm.