One Last Mash

April 21, 2010 at 9:08 am

Rob Gardner

My Local Beet co-founder, Michael Morowitz used to answer people’s root vegetable questions by saying you could roast anything.  I’d add, you could always grate ‘em for a salad.  This year it seems that all our roots got mashed, and we can chalk the passing of the storage veg season by the implement used (needed) to mash.  Back in the day, when the roots had a whiff of dirt to them still, they could be done with a masher.  As time went by and the vegetables aged gracefully in the attic, it required the muscle of our ricer to get it done.  Later still, the added leverage of a food mill worked.  Finally, yesterday, in probably the last mash of the season, it took a food processor.  So, it was not the smoothest of the season, but with plenty butter it tasted plenty good.  You know people always complain about endless root vegetables for the Winter, but come Spring, much of the first harvests are roots again including the over-wintered parsnips now on sale at Irv and Shelly’s Fresh Picks.  Maybe the mash cycle will start again for the Local Family.

As noted a few weeks ago, this Spring we are going CSA-less.  Going for all those last edible roots is a bit more important this year.  Still, the root-potato mash went well with something else old, round steaks.  Way (way) before we accumulated root vegetables for the winter, we accumulated a side of cow from our friend, Farmer Vicki.  After a few years, we have finished most of the meat, even if Mom seems able to find a package of burger forever.  We had not, however, touched the round steaks.  You’d think maybe we’d had jumped on them sooner.  Surely, the least elegant part of the cow, but the one most associated (I think), with Midwest farm cooking.  Ma and Pa Kettle sent all those sirloins and fillets to the big city, making endless Swiss steaks and cubed steaks for the farmhands.  How else to show connection to the land than to eat a round steak.  We just never did.

We may be in preserve mode, but why buy new local meat when we still have very full freezers.  Use some round steak.  How ’bout bread and fry.  If we made gravy it could be chicken fried steak.  With some of the rocket in the house it could be milanesa.  We bought a white loaf to make coating crumbs.  Then, one thing led to another, not the least, Mom made a ton of tomato sauce.  And when life gives your round steaks red gravy, what makes the most sense.  Make braciole.  Not a complicated dish if one requiring some time.  Pound the round steaks, using that spiked hammer stuffed in some drawer.  Most braciole recipes call for a slice of prosciutto inside, but I though why not get the extra lubrication from pancetta instead.  I hydrated some porcini mushrooms.  I wanted the broth more than the mushrooms, but why not include them inside too.  The rest of the stuffing consisted of bread crumbs, grated cheese, an egg, anchovy, and enough milk to moisten.  Rolled and tied, I browned them first and then braised them for about an hour in the red sauce.  Went well with mashed veg.

The turnips and rutabagas not mashed yesterday went to the composter.  There are still potatoes, sunchokes and other foods in our stores.  Angela Caputo’s in Elmwood Park has run out of Michigan apples, but we now get them from the Polish store across the street.  As we finish what we have, it is time to start buying.

Our current inventory is below.

Basement Storage

  • Potatoes – Finished one bag of russets, but have more russets, some Yukon Gold and a few others
  • Winter Squash – acorn, butternut – One butternut went into a soup, the pie pumpkin went into the compost
  • Red onions – GONE!
  • White onions – About five
  • Canned tomatoes – whole, sauce, puree – Used a few quarts recently (after my wife got done reading the benefits of eating cooked tomatoes)
  • Spiced peaches
  • Peach chutney
  • Dried mushrooms
  • Misc. pickles, jams, jellies, relishes
  • Dried beans
  • Local oats
  • Chestnuts – 1 lb – from attic
  • 25 lb of local corn meal – from attic
  • 5 lb local buckwheat – from attic

Basement Fridge

  • Cauliflower – yes, this cauliflower remains brown but could probably go into a soup – UPDATE: It’s still there
  • Celery root – 3 of our celery root left went into a vegetable stew we had last week.  We have one left.
  • Rutabaga  - GONE
  • Sweet potatoes – Have not looked in on these, hopefully they have not turned to mold
  • Beets – from attic – Still there!
  • Turnips – GONE
  • Sunchokes - Still there!!

Basement Freezer

  • Frozen fruits – blueberries, grapes, cherries, peaches
  • Frozen veg – peas, corn, greens, pureed squash, tomato puree, dried tomato
  • Local meat – Last meat used, round steaks.  See above

Kitchen Fridge

  • White cabbage – Picked up this cabbage in Wisconsin a few weeks ago, have used about 1/4th
  • Green Garlic – A few left
  • Leek
  • Parsley root (2)
  • Homemade quince-apple membrillo – Man this is good, my wife mets it out in small portions with cheese.
  • Local eggs
  • Assorted cheeses
  • Lettuce mix  – We have a some lettuces
  • Rocket - See lettuce
  • Carrots – GONE


  • Black walnuts
  • Dried fruits – strawberries, apricots, peaches
  • Shallots

Root Cellar in the Sky – No Food in the Attic