Thursday, January 9, 2014

Root Vegetable "Fries" with Prune Ketchup

I am happy to report that I am a proud owner of new winter boots -- black leather, high heel and unimaginably fancy. This joyful event has no relationship to food whatsoever, as I will not be wearing them to the market -- they are way to fashionable for such occasion. (Come to think about it, given the height of that heel I might not be wearing them period.) As I was saying, my little purchase would have no effect on this blog, except that I paid an exuberant amount of money and in foreseeable future we will be reduced to eating crumbs, or whatever is left in the pantry, which in retrospect I should have stocked up before embarking on a shopping expedition.

I need to cover up my purchase and I do have a pretty good idea how to do it. My master plan is to eat out of the pantry for about a month or so, OK maybe two or three given the price of these boots, and then redirect the funds I would have otherwise spent on food towards patching up the high-heel bill.

As I am lamenting on the long gone days of lavish foods and food experiments, I examine the content of the pantry. Oh man, I really should have stocked up! The pantry is seriously empty; flours & sugars, oils & vinegars, spices & herbs, honeys & molasses, and a box of prunes. Not a single box of pasta, not a single can of tuna, tomato sauce or any actual food for that matter. I dig deeper into the emptiness and discover a bag of beautiful speckled beans, which I bought for the sole purpose of still life photography. They would do nicely with smoked meats, but now that I cannot afford smoked meats, the beans do not look that attractive anymore.

The master plan is quickly falling apart and I am forced to revisit the grand idea. All right, perhaps I am allowed an occasional trip to the market, but only to buy the most elementary nutrients, if and only if they cost less than say $1.49 per pound. And so I embark on the market expedition. And so I find my nutrients. Given the time of the year and the title of this post, your are probably guessing what they are: potatoes of all colors, shapes and levels of starchiness, rutabagas and turnips, parsnips and celeriacs, carrots and radishes. To justify our diverse new menu, I tell Dr. V and Miss Pain that I am working on a post about root vegetables. V cannot care less, as long as he is being fed, but Miss Pain, the avid reader of my blog is super-excited about the project. And so we embark on a week-long diet of root vegetables. I go on a limb to create stews and fries and salads the mankind has not seen before. Drawing back from the pantry resources, I produce a root vegetable focaccia, carrot cake and prune ketchup to accompany the designer fries. To add a touch of glamour to our diverse new menu, I serve the dishes in my grandmother’s silverware. And so for a glamorous week, we eat glamorous roots, with glamorous silver spoons, until one night at dinner Miss Pain sheepishly asks, “Mama, can you please write about something else?” And so I have no way out but to disclose my glamorous purchase, together with its glamorous price.

And then, I run for my life. 

Root Vegetable Oven Fries

* one medium sweet potato or yam
* one medium turnip
* one medium rutabaga
* one large parsnip
* sunflower oil
* sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 420°F.

2. Peel the vegetables and cut them into 3/8-inch thick fries. Make sure that all fries are the same size, otherwise they will cook unevenly.

3. In a large bowl toss the fries with oil and salt. Arrange the fries neatly on two large baking sheets lined with parchment paper. To prevent the fries from getting soggy, keep about 1/2 inch separation between two fries. Bake, one sheet at the time, for about 30 minutes. (Yes, I know you can squeeze two sheets in the oven, but it will double the amount of steam generated from the fries and you will end up with soggy product.) About 20 minutes into baking flip the fries with spatula and return to oven, until the fries are golden and cooked through.

4. Serve immediately accompanied with prune ketchup.

Serves 2-4

Prune Ketchup

* 1 cup pitted prunes
* 2 cups water
* 1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
* 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
* 2 tbsp sugar
* 1/2 tsp garlic, finely minced
* 1 bay leaf
* 8 whole cloves
* salt and freshly ground pepper

1. In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients except salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until prunes are very soft and close to falling apart, for about 25 minutes.

2. Remove the saucepan from the heat and discard the bay leaf and the cloves. (You will have to fish for the cloves a little, since the sauce will be dark and almost the same color as the cloves.)

3. Let the mixture cool and then puree it in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper. Serve cold or at room temperature.


  1. I feel your pain. I am in the same boat after being tempted by buying more than my share of clothing for an upcoming holiday. Good thing my freezer is overstocked and my cupboards overflowing.

    1. you are smart, smart, smart... see, I did not even think about investing in the freezer. cheers!

  2. I don't think I've laughed so much for a long time. I have also tried to pretend no glamorous purchases have been made, unsuccessfully. Alas.

  3. Can I use honey instead of molasses?

    1. There is a particular sharpness to the molasses, and I suppose you could use very dark honey instead... Perhaps buckwheat honey.

  4. Thank you! The molasses worked wonderfully in this. They are good at room temperature, though they are best while still piping hot!

    1. Wow, thank you for stopping by and letting me know. I have not made the ketchup in a while, so this was a wonderful reminder. Cheers!


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