My internal life is almost entirely animated by the things I would like to buy and eat, cook and eat, or purchase the ingredients for and fantasize about eating. My nightstand hosts an array of cookbooks and recipes. My kitchen is piled high with manila folders filled with clippings, some of them recipes I have made 100 times, some I am still mulling. I spend a lot of time trolling cooking blogs, usually this one, looking for inspiration.
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But once in a while, I am just not feeling it. The thought of chicken appalls me. I can’t face another slab of salmon. Pork chops, pea soup, turkey chili, sautéed whatever: blech, blech, blech and so what.
Whenever that happens, I go see my extremely cute herb guys, Kenter Canyon Farms, who have a stand at all the farmer’s markets I visit. I examine everything carefully, pick what looks best, and build my next meal around the herb. This week, the sage was bunny-ear soft and smelling like a meditation festival. I had to have it. So I popped it in the bag, got home, and looked here for a suitable recipe, and happened upon Sweet Potato, Goat Cheese and Sage Pasta Pileup.
Some of you – you know who you are – will argue that this recipe is less cooking than compiling. Really all you are doing is boiling (sweet potatoes and pasta), spreading (goat cheese), and dabbing (sage sautéed in some butter). And yet this dish forced me to use more pans than others far more complex. But I digress.
The thing is that sometimes what one needs is less a set of instructions to be used with multiple ingredients, but rather a new concept, easily executed, with things you already have or know well. Think of it as food you thought you just wanted to be friends with, but sort of decided you would really like to date.
I cooked everything here while attending to other forms of domestic slavery, stopping only to peel a little of this, drain a little of that. Tossing lasagna noodles with sweet potatoes, goat cheese and loads of butter and sage would not, as a unit, have come to me, but what I realized as I chowed it down is that it was really deconstructed ravioli. Yes the lasagna can be a but cumbersome, but just chop it up a lot.
The incipient vegetarian proclaimed it “great.” I do not agree with her assessment of “Glee,” but her view of Amreen’s attempt to get us through a Monday night is spot on.
1. Bring two pots of water to boil, meanwhile scrub the potatoes and stab them with a knife. Once the water is boiling toss in the potatoes and cook until easily impaled. This should take around 20 minutes.
2. Once the potatoes are done remove them from the heat; for a quick cool down, run cold water over them. Put the lasagna noodles in the other pot of boiling water and set the timer for about 10 minutes.
3. Once the potatoes are cooled, pinch off their skin. Cut them into small pieces and mash them up with the goat cheese. (Note: if you want them creamy heat them up a little while you are doing this). Salt to taste.
4. In a saucepan heat the butter on medium-low. Add the sage and cook until browned, about 4-5 minutes.
5. Drain the lasagna noodles. Place a few noodles on a plate and scoop some of the sweet potato mixture around them. Repeat this until all the noodles and mix are used up.
6. Crack some pepper on top and devour!
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, is the Los Angeles Bureau Chief for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).