I know it's her most popular one and that many of you have heard lines from it before, but Mary Oliver's "Wild Geese" is a poem that always comes to mind around this time of year for me with the exodus of birds from my northern skies. In Florida this holiday, I'm seeing first hand where the birds have gone to all of these years -- where and next to whom my precious girl grew. Today's recipe is a treasured one that gets to the heart of things, one that has crossed oceans and state lines.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Mary Oliver, 1993
from Yotam Ottolenghi
This recipe will feed a family so scale down or up accordingly. Any extra vinaigrette will keep in the fridge for two weeks (or more). It is very important to get fresh parsnips -- as they sit on a shelf they acquire a bitter taste that is pretty offensive. This vinaigrette is wondrous on any sweet root vegetable -- from beets to celeriac to rutabagas.
For the vegetables
4 sweet potatoes, scrubbed, halved lengthwise and cut into 2" pieces
4 parsnips, scrubbed and cut into 2" pieces (a roll cut is great)
1 large red onion, sliced lengthwise and into 1/2" wedges
1/4 c olive oil
1 3/4 t sea salt
For the vinaigrette
4 cloves of garlic
1/3 c maple syrup
1/4 c capers, rinsed
3 T Dijon mustard
1/2 t sea salt (or more, to taste)
1 t black pepper
1/4 c olive oil
the juice of 2 lemons
6 sprigs of fresh thyme, with leaves removed
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Toss the parsnips, onions, a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and 3/4 t sea salt in a bowl. Place on a baking sheet, cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, toss the sweet potatoes, thyme (reserving 1 T) remaining olive oil and 1 teaspoon of sea salt in a bowl and add them to the already-roasting vegetables after 10 minutes. Let them roast, shaking the pan occasionally until nearly tender but not soft -- about 25 minutes.
While the vegetables are roasting, make the vinaigrette by blending all of the ingredients in a food processor and drizzling in the olive oil at the end.
Pour 3/4 c of the vinaigrette over the vegetables, shake the pan to coat (or use a spatula carefully) and return to the oven, increasing the temperature to 425F. Allow the vegetables to get glazed by the higher heat and the vinaigrette for another 10 minutes before removing from the oven. Place in a warmed serving dish and garnish with 1 T fresh thyme leaves and serve soon.
Yields: a side dish for 8, plus extra vinaigrette
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Writing and Styling by Adria Lee | Photography by Amy Pennington