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Recipe of the Month: Romanesco Holiday Trees with Mashed Potatoes and Cheese

17 December

As the year comes to a close, and the Holiday season reaches a fever pitch, I can’t help but let it influence me a little bit.  Brainstorming recipe ideas on the farm, I asked my colleague, Laura, what we had an abundance of in the cooler.  She told me that we are loaded with romanesco right now and then proceeded to tell me that she thought the florets look like Christmas trees.  That got us going on a conversation that involved mashed potato snow banks, rosemary bushes and parmesan snow and I decided it would be a great kids recipe for the holidays!

Now if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you might be feeling a little left out right now, but the history of the Christmas tree actually comes from a pagan tradition centered around the winter solstice.

** “Long before the advent of Christianity, plants and trees that remained green all year had a special meaning for people in the winter. Just as people today decorate their homes during the festive season with pine, spruce, and fir trees, ancient peoples hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows. In many countries it was believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness.

In the Northern hemisphere, the shortest day and longest night of the year falls on December 21 or December 22 and is called the winter solstice. Many ancient people believed that the sun was a god and that winter came every year because the sun god had become sick and weak. They celebrated the solstice because it meant that at last the sun god would begin to get well. Evergreen boughs reminded them of all the green plants that would grow again when the sun god was strong and summer would return.

Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce. It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles.”

If you have some picky eaters, this recipe is for you!

Romanesco Christmas Trees with Mashed Potatoes and Cheese

Serves: 4 (as a side)

2 large Russet Potatoes (peeled and boiled)

4 tablespoons butter

1 sprig of rosemary (finely chopped)

2 cloves of garlic (pressed)

1/2-1 cup cream (depending on how creamy you like your mashed potatoes)

salt and pepper to taste

1 large head of romanesco (separated into individual florets and steamed)

8 tablespoons of parmesan cheese (grated or shredded)

8 slices of cooked bacon (crumbled)

Instructions:

1. Peel and chop potatoes, toss in boiling water and cook until soft.

2. Remove from heat and drain.

3. KIDS! Add butter, rosemary, garlic, and cream and mash potatoes until you reach preferred consistency.

4. Add salt and pepper to taste.

5. KIDS! Wash and pull apart romanesco head until you have a bunch of small “Christmas trees”.

6. Steam trees until soft, strain, set aside to cool.

7. Once the romanesco is cool (not cold, just cool enough to handle), evenly spread mashed potatoes in to four separate bowls, ramekins, or one large dish.

8. KIDS! Place romanesco in mashed potatoes to look like little Christmas trees.

9. KIDS! Sprinkle tops of romanesco with parmesan and bacon bits.

Enjoy!

**http://www.history.com/topics/history-of-christmas-trees

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