Root vegetables -- turnips, taters, carrots, rutabagas -- these hearty comfort-food starches seem just right when winter sets in and the frost is on the punkin.

It isn't all THAT wintry here yet, but after a week in Palm Beach and Key West, Louisville's crisp late-autumn breezes put me in mind of warming food, so I constructed a simply but tasty mixed-veggie puree to go along with a couple of lean strip steaks to accompany tonight's fancy California Syrah.

Peel one medium-size Idaho potato and cut it into one-inch cubes. Do the same with roughly equivalent amounts of sweet potato and butternut squash; the proportions aren't at all critical. Simmer all the vegetables together in salted water for 15 or 20 minutes or until soft, then mash with a fork, stirring in one tablespoon butter and, if necessary, a bit of the reserved cooking water, with pepper and additional salt, if necessary, to taste. (I always mash potatoes and root-vegetable combos with a fork rather than using the blender or food mill, because I LIKE a slightly coarse texture better. If you prefer totally smooth mashed taters, feel free to go with the high-tech alternatives.)

We polished off a lot of this tonight, and it worked nicely from a health standpoint: Lots of mashed roots filled us up and helped us be satisfied with very small steaks, holding down the fat and calorie content of the meal. Broccoli "trees" steamed until just tender rounded out a good and healthy meal that worked very nicely with the Syrah.