Crostini Trio

I’ve always loved sandwiches–one of my favorite memories is going to visit my Grandparents and Aunt and cousins for a couple weeks every summer, and the first thing we did after tumbling out of the hot and sticky East Coast summer car was run into my Grandparent’s kitchen and pull out all the sandwich fixings.  Rye and pumpernickel breads, crispy, cool lettuce, lunch meats and cheeses, mustard and mayonnaise.  I’ve always regarded the sandwich as a comfort food and associated it with happy times.

Oh, Sandwich!  Such melodrama!

I decided to make a trio of crostini one Saturday–little pan-fried bread slices topped with three different toppings.  Maybe it was due to my having just run a 12-mile trail run, and my husband cycling 40 miles around a mountain, but this meal was a smashing success!  One crostini {crostino?} topped with a cannellini bean spread with fresh cucumber slices; one topped with creamy guacamole with olive oil tomatoes; one topped with pistachio basil pesto with fried potato rounds.  These toppings are simple enough for a family gathering, or sophisticated enough for a dinner party.

crostini trio collage 1 crostini trio collage 2

This was a perfect meal for the two of us {although I admit we ate as much as a dinner party would have}.  We treated the pan-fried breads like tortilla chips and dipped away!  I have to warn you–if you ever come over for chips and dip, or crostini, for that matter–we liberally and unabashedly double dip.

crostini trio 7


CANNELLINI BEAN SPREAD WITH CUCUMBER SLICES

  • Servings: makes 1 1/2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 15oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 3 mini sweet cucumbers, finely sliced
  • 1 baguette, if serving as crostini

DIRECTIONS

  1. Smash the Cannellini beans with a fork or a potato smasher to a rough paste.  Add the lemon zest and juice and parsley, salt and pepper to taste, and a swirl or two of olive oil.  Stir together and serve with breadsticks, crackers, or crostini.
  2. To make crostini, slice a baguette on the bias.  Brush with olive oil and bake in a 400F oven until browned on each side, or pan fry in a skillet with olive oil, turning until each side is golden.

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CREAMY GUACAMOLE WITH OLIVE OIL TOMATOES

  • Servings: makes 1 1/2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 avocado, peeled and pit removed
  • 1/4 cup red onion, very finely chopped
  • 2 scallions, green ends finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes
  • 1 baguette, if serving as crostini

DIRECTIONS

  1. Smash the avocado with a fork or potato smasher to a rough paste.  Add the red onion through the lime zest and juice and gently stir together.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. For the olive oil tomatoes, slice the grape tomatoes in half or in quarters, if they are larger in size, and place in a small bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and stir.
  3. To serve with crostini, slice a baguette on the bias.  Brush with olive oil and bake in a 400F oven until browned on each side, or pan fry in a skillet with olive oil, turning until each side is golden.

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PISTACHIO BASIL PESTO WITH FRIED POTATO ROUNDS

  • Servings: makes 1 cup pesto
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup pistachios
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2-3 small red, white, or yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 baguette, if serving as crostini

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender, add salt and pepper to taste and start with 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Pulse the blender until slightly mixed, clean the sides of the blender with a spatula, and blend again, adding more olive oil while blending until the pesto comes together in a smooth consistency.
  2. Slice the potatoes very thinly.  Coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat to medium-high.  Place the potato slices in a single layer in the skillet, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and pan fry until golden on each side.
  3. To serve with crostini, slice the baguette on the bias.  Brush with olive oil and bake in a 400F oven until browned on each side, or pan fry in a skillet with olive oil, turning until each side is golden.

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Balance and Oodles of Noodles

Sometimes life just takes over, doesn’t it?  For the past three months I have felt like I need an extra 5 hours in a day, at the very least, to accomplish my To-Do List.  In some ways it feels whittled down, and in other ways it’s only grown.  One of my first college roommates was a powerhouse of activity, attention to detail, and living life with such clear direction.  She lives this way still–a woman with such purpose!  She recently shared a quote from a book I’ve never read, but was struck enough by the quote to feel like I need to figure out a bit more focus and purpose.

“We fool ourselves if we think balance means giving equal attention to everything in our lives.  Balance only happens in dynamic tension.  Balance is giving not equal but appropriate attention to each of the various categories of your life.”  {-Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy in “Living Forward”}

Children seem to naturally give not equal but appropriate attention to the various categories of their life, and let all else go.  Before Mile-Long To-Do Lists and Adult-Sized Responsibilities you only had a clear Hope of the What-Could-Be.  And What Could Be was huge.  It could be anything.  How bright and how simple.

My mom once made us Oodles of Noodles, served in our very fine china with painted red, white, and yellow flowers and gold around the rim of the bowls.  {Was Top Ramen once called Oodles of Noodles?}  I cradled the tiny tea bowl in my hands and felt like I’d just been served the dinner of a king.  All those noodles!  In such a fancy bowl!  Just for me!

This bowl of Coconut Lime Soup with Forbidden Rice and Sweet Potato Noodles won’t make your To-Do List magically disappear, but with nutty forbidden rice, sweet potato noodles, hot peppers and chile sauce, zippy lime juice, cool cilantro, and creamy coconut milk, it will make you feel like a giddy kid with a What-Could-Be possibility.

sweet potato noodles 5

Here’s your super quick view of ingredients.  10 items.  No, 11 items, including vegetable stock.  That’s all you need to feel like a king!

sweet potato noodles 1

And a noodler.  My brother was nice enough to send this to me and I’ve LOVED making oodles of noodles of all sorts!  First peel the sweet potato, slice off the ends, use the petite-est noodle blades, and noodle away.

sweet potato noodles 2

sweet potato noodles 3

sweetpotatonoodles6


COCONUT LIME SOUP WITH FORBIDDEN RICE AND SWEET POTATO NOODLES

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup forbidden rice
  • 1 medium to large sweet potato
  • 1/2 cup diced sweet red pepper
  • 1-2 diced red jalapeño pepper (seeds and ribs may be used or discarded, depending on how much heat you like)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1-3 teaspoons Sambal Oelek (depending on how much heat you like)
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 15oz can of coconut milk
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 3 green onions, sliced on the diagonal

DIRECTIONS

  1. Prepare the rice according to package directions.
  2. Prepare the sweet potato.  Peel it and slice off the ends to get flat surfaces.  Attach to the noodler and using the finest setting, turn the whole sweet potato into fine noodles.
  3. Coat the bottom of a large stockpot with olive oil and heat to medium.  Sauté the peppers, garlic, ginger, and Sambal Oelek quickly, until you can smell the garlic and chiles.  Add the vegetable stock and coconut milk,  and let come to a gentle boil.  Add the sweet potato noodles and let simmer until the noodles are tender, about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Add the lime juice, cilantro, and green onions.
  5. To serve, evenly divide the noodles and broth between four bowls, divide the rice in fourths and scoop one fourth into each bowl.  Garnish with extra fresh cilantro, green onions, and fresh lime slices.

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Chickpea Zucchini Burgers and Sriracha “Just Mayo”

chickpea zucchini cakes 1

chickpea zucchini cakes 2

Three common concerns I hear about eating a meatless meal is first, it takes too long to prepare, second, eating so much produce is too expensive, and third, that it doesn’t taste as good as a meal with meat as the main star.  This meal will not just change your mind, but it will blow your mind {and not your bank account}.  Big Time.

If you have time to pat together ground meat for burgers, you have time to make these chickpea zucchini burgers–and you’ll be impressed at how filling and delicious and not greasy these burgers are.  I ate these patties with a salad, and my husband dressed them up as a full-fledged burger, but we both had baked sweet potatoes on the side, and we both topped them with Hampton Creek’s Sriracha Just Mayo.

{In case you haven’t tried Just Mayo yet, here’s the big plug:  Hampton Creek is bringing down the house with their eggless, plant-based products!  This “vegan spread has rattled the egg industry“, it will rattle your world, and it will rattle your ham chickpea burger!  The Sriracha Mayo has just enough zing to add enough flavor without too much heat–so it makes your meal taste better instead of totally overpowering your tastebuds.  It’s The Best.}


CHICKPEA ZUCCHINI BURGERS

  • Servings: makes 6 patties
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Meatless

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • zest and juice of 1/2 of a lemon
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked (vegan option: substitute with 1 tablespoon ground flax seed, 3 tablespoons water mixed together)
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Grate the zucchini and let drain in a colander to remove extra liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, place chickpeas in a large mixing bowl.  Mash with a potato masher until you have a mostly homogenous mixture.  Add the grated zucchini and the rest of the ingredients, and stir until well-mixed.
  3. Separate the mixture into 6 equal portions, and form each portion into a ball, then flatten into a patty.  Alternately, I used 2 scoops with a #40 scooper to make a patty.
  4. Coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat to medium.  Sauté patties until golden and crisp, about 3-4 minutes on each side.
  5. Enjoy with a salad or with your favorite burger toppings.

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BAKED SWEET POTATO FRIES

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1-2 large sweet potatoes, peeled
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Slice the peeled sweet potatoes into large wedges and place in a large mixing bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Spread on a large enough baking sheet so the wedges don’t overlap or touch each other.  Bake for 20 minutes, stir/flip/spatula-ize the wedges and bake for another 10-15 minutes until golden and crispy.
  4. These are so yummy if served with Sriracha Just Mayo!!

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Sweet Potato Egg Rolls With Love

sweet potato egg rolls 1

I remember the very first egg roll I ever had.

I was raised by a single mama who worked and went to school; we didn’t have a lot of splurges.  I was 12 or 13, maybe 14, and my mom dropped me off at the mall.  I don’t remember why–maybe she was doing something at school, and the mall was nearby.  Anyway, I had some time to walk around by myself, window shop.  I got hungry, and I thought I’d just wait until I got home, when it finally occurred to me that I could buy something for myself!  I looked around at my options and an Asian place looked the best to me.  I didn’t have enough babysitting money for a full meal, but I did have .99 cents plus tax for an egg roll.

The egg roll was hot, amazingly crispy and crunchy on the outside, melty and sweet, sour, salty on the inside.  I’d never had anything like it, and instantly loved it!  Mind you, fries, chicken nuggets, and eating out in general were not on our usual list of things to do.  Egg rolls quickly made it to the top of my most wanted list, and I got one every chance I had from then on!  The problem is that every subsequent egg roll wasn’t nearly as good as that first one.  They were dry, stale, had bland filling, or very little filling in ratio to fried wrapper–you name it, egg rolls fell off my list as soon as they went on.

Then I decided to try my hand at them.  I had some leftover sweet potatoes and rice noodles and thought that would make a great base for some additional veggies.  They turned out sweet, fresh, citrusy, and crispy crunchy!  The sweet potato mix did make the wraps soften the longer they sat, so eat them right away, or just reheat them in the oven to crisp them up a bit.

A little flavor…

sweet potato eggroll ingredients

Some veggies…

sweet potato eggroll veggies

Assembly line magic…

sweet potato eggroll assembly line

sweet potato eggroll wrap up

And a spicy soy dipping sauce and coconut cilantro rice on the side…

sweet potato egg rolls 3

sweet potato egg rolls 2


 

SWEET POTATO VEGGIE EGG ROLLS

  • Servings: makes one full pack of large square egg roll wrappers
  • Difficulty: medium-ish
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 baked sweet potato, peeled and mashed
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups rice noodles, prepared according to package directions
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red pepper, about 2 inches in length
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced snow peas, about 2 inches in length
  • 1/2 cup peeled carrot (peel the carrot stick, then just keep on peeling), about 2 inches in length
  • 1/2 cup sliced scallion, sliced on the diagonal, about 2 inches in length
  • 1 package large square egg roll wrappers
  • 1 egg, beaten

INGREDIENTS FOR THE DIPPING SAUCE

  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sambal oelek chili paste (more if you want more heat)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mix the first seven ingredients (the sweet potato through salt and pepper) in a bowl, mix well.
  2. Set up the assembly line:  Bowl of sweet potato mixture, bowl of rice noodles, plate of sliced veggies, egg roll wraps, and beaten egg.
  3. Place a wrapper on the diagonal on the plate.  First scoop 3 teaspoons of sweet potato mixture and place in the center of the wrap.  Layer with 1/4 cup rice noodles and a few slices of each veggie.
  4. Brush the edges of the wrap with the beaten egg.  First fold the bottom triangle over the veggies, then fold the two side triangles and roll.  You may need to seal the final triangle edge with a little more egg wash.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  5. Heat 4 inches of canola oil in a pot to 365F.  Fry each egg roll until golden brown on each side.
  6. Stir together all the dipping ingredients and serve with the egg rolls.

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Pesto Pasta with Pan-Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans

green bean potato pesto

I am drooling just looking at this meal; aren’t you?  Homemade Pesto?  Check.  Pasta?  Check.  Caramelized potato hash browns and green beans?  Check.

Pesto pasta with potatoes and green beans is an old Italian classic.  Traditionally, it is a one-pot meal, all boiled in sequential cook times then drained and stirred together with pesto.  I turn this into a one-pot, one-skillet meal, pan-roasting the potatoes and green beans in the skillet.  And, frankly, if I get hash browns out of the deal, I’m okay with a two-pot meal.


PESTO PASTA WITH PAN-ROASTED POTATOES AND GREEN BEANS

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 pound short pasta
  • 2 medium potatoes, diced in 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 cups green beans, trimmed and cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2-3/4 cup basil pesto

DIRECTIONS

  1. Fill a large stockpot with water and bring to a boil.  Salt the water, add the pasta, and cook until al dente, about 8-10 minutes.
  2. While the water is heating, coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the potatoes, salt and pepper to taste, and roast, stirring until all sides are golden, about 10 minutes.  Add the green beans and stir with the potatoes, until the green beans are golden browned.
  3. Drain the pasta, return to the pot, and add the potatoes and green beans.  Stir in the pesto.  Start with 1/2 cup, taste, and add more according to your taste.
  4. Serve sprinkled with parmesan cheese, or nutritional yeast to keep it vegan.

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First Time For Everything

My Number 1 Rule when I go out to a restaurant is to order something I don’t frequently make at home.  I have found, though, that there are fewer and fewer options I choose from, as I am willing to tackle almost anything in my own kitchen.  There has been one thing I haven’t tried yet…for the first time ever, I decided to tackle those shifty little potato pillows otherwise known as gnocchi.  “Gnocchi” means “dumplings” in Italian, and this girl is always up for a good dumpling.

I had some leftover broccolini in the fridge, so I decided to chop that up super tiny and make broccolini-potato gnocchi.  What could be better combination, right?!  I followed the recipe from Making Artisan Pasta, with the exception of adding the broccoli.  I was really concerned about adding too much flour, and having a tough, play-dough-tasting gnocchi, so I added just what the recipe called for, and worked it until just combined, as recommended.  I think I maybe should have added a little more, because they ended up incredibly delicate.

Simple ingredients:  potatoes, 1 egg yolk, finely chopped broccolini heads, flour, salt and pepper to taste.  I don’t have a potato ricer, so I googled “How to make gnocchi without a potato ricer”, and the best suggestion that worked for me was using the fine side of the grater.

gnocchi with yellow pepper ragu 1

gnocchi collage 1

Evenly divide the dough into six portions, then roll each one into little “snakes” and have your little sous chef cut up those little snakes into little squares.  He was a pretty happy sous chef.

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gnocchi with yellow pepper ragu 11

gnocchi collage 2

I cooked up a fresh-made portion for dinner that night, and they cooked within 60 seconds tops, and were incredibly fragile and tender, maybe a little too tender.  The extra gnocchi got to sleep overnight in the freezer, to be homemade gnocchi at my fingertips for a lunch or dinner.  The next day I tried cooking up a portion, and became googly-eyed and nearly swallowed my tongue when the frozen gnocchi pretty much dissolved into a mushy potato blob the second they hit the boiling water.  Looking back, I wish I’d have taken a photo of that, because I can laugh about it now.  I decided to try cooking the next frozen portion like I would pan-fry a shu mai dumpling, and it worked pretty well, albeit a MUCH shorter cooking time.  I quickly threw together a yellow pepper ragú for the sauce, and sprinkled with sunflower seeds, and it was pretty much AH-MAZING.

gnocchi with yellow pepper ragu 13{frozen gnocchi}

gnocchi with yellow pepper ragu 15

gnocchi with yellow pepper ragu 14


POTATO-BROCCOLINI GNOCCHI

  • Servings: makes 70-80 gnocchi
  • Difficulty: medium-difficult
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Recipe directly from Making Artisan Pasta, with the addition of 3/4 cup finely chopped broccolini.  This book also explains which potatoes are better for making gnocchi and why.  I had Russets on hand, so that’s what I used; the book says Russets have denser flesh that requires less flour to thicken.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound (450g) large yellow potatoes (I used 2 large Russets)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons (6g) thinly sliced chives (optional)*
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Ground white pepper to taste
  • 1/4 pound (115g) unbleached all-purpose flour, Italian 00flour, or Korean flour (if using 00 or Korean flour, increase the amount to 5 ounces, or 140g), plus extra for rolling
  • *I omitted the chives and added 3/4 cup cooked, drained, and very finely chopped broccolini heads

DIRECTIONS

  1. Steam the potatoes in their skins, or boil them in salted water until tender but not mushy, about 40 minutes.  (Don’t peel the potatoes before boiling, as they will absorb too much water).  Drain well and cool them just long enough to be able to handle them, then peel the potatoes and put them through a potato ricer or food mill while still hot.  Chill the potatoes in the refrigerator.  (By chilling the potatoes, you will need less flour to make a dough firm enough to hold its shape when cooked.)
  2. In a large bowl or on a wooden work surface as shown, combine the potatoes with the egg yolk, chives (or finely chopped broccolini), salt, and white pepper.
  3. Form the potato mixture into a ring and place the flour in the middle.  Gently, using only your fingertips while patting and pinching, mix the flour into the potato mix to make a fairly firm mass that doesn’t stick to your fingers.
  4. Work until just combined, as if you were making a pastry dough.  The object here is to use the minimum amount of flour and to develop its gluten only enough to stick the whole thing together.  Rough handling will result in touch, gluey gnocchi.
  5. TIP:  Before shaping all the gnocchi, it’s a good idea to test 1 or 2 to make sure the dough is firm enough to hold its shape when cooked.  Try cooking a couple in salted boiling water.  if they fall apart, which usually happens toward the end of the cooking time, gently pat in an ounce or so (30g or so) of flour.
  6. Throw a little flour onto your work surface and gently roll the dough into a thick sausage shape.  using a bench scraper, or a knife with a flat blade, divide the dough into 6 portions.  Start rolling 1 portion at a time into a “snake,” starting from the center.  Use an up-and-down motion while moving your hands toward the outside.
  7. Roll each snake until it is about the thickness of your index finger and relatively uniform in diameter.  Dust each rope with flour and then roll again to even out the snakes.  Cut the dough into pillow-shaped pieces 1/2 to 3/4 inch (1 to 2 cm) long to make individual gnocchi.
  8. To cook, bring salted water to a boil in a wide, shallow pot.  Add the gnocchi, reduce heat to a light rolling boil, and cook he gnocchi until they float the the top.  Cook 2-3 minutes longer, or until the gnocchi are cooked through but still firm.  Skim them from the water using a wire skimmer or slotted spoon.  These gnocchi are too fragile to drain in a colander.  Toss gently with melted butter and grated cheese or other sauce, such as fresh tomato ad shredded basil with small cubes of fresh mozzarella, and serve immediately.
  9. NOTES: If desired, dust each piece lightly with flour and roll up from the cut edge in a C shape along the outside tines of a dinner fork to form ridged gnocchi.  Or, roll up on a ridged wooden gnocchi or garganelli board.  Set aside on a board dusted lightly with semolina or cornmeal without touching.  It is best to cook the gnocchi as soon as they are formed, as they will become sticky and soft as the flour is absorbed into the dough.  Alternatively, freeze the gnocchi.  Do not defrost before cooking.

YELLOW PEPPER RAGÚ

  • Servings: makes 1/2 cup sauce
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 yellow pepper, diced
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 carrot, diced or grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4-1/2 cup vegetable stock (or cooking water from the gnocchi)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Coat a large sauté pan with olive oil and heat to medium.  Add the yellow pepper, onion, and carrot to the pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and sauté until just tender, about 5-7 minutes.
  2. Pour into a blender and add the parsley and start with 1/4 cup stock/water.  Pulse until you have the desired consistency and texture.  A chunkier sauce will require less liquid; a smoother sauce needs more liquid while blending.

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Brazilian Feast Part II

brazilian mandioca

For Part II of this Brazilian Feast, I’m handing over my favorite mandioca goodness.  Have you ever spied a weird waxy, bark-like covered root at the grocery store and wondered what in the world it is and what in the world to do with it?  It’ll be labeled Yucca Root in your grocery store, but it’ll always be mandioca (mahn-gee-yolk-uh) to me.  This is the root of the Yucca, or Cassava plant.  You want to pick a root that is hard and doesn’t have any obvious dry splitting or mushy parts.  It’s kind of impossible to know what it’ll be like on the inside until you get it home and it’s at the mercy of your cutting board.  You only want to keep and prepare the white parts; discard any discolored (brown, green, yellow, etc.) pieces.

Once you cut away the tough exterior you’ll expose its white flesh, which is hard and solid–you don’t want to eat it raw, that’s for sure.  It’s a starch, so cooking it is very much like a potato–it can be mashed, stewed, fried, boiled–and has a very mild, almost sweet flavor.  My two favorite preparations are frying, of course {think a mildly sweet french fry}, and gently boiling it into a stew {think potato soup-ish} to pour over rice.  Starch on starch?  Well, that’s how the Brazilians did it, and that’s how I love it!

Regardless of the preparation, you’ll need to use a very sharp knife to cut the root into manageable pieces and remove the waxy-barky exterior.  FYI:  Throw the scraps in the trash, not your garbage disposal!  I was constantly warned by Brazilians to remove the fibrous string that runs down the center of the root, because it contains cyanide, but I’ve never read anything verifying the cyanide claim…So maybe they were all poking fun at this blonde American?  Whether or not there’s cyanide, it’s still too tough to eat, so cut it out and discard it.  I usually do this step the same way I cut out the core of a pineapple.

brazilian mandioca 1brazilian mandioca 2

brazilian mandioca 4

{The section below is the part I discard}

brazilian mandioca 3

To fry, I cut up equal-sized “sticks”.  You can make them smaller, if you’d like it to be more like a french fry, but I like the thicker cuts because the flesh has such a different flavor.  To make the Mandioca Stew, I chop it into large chunks.

brazilian mandioca 5

brazilian feast 2


MANDIOCA FRITA {Yucca Root Fries}

  • Servings: 1 large root will make 1 large batch of fries, serving 2-4 adults
  • Difficulty: pretty, easy, although there are a few steps
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large yucca root
  • oil, deep enough in the pot to cover and fry the fries
  • salt to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Prepare the yucca root by first cutting into thirds.  Cut the waxy bark off and throw away.  One at a time, core each third like coring a pineapple and discard the center core with the fibrous strand.  Cut into equal-sized thick strips for fries.
  2. Place the fries in a large pot and cover with an inch of cold water.  Add 2 teaspoons of salt and bring to a boil.  Boil the fries until they are soft–a knife or fork will easily poke them.  Drain and let cool.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a large pot of vegetable oil, at least 2-3 inches deep, over medium to medium-high heat.  If you have a candy thermometer keep it on the side of the pot and when the oil reaches 375F, you can start frying.  If you don’t have a thermometer, the oil will be ready when you stick the end of a wooden spoon in the oil and bubbles form around the spoon.  Fry in batches so the oil temperature doesn’t drop too low.  Fry until golden brown and scoop out with a spider or slotted spoon onto a cooling rack with paper towels underneath (this will keep the fries crispier than placing them on just a paper towel).  Sprinkle with salt to taste.

SOPA DE MANDIOCA {Yucca Root Soup}

  • Servings: 1 large root will yield about 4 cups of soup, so 2-4 servings total
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large yucca root
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Prepare the yucca root by first cutting into thirds.  Cut the waxy bark off and throw away.  One at a time, core each third like coring a pineapple and discard the center core with he fibrous strand.  Dice into equal-sized large chunks.
  2. Coat the bottom of a medium sized pot with olive oil and heat over medium heat.  Saute the onion with salt and pepper to taste until translucent.  Add the yucca root chunks and quickly saute for a few minutes, until all the yucca root is covered and mixed well with the onion.
  3. Add 4 cups water and let come to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and let the soup simmer and reduce, stirring occasionally.  The yucca root will thicken the soup while cooking; you may need to add more water during the cooking process to get the consistency you want.  Ideally, it’ll be a thick stew-like soup to pour over rice.
  4. To serve, you can pour it over rice, or treat it like a potato soup and add your favorite “potato soup toppings”.