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.

gnocchi with yellow pepper ragu 10

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”.

 

Coconut Lime Sweet Potato Curry with Forbidden Rice and Pakora Vegetables

Do you have any sweet potatoes hanging out in your pantry that didn’t make it into any buttery-baked-marshmallow-topped-Thanksgiving casseroles?  Have you had enough leftovers and are you in the mood for something slightly…new?  Try mixing coconut, lime, sweet potato, cilantro…are you catching my drift?  You are going to love this rich-and-light-at-the-same-time Coconut Lime Sweet Potato Curry.  Serving it with forbidden (black) rice adds a perfect nuttiness to the dish.  And if you want to add an extra touch, just whip up some Pakora Vegetables on the side.  Seriously.  They’re whip-uppable.

This curry is adapted from Raghavan Iyer’s 660 Curries, a pretty serious Indian Encyclopedia Cookbook. This is an impressive 800+ page book filled with so many amazing curry recipes, as promised, and so, so much more–it’s a great read on Indian culture and cuisine (you read cookbooks like novels, too, right?).  If you want authentic, deep, complex Indian flavors at your fingertips, this book needs to be on your shelf.

Take note–authentic, deep, complex Indian flavors require authentic, deep, complex Indian ingredients.  Iyer also emphasizes the importance of procuring spices whole, when possible.  He devotes an entire section to educating the reader about spice blends and pastes, and how just one spice can offer at least eight different flavors, depending on the preparation used (toasted, ground, soaked, etc.).  I am lucky enough to have an Indian Specialty store within 20 minutes of where I live.  You can find most of the ingredients at local grocery stores, but there is an occasional ingredient that will be “specialty” (like asafetida in this recipe).  You can either omit it, or try and find a similar ingredient you have access to.

For example, asafetida is the ground root of an herb indigenous to India and the surrounding mountainous regions.  On its own, its odor is quite…odorous (to be nice), but when it’s mixed in with a curry or other sauce, it adds a more rounded savoriness, and a fuller flavor to a vegetarian dish (as described to me by my Indian Specialty Store Owner).  I’ve read it delivers a flavor similar to leeks, so you could in theory add some sliced and sautéed leeks to the recipe.  This recipe calls for such a small amount (1/2 teaspoon), that you would probably do better to just omit it.  You won’t miss it with the sweet potatoes, cilantro, coconut, lime…this dish is sort of an Indian-Caribbean Fusion with so much going on!

coconut lime sweet potato curry 2

coconut lime sweet potato curry


COCONUT LIME SWEET POTATO CURRY WITH FORBIDDEN RICE

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: medium, two pots will be going at the same time!
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Adapted from Raghavan Iyer’s 660 Curries

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and sliced in 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds (or 2 teaspoons ground cumin)
  • 1/2 teaspoon asafetida (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2-1 jalapeño, seeded, ribbed, and finely diced (optional, depending on how much heat you want for your curry)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 15oz can coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
  • Juice and zest of 1 large lime
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup forbidden rice, prepared according to package instructions

DIRECTIONS

  1. Prepare the forbidden rice according to package directions.  While the rice is cooking, prepare the coconut lime curry.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add the cumin, asafetida, and turmeric, and cook, stirring, until you can smell the spices, about 10 seconds.  Add the potatoes and jalapeño, and salt and pepper to taste, until the potatoes are coated with the spices.
  3. Pour coconut milk, shredded coconut, and 1 1/2 cups water to the pot and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to low, cover, and cook until the potatoes are velvety smooth, about 20-30 minutes.
  4. Stir in the lime juice and zest, cilantro leaves, and black beans.  Add 1/2 cup more water if you need to thin out the sauce.
  5. Serve with more chopped cilantro.

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PAKORA VEGETABLES

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy, it's batter-dipped and fried veggies--yum!
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Directly from Iyer’s 660 Curries Cookbook

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1/4 cup rice flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons chaat masala, or just salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 4-6 cups of varied sliced vegetables (vegetables that work really well are cauliflower and broccoli florets, large slices of sweet onion, large slices of green bell pepper)

DIRECTIONS

  1. To make the batter, mix the two flours, cornstarch, baking soda, chaat masala/salt, cayenne, and turmeric in a medium-size bowl.  Pour in about 1/2 cup warm water, whisking the ingredients together to form a thick better.  Add more warm water, 1/4 cup at a time, whisking after each addition, to make a smooth, thick batter that coats a spoon.
  2. Pour oil to a depth of 2-3 inches into a pot.  heat the oil over medium heat until a candy or deep-frying thermometer register 350 degrees F.
  3. Prepare a cooling rack with a few sheets of paper towels underneath.  After frying, the vegetable will rest on the cooling rack and won’t get mushy.  Once the oil is ready, drop a few of the vegetables into the batter, completely coating each piece.  Carefully drop the coated vegetables in the hot oil and fry until golden brown and crisp all over.  Remove them with a slotted spoon or a spider and let them rest on the cooling rack.

 

 

You Scream, I Scream, We All Scream for Sweet Potato Burritos!

I remember when I first ran across this recipe for Black Bean Sweet Potato Burritos in the Moosewood Restaurant Favorites Cookbook–I thought the sweetness from the sweet potatoes would be an odd pairing with cumin, coriander, and cilantro, and the texture would be a little too mushy for my liking.  They were pretty darn great, actually, and the next time I made them, I “beefed” them up with some crunchy veggies and brown rice.  And, of course, I had to turn them into souped up enchilada-style burritos and top them with mango guacamole because I can never get enough fresh lime-tomato-avocado-cilantro goodness.

Another day, another yummy assembly line:

sweet potato enchilada assembly

I know this photo isn’t the best, but it sure tasted great!

sweet potato enchiladas


ENCHILADA-STYLE BLACK BEAN SWEET POTATO BURRITOS

  • Servings: makes 15-20 burritos
  • Difficulty: easy, if you have all the ingredients ready, it's just assembly; medium, if you have to make the rice and bake the sweet potatoes, more time expenditure
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Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Favorites Cookbook

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups baked sweet potatoes, skins removed and smashed
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 4-6 green onion stalks, chopped
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced (omit if it’s too much heat for you)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 cups of favorite green chile or tomatillo sauce
  • 15-20 tortillas, flour or corn, depending on preference (corn tortillas are typically smaller and you will be able to make many more burritos)
  • 4-5 cups Mexican blend shredded cheese, optional

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 400.  Mix the ingredients through salt and pepper in a large bowl.
  2. If you are using uncooked flour tortillas, heat up a good stack for filling.  Corn tortillas are much more pliable when heated, so you can prepare them in a warm pan with oil, too.  Flour tortillas will heat up great without any oil, but pour a tablespoon or so of oil in the pan between corn tortillas.
  3. Spray a deep 9×13 baking dish with non-stick spray and spread 2 cups of green chile or tomatillo sauce on the bottom of the pan.
  4. I use my favorite #40 cookie scooper for even filling distribution: scoop 3 scoops in the flour tortilla, side by side, and if you’re feeling cheesy that night, put a sprinkling of cheese before wrapping and placing in the baking dish.  Continue until your dish is full, usually about 12-15 burritos.  If you can squeeze more burritos in for the party, go for it.  If you’d rather give your burritos some toe room, have two pans (and more sauce) ready to go.  It’s your kitchen, no one’s gonna get offended how you want to do things!
  5. Once the pans are full, pour 2 more cups of sauce over the top of the burritos and sprinkle more cheese over the burritos (optional).  Bake, uncovered, until the edges are crispy and golden, about 20 minutes.

Serving Suggestions: Top with a dollop of sour cream or plain non-fat yogurt, scoop of Mango Guacamole, fresh chopped cilantro; serve with a side of fresh mixed green salad and sliced tomatoes with squeezed lime on top.

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Creamy Polenta with Pesto and Potato Hash

polenta with pesto and potato hash

I grew up in Virginia, in the suburbs of Washington DC.  Did you know I never knew Virginia was still considered part of “the south” until we moved to Pennsylvania before my junior year of high school??!!  I mean, I’d had all the Civil War history lessons, and I knew it was “the south” then, and “the south” during the Civil Rights Movement, but that was the past, right?!  When we moved, everyone at school asked me if I were from Virginia, why didn’t I speak with a Southern accent?

I have also since come to learn that calling my mom’s friends “Miss Trina” and “Mr. Stuart” and “Miss Irene” and “Mr. Joe” is a very Southern thing, and culinarily speaking, Southerners love their biscuits, pies, sweet and salty combos, and creamy things (ie. cream of wheat, creamy grits, creamy puddings and custards and creme brûlée and such)…so it’s good to know I often cook to my roots.  I remember my stepdad loved eating grits for breakfast, but I had no idea grits and polenta were pretty much on the same family tree.  Grits is cornmeal cooked with water or milk, and it turns out grits is “poor man’s polenta”.

Polenta is just a coarser ground cornmeal, and used to be peasant food in Italy, but it’s been gaining ground as a super yummy upscale restauranty item.  I still have yet to try and make polenta fries like I ordered at Riverhorse in Park City with that amazing roasted beet salad.  You can have creamy polenta and top it with all sorts of things, or you can pour it into a pan and cut it in strips or circles or squares and then grill it or fry it and it’ll be crispy crunchy on the outside and oh so creamy on the inside.

I was originally going to try Del Sroufe’s Polenta Pizza with Pesto, Caramelized Onions, and Potatoes, but decided to turn it into creamy polenta and top it with pesto (is it bad that I still have homemade pesto in my freezer from my garden two years ago?), caramelized onions, green lentils, potatoes, fresh tomatoes, and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.  If I’d had fresh basil, I would have put some on top.  Fresh garden, I need you!–Definitely next year’s numero uno project!


CREAMY POLENTA WITH PESTO AND POTATO HASH

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from Del Sroufe’s Forks Over Knives Cookbook

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup coarse ground polenta
  • 1/2 cup green lentils
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 medium sized red potatoes, diced
  • 4 tablespoons of your favorite pesto
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • sprinkling of parmesan cheese (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. First prepare the polenta and lentils.  If you start with the lentils, you can let them simmer while you get the rest of the components ready.  Heat 1/2 cup lentils and 1 cup vegetable stock in a medium pot.  One it reaches a boil, turn heat down to low and cover the pot; allow to simmer for 20-25 minutes until lentils are tender and liquid is absorbed.  Keep watching the lentils to make sure the liquid isn’t absorbed too quickly.  You may need to add 1/2 cup or so of more of liquid, if needed.
  2. For the polenta bring 3 cups of water a 1 teaspoon of salt to a boil in a medium pot.  Have 2 more cups of water ready.  Once the 3 cups water is boiling, add 1 cup polenta to the pot, stirring constantly, and immediately turn the heat down to low.  Over the next 20-30 minutes, gradually add the 2 cups remaining water to the polenta and stir frequently.  The polenta will be ready when it pulls away from the sides of the pot.  [It’s true–cornmeal cooks pretty quickly and looks like it’s ready after just 5-10 minutes of stirring, but it’s important to cook it for the complete 30 minutes–it totally changes the texture to smooth and creamy.  I also like to add a dab of butter and a few tablespoons of parmesan cheese and stir it all up.]
  3. To make the caramelized onions, heat 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil to a pan over medium heat.  Add the onion, salt and pepper to taste, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Let saute, stirring occasionally over 20 minutes or so, until the onion is cooked down and golden brown.
  4. Saute the diced potatoes in another pan, with a few tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir every so often until they are golden brown.
  5. To serve, put a good scoop of polenta in your bowl, then a few tablespoons of your favorite pesto, the caramelized onions, the lentils, potatoes, and tomatoes.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

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