Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Orange Adobo Sweet Potatoes, Peas, and Quinoa

 Sweet potatoes are the new Russet potato.  In the restaurant scene, we have already seen the starchy switch from the traditional French fried potato to the sweet potato alternative.  But is this just another food fad?  Yet another outlet to feed our secret addiction to all things saccharine sounding?
First, let us dispel the notion that sweet potato implies sugary potato.  Although that may have been the best way to convince us to eat them as kids, it is limiting.  Now, because of that incriminating description, “sweet”, we automatically assume that sweet potatoes are already sugar soaked.  
 On the contrary, sweet potatoes have a creative and complex sweetness.  Envision her at a masquerade, weaving in and out of various masks and disguises.  Discover that beyond her overdone, cloying sweetness, she can be an irresistibly spicy siren.  Dressed in adobo sauce and decorated with orange zest, I uncovered the spicy siren side of my sweet potatoes.
The chili sauce gave the sweet potato a vibrant, evocative taste, yet allowed it to retain much of its earthy quality.  Sprinkled with the fresh zing of cilantro, and then smoothed out by the creaminess of goat cheese, was the perfect way to finish each bite.  My experiments with sweet potatoes have made me appreciate their versatility, and I am encouraged by their rewarding results.
Note about cooking sweet potatoes:  Add some fat to that!  Sautéing your sweet potato with a small amount of fat, such as olive oil, actually helps your body pick up more of the antioxidant beta-carotene that is found in sweet potatoes.  You can also add fats (such as olive oil, nuts, cheese) after cooking to help the bioavailability of the antioxidants.  Other recommended ways to cook your sweet potatoes are steaming and boiling.  These methods give you the fullest amount of fiber, vitamin A, and antioxidants. 

Orange Adobo Sweet Potatoes, Peas, and Quinoa
3 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 medium sized sweet potato, chopped into ½ inch cubes
½ - 1 cup water (when needed to cook potatoes)
½ cup frozen peas
2 T – ¼ cup adobo sauce (depending on how spicy level tolerance)
2 tsp orange zest, grated
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
1-2 oz goat cheese
1 cup cooked quinoa

1.       Heat a medium sized pan over medium heat until very warm, add olive oil.
2.       Add garlic, sauté garlic until browned.
3.       Keeping pan between medium and medium high heat, add sweet potatoes, sauté until just soft, adding water when needed.  About 7-8 minutes.
4.       After about 5 minutes of cooking the sweet potatoes, add the frozen peas. 
5.       Add in the adobo sauce and orange zest.  Stir to coat and combine.
6.       Add cilantro, reserve some for garnish. 
7.       In bowl, spoon cooked quinoa into the bottom.  Layer on top the sweet potato mixture. Place cheese on top.  Sprinkle with cilantro. 
Makes about 2-3 cups.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Open-Faced Hummus Sandwich with Roasted Carrots

 “What’s your least favorite food?”  This has to be one of the most popular questions when filling out a profile, during the first day of school or maybe in a round of “getting to know you” games.  For most, it’s usually a vegetable.  For me, it was always brussel sprouts and eggplant.  Then came my delicious deliverance.  I began roasting my vegetables!  Just a few drops of olive oil, salt and pepper, and I could no longer resist my vegetables, even brussel sprouts or eggplant.  Had my oven become a magic meal makeover machine that turned mushy vegetables into brilliantly caramelized-tasting treasures?  For now, let’s go with that.  
On a whim, I picked up a can of chickpeas on the way home today.  Yes, I realize most people pick up milk or bread or some sort of normal staple item.  Sometimes you just have to mix it up.  Thus, tonight’s dinner venture was an open-faced hummus sandwich with slices of roasted carrots.  The honey oatmeal bread was the first product of my new favorite kitchen toy: a chrome-colored stand mixer.  

(Beautiful, isn't she?!)

Anyway, back to the sandwich.  For the spread, I made my go-to hummus, cilantro lime, and then piled on the slices of tender, roasted carrot.  If carrots aren’t your fancy, roasted chicken could also be a good option, maybe even turkey.  The way this sandwich was going, it might give the hot brown a run for its money! 
 Roasting is easy.  Preheat your oven to 375, that part stays the same.  Then, depending on the size and thickness of your veggies, cook for anywhere between 10 minutes (asparagus, maybe broccoli) and 25-30 minutes (carrots, parsnips, brussel sprouts, etc.).  It’s really about your preference on tenderness.  So be sure to check on them periodically with the old poke-‘em-with-a-fork test.
 My advice is to roast off a bunch of carrots for the week and then use them throughout your other dishes during the week.  Toss them with some pasta, parmesan, and a little parsley; chop them up with some red bell peppers and add them to a breakfast omelet; drizzle some honey or reduced balsamic vinegar over top and eat them as a sweet side dish.   

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

 As my German friend told me, “Your classic sweet potato casserole or pie with the billowing marshmallows hovering on top is hard not to love”.   Being a traditional American dish, it’s seldom swapped out and changed up.  For good reason– it’s cheap, sweet, and filling.  Can we say, perfect family potluck dish?  But I find limiting sweet potatoes to this application alone stifles its potential to go beyond that one-dimensional starchy, sweet fluff.  
 When it comes to food, I tend to consider myself a bit of a radical.  You can catch me flipping flavors, creating savory from sweet, or mixing together polarizing tastes.  Although I love twice baked potatoes, loaded with bacon, cheddar cheese and sour cream, it only recently dawned on me to do the same with sweet potatoes.  I kept the texture progression (crunchy, smooth, savory), but switched out the traditional toppings in favor of panko and pecans, goat cheese, green onions and cracked black pepper.
 Before you cry blasphemy, imagine the soft peaks of sweet potato, contrasted with the crackle of toasted panko and pecans alongside a juicy steak or roast chicken.  Each bite like a pillow of creaminess accented by slivers of green onion and cracked black pepper.  The pecans bring back hints of sweetness and the panko adds the crunch needed to snap back into reality.  It feels bright and playful, but seductively satisfying.  It’s definitely a side dish fit for dinner.  Might the loaded (with fat) baked potato be teetering on the edge of extinction?  
Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes                    
Adapted from Martha Steward

Servings: 3-4


2 large sweet potatoes
4 oz goat cheese
3 T butter, salted and divided
¼ cup green onion tips, finely sliced (only the green part midway up the stalk)
1/8 tsp black pepper
¼ cup pecans, chopped
¼ cup plain panko

1.       Preheat oven to 375˚F. 
2.       Cut sweet potatoes in half, place on greased cookie sheet or large baking dish.
3.       Bake for 1 hour, or until fork tender.
4.       Take potatoes out of oven.  Once cooled slightly, scoop out sweet potato into medium sized  bowl, leaving the skins intact.  (May need to peel off hard layer of cooked potato on top first)
5.       With electric beaters, whip together the potato, 2 T butter and 4 oz goat cheese until very smooth.
6.       Stir in green onions and black pepper. 
7.       Melt remaining 1 T butter.  In a small dish, combine pecans, panko, and butter. 
8.       Spoon mix back into potato skins and top with panko mixture.  (May end up not being able to refill all potato skins, I started with 4 and ended up with only enough for 3.  Keep it in mind.)
9.       Return potatoes to oven and cook for 10 minutes longer. 
10.   Season with salt and pepper – enjoy the deliciousness!