Sweet Potatoes à la carte

It’s unlikely they will ever truly replace good old reliable potatoes, but sweet potatoes have really hit main stream. Everyone is getting on board, trying to give them a chance, and I couldn’t be happier. From French fries to pancakes, they are everywhere.

There’s no question, a nutrient-rich baked sweet potato is incredibly filling and satisfying in a pinch. I’m known to pop one in the microwave for a fast meal and top it with whatever is loose in the fridge, from chutney to chili.

Of late, one of my favorite ways to prepare sweet potatoes is in latkes.  Add a little onion, some binder, and they are worthy of a place at either the breakfast or dinner table. In mini portions, they make a handsome appetizer with a dab of sour cream and chives.

Unlike potatoes that turn color when prepped ahead, sweet potatoes grated a day in advance will still hold beautifully. With the holidays headed our way, consider latkes as part of your party entertainment fare.

Sweet Potato Latkes
Inspired by Gale Gand’s Brunch!

Ingredients
1/2 yellow onion
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled (3 to 4)
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon sea salt and black pepper
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
1 bunch green onions or chives, sliced

Instructions

1. Grate the onion with a box grater into a mesh strainer and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

2. Either grate the potatoes on a box grater or use a food processor.

3. In a large bowl, mix together the sweet potatoes, onion, flour and eggs until well combined. Season generously with salt and black pepper. Make little balls and flatten them into about a 3 inch disc.

4. Pour about 1/4 cup oil into a skillet and heat over medium high heat. Put a few latkes in a pan at a time, press down firmly with a spatula, and fry for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown. Move to paper toweling to drain and hold in a warm oven.

5. Top each with a small dollop of sour cream and sprinkle with chives. Makes 8 large or about 36 mini-latkes.

 

 

Advertisements

What Sounds Good?

We all have our comfort foods.  When nothing else sounds good, we reach for familiar touchstones to soothe us.  They many not mean much to anyone else, but we have our favorites.

Years ago I wrote a heritage cookbook for my family with the odd title, What Sounds Good?  It was just that,  a crazy assortment of cherished recipes that were a regular part of our food repertoire when my daughters were growing up.  At our house, there was always a debate underway about what to eat for the next meal or upcoming food event. The discussion would typically include what sounds good?

Some of the recipes in What Sounds Good? were from my own childhood; some I picked up in my early days of cooking from friends and family. Some were regional, like Santa Maria Style Beans and Boston Clam Chowder. They still hold a place in my heart.

Yesterday was one of those days. It was cold and rainy and I was feeling the aftermath of the long Thanksgiving weekend.  I needed something that reached down and warmed my soul.  Of course, it was no further away than my pantry shelves.  I always have the makings for clam chowder tucked away somewhere.

I pulled out my soup pot and found a familiar rhythm. The smoky scent of bacon always perks me up. There’s nothing fussing here: some onion, potato, a bit of celery, a few herbs… In no time I had hearty soup cups ladled full of thick and creamy clam chowder.

Funny thing.  This morning I pulled out the recipe to take a look at it.  It has been a while since I made it, and without thinking, I made it as written in the cookbook, down to ingredients and quantities.  I guess somethings are too good to change.

Boston Clam Chowder

From What Sounds Good?

Ingredients
4-5 strips bacon, chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
2 medium red potatoes, skin on, diced
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
2 cans chopped clams, 4-5 ounces each, liquid reserved
1 bottle clam juice, about 8 ounces
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup water
2 cups milk, of choice, including diluted condensed milk, if necessary
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Garnish:  chopped parsley, butter, or paprika, serve with oyster or pilot crackers

Instructions

  1. In a soup pot, sauté the bacon over medium heat until it begins to color. Drain off all but 1-2 tablespoon of the fat.
  2. Add the onion, and cook to soften, then add the celery and toss briefly. Add the potato, herbs, white pepper. clam liquids, and enough additional water to barely cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Combine the flour and water into a slurry and slowly stir into the potato base and allow it to thicken.
  4. Stir in the milk and clams and heat well, but do not boil. Adjust seasoning.  Serve with garnish of choice.  Serves 4.

Quick and Painless: Hard Cooked Eggs

Posting another blog on how to hard cook an egg does seem a little silly. We have covered that territory before, and by now, most of us know how to boil an egg.  It is more than  dropping an egg into simmering water and cooking until done.

Anyone who really appreciates a well prepared hard cooked egg likely has their own preferences, too.  I am partial to an egg with a slightly soft yolk without a green rim from oxidation; a firm, but not rubbery white; and equally important, a shell that peels easily.

A few years ago when my daughter presented me with an electric egg cooker I could not see its merit. I did not need another gadget; a saucepan and a little water works just fine.  It took me a while, but I finally warmed to it for her sake, and I still appreciate its precision and convenience.

Friends rant about how foolproof the Instant Pot is for hard cooking eggs.  Well,  fine, I have my egg cooker. Of course, that all changed the day I needed more hard cooked eggs than my tiny egg cooker could hold.  Besides,  I reasoned, who wants the angst of fretting over a carton of eggs that refuse to peel?

It may have something to do with the pressurized process of the Instant Pot, but the eggs peel like magic!  It is fast. Within five minutes the eggs are done, without any exploding eggs or unnecessary drama.  Give it an additional 3-4  minutes for natural pressure release, a fast flip of the valve for quick release of any remaining pressure, and into a cool bath they go—ready and waiting for a quick and painless peel.  Sweet!

For the record, here is one more solution for hard cooked eggs.

Hard Cooked Eggs

Made easy, via the Instant Pot

Ingredients
1 to 12 large eggs, cold from fridge, or as many as will fit comfortably in one layer
1 cup water

Instructions

  1. Pour 1 cup water into the Instant Pot liner. Insert a raised rack and place eggs in pot.
  2. Seal lid and set steam valve to Pressure; set Pressure function to High, and set timer for 5 minutes.
  3. When complete, let Pressure Release naturally for 3 minutes, then set the steam valve to Vent and resume with Quick Release.
  4. Cool the eggs in cold water. If desired, chill further in refrigerator.

 

Transactional Analysis and the Relational Value of Steamed Pudding

It could be my New England roots, but I dearly love a good steamed pudding.  Deeply flavored, moist and dense, it touches my soul.  A steamed pudding speaks to me of  family hearths and seasonal traditions.

I had my heart set on a Persimmon Pudding, much like the one my sister-in-law, Jan makes.  Her well-balance cake has been in her family for generations, and bears all the ear markings of a time honored treasure. It is made in the Joy of Cooking mode of creaming the butter and sugar, then eggs and such are mixed in, followed by the dry ingredients, and finally, all other additives like nuts and raisins are stirred in.

Since persimmons have been readily available this year I was excited about the possibilities. I purchased a few good looking Hachiya and set them out to ripen.  Two weeks later, still hard as rocks, it looked like the persimmons would not be ripe for a couple more weeks—perhaps in time for Christmas!

With persimmons out of contention for the moment, it looked like pumpkin might be the next best option.  Besides, it’s Thanksgiving.  Why not give pumpkin its chance to shine?

Turns out, pumpkin works well as a replacement for persimmons, with a few minor adjustments.  Since persimmons can have a high acidity, baking soda is often used as a buffer. In this case, the baking soda was eliminated in lieu of baking powder for leavening.  And what is pumpkin without brown sugar? So, a little was added in lieu of granulated sugar. Everyone was happy and into the mold it went!

In Jan’s recipe, the pudding was steamed on the stovetop for 2 long hours.  Thanks to my trusty Instant Pot, the pressure cooker could reduce that cooking time by as much as 60-70%.  Given the numbers, I opted for 35 minutes, with an additional partial natural pressure release time of 5 minutes. Worse case, I reckoned I could return it to the pressure cooker if it was not set.

Once complete and out of the pressure cooker, I opened the mold and checked the contents.  It had raised, was a deep amber color, and the top looked quite moist, but that is not uncommon. I dabbed the excess moisture off with a paper towel, and moved it to a cooling rack.  In no time, the cake began to pull away from the sides—which I took as a very good sign.  It was holding its shape without a problem.  Given 10 minutes, it easily unmolded onto the rack for further cooling.  We have steamed pudding!

On this Thanksgiving, here’s wishing you all the joy of good food and good company.

Steamed Pumpkin Pudding

Inspired by Jan C’s family Persimmon Pudding

Ingredients
1/3 cup softened butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
12 ounces, or 1 can pumpkin pulp, approximate
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Instructions

  1. In advance: coat a 6 cup baking mold well with butter or spray thoroughly with bakers non-stick spray.
  2. Plump the raisins and orange juice: in a small microwaveable bowl, cover with wrap, and heat for 40 seconds in the microwave; set aside to plump.
  3. Combine the flour through the cinnamon and set aside.
  4. Set up Instant Pot with a rack, pour in 3 cups water and begin to heat the water, set to Saute function.
  5. To prepare the pudding: in a mixing bowl, cream the butter and granulated sugar, then beat in the brown sugar. Add the egg and beat well.
  6. Mix the pumpkin and vanilla into the butter and egg mixture. Add the dry ingredients,  stir to combine. Add the raisins and nuts.
  7. Spread the batter into the mold, and cover with the lid if it fits in the pot, or lightly cover with foil. Set onto raised rack in the Instant Pot with water bath and seal the lid.
  8. Using Manual setting, adjust to Low Pressure and set timer to 35 minutes. When complete, allow Natural Release for 5 minutes and then use Quick Release.  Remove from Instant Pot and let cool about 20 minutes before unmolding.
  9. If time permits, make a day or two in advance to allow flavors to blend. Store well wrapped in the refrigerator.  Serve with custard sauce, a hard sauce or whipped cream.  Serves 6 or more.

Cauliflower Credo

This is one serious blunder.  I can’t believe I forgot to post this incredibly good veggie burger that includes cauliflower.  I know, you must be saying, “No-more-cauliflower!”  If you are looking for an outstanding veggie patty, don’t count this one out.

There are probably more veggie-burger-patty posts on this blog than anything else. It is also true that in each case the latest is always the best.  This one really is!

Hear me out. If you have labored over as many veggie burgers as I have, it’s likely that you have established your own preferences.

Flavor
Personally, I like the falafel flavor range: cumin and other warm spices, plus a little heat all work in this format.  Not so much that it overwhelms other flavors.
Texture
Not too wet or too dry; it must hold its shape. Not too heavy or too light.  We want to be fully satisfied, but not have a bomb to process.
Nutrition
Healthful ingredients are key. A variety of vegetables plus a combination of grains, legumes, pulses and/or beans all help to balance, boost food value, and increase taste, nutrition, and overall interest.

Cauliflower
Yes, the perfect veggie patty must have a lot going for itself, and who would think cauliflower could be such a big player?  My recent cauliflower marathon confirms all of these suspicions.

»  Its assertive yet mild flavor profile works well with the falafel requirement.
»  It has the ability to hold its shape with the right binders.
» It is light, nutritious, and a big team player.

May I present the most outstanding veggie burger… of the day?

Cauliflower-Lentil Veggie Patties

Ingredients
2 cups riced cauliflower, or a partial head of cauliflower
¾ cup dried red lentils, rinsed
½ cup bulgur wheat
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ onion, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 cup cremini mushrooms chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon coriander
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon coconut oil
½ teaspoon Korean red pepper flakes
½ cup falafel mix (found in specialty stores or bulk food section)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 beaten egg
1 cup panko, approximate
¼ cup coconut oil for cooking, divided (approximate)

Accompaniments:
Any of all of the following:  grated cheese, tomato, avocado, pickled pepper, yogurt sauce, Sriracha, sprouts, or sautéed kale.

Instructions

  1. To prepare the cauliflower, cut into florets. Cut or pulse in food processor until the size of large rice grains. Set aside.
  2. Rinse the lentils, place in small pot with 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until soft but still holding shape, 10-15 minutes.
  3. Soak the bulgur wheat in 1 cup boiling water with a pinch of salt. Cover and let stand 15 minutes until swelled. Drain.
  4. In medium sauté pan over medium-high, heat the olive oil and add the onion and the thyme, cook to soften, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the mushrooms and garlic, stirring to soften the mushrooms. Add the coriander, a few grinds sea salt and freshly ground pepper and sauté to remove additional liquid, 1-2 minutes longer. Place in bowl of food process.
  6. To sauté pan, add 1 tablespoon coconut oil and then the cauliflower. Season with red pepper flakes and a sprinkling of salt. Cook until cauliflower begins to soften and color 3-4 minutes. Don’t overcook.  Remove to processor bowl.
  7. Pulse all the vegetables, bulgur, and lentils until coarse texture, but not pureed. Place in large mixing bowl. Stir in falafel mix, the lemon juice, and the egg. It should for a loose mass. Cover and let rest 20-30 minutes in fridge.
  8. Stir up to 1 cup panko into the mixing bowl to form a cohesive but not too wet mixture that holds together well. The panko is designed to bind and lighten the mixture, don’t over mix. It will also help with browning.
  9. Divide into 8 portions, shape into patties 3-1/2” x ½” thick, and place on parchment lined pan. Cover and chill 20 minutes longer or up to 1 day.
  10. Over medium, heat skillet with 2-3 teaspoons coconut oil. Cook in 2-3 batches. Cover while cooking the first side, about 5 minutes, until browned and well heated. Turn, add a bit more oil and brown second side, about 4 minutes longer. Cool on rack.
  11. Serve with bun or pita or choice. Top with grated cheese, tomato, avocado, pickled pepper, yogurt sauce, and shredded lettuce or sautéed kale. Yield: 8 patties.

Soup: So Easy, So Elegant

This weekend I had the rare good fortune to receive a beautiful bag of fresh Jerusalem artichokes. Since I was not familiar with them, my mind immediately started whirling as to what to do and how to proceed.

If you haven’t seen sunchokes up close, they are a root that looks very much like ginger root. But, straight out of the garden it is a very different story.  They can be a real tangled mess of hairy shoots, extraneous knobs, and matted soil. Thanks to my friend Kathy, she would have none of that.  She is so meticulous she probably vacuums her garden. My artichokes were so gorgeous, Kathy must have vacuumed them too!

Jerusalem Artichokes

Turns out Jerusalem artichokes are first peeled, and then they can be eaten either raw or cooked. They have a clean, slightly nutty flavor, with a texture between a potato and a radish.

This particular weekend was dedicated to testing pressure cooker recipes, so it was the obvious tool for me to use. Regular followers may recall that lately I have become so smitten with cauliflower that it keeps popping up on the blog, in one form or another.

My choice was pre-destined.  A creamy hot soup would feature a lovely combination of cauliflower (of course) and Jerusalem artichokes, reminiscent of French vichyssoise. The cauliflower adds plenty of thickening power and blends well with the artichokes. Turns out, it is a very simple soup, thanks to an assist from my latest pressure cooker, a Fagor Multi-cooker.

It begins with a quick sauté of leeks and garlic in melted butter, then cauliflower and Jerusalem artichokes are added, seasoned, and all briefly stirred together.  Chicken stock is poured in to barely cover and the unit is set to pressure mode for a mere 6 minutes.

To finish the soup, an immersion blender purees it all while it is thinned with a bit coconut milk. The flavors are subtle yet intriguing – only requiring an adjustment of salt, white pepper, and dash of nutmeg.

This is a beautiful soup, both in taste and appearance. I served it piping hot, topped with a float of sautéed mushrooms and green onions. So easy, so elegant.

Cauliflower and Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Mushroom Salad Float

Prepared in pressure cooker, but not required. If not using, proceed as directed, but simmer the soup about 30 minutes instead of 6 minutes in pressure cooker

Ingredients
2 tablespoons butter
2 leeks, white only – about 1-1/2 cups
1 clove garlic, minced
3 cups riced cauliflower or florets cut up
1 cup Jerusalem artichokes peeled and sliced (5 oz.)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup lite coconut milk
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Garnish:  Sliced mushrooms and onions sautéed with rosemary; and/or sliced green onion.

Instructions

  1. In pressure cooker set to SAUTE, cook leeks and garlic in butter over medium heat to soften.
  2. Stir in the cauliflower and Jerusalem artichokes, season with salt and white pepper and toss well. Pour in chicken stock to cover.
  3. Cover with lid, set to PRESSURE mode and cook for 6 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile prepare Mushroom Salad for garnish. In olive oil, sauté mushrooms, onion, rosemary, salt and pepper in olive oil to release liquid. Set aside. Slice green onion for garnish.
  5. When complete, use quick release method, then remove lid.
  6. Using immersion blender, puree until smooth thinning with coconut milk. Add nutmeg and adjust seasoning with salt or white pepper to taste.
  7. Ladle hot soup into bowls, top with Mushroom Salad and sprinkle with green onion.

 

Cauliflower Curiosity

Like many others, I’m curious about cauliflower and where it might lead me.  Even with its sometimes strong cruciferous flavors, it has the ability to carry other flavors as well.  I suspect it can be a real workhorse if its powers are properly unleashed—especially in lieu of starches and carbs.

One evening recently I didn’t have much in the fridge except a few aging vegetables, eggs, and a partial bag of riced cauliflower.  Since fried rice is the perfect venue for using up odds and ends, it is a handy meal to have in rotation.  But, as much as I like fried rice, I rarely have extra rice sitting around.  So, why not cauliflower?

I went to town, thinking fried rice.  I whacked a little bacon off my stash in the freezer and threw it into a hot skillet.   I added a healthy combination of the usual suspects: onion, red pepper, peas and carrots… This is  a stir fry that comes together in a hurry.

The star here, of course, is the cauliflower, but with this cast of characters it blends right in with all the other flavors and is hard to identify as such.  Other good news: it does not require much oil, and lacks the greasiness that can sometimes be an issue with fried rice.  Further, it tastes surprisingly clean and is highly satisfying.

For anyone not paying attention, I can see where this would be a great way to nefariously slip veggies into the mouths of non-believers.  More good news, the cauliflower fried rice holds up very well. Should you have any ‘leftover’, it can be reheated in the microwave.

Cauliflower Fried Rice

Ingredients
4-5 cups riced cauliflower or more.  Or, a partial head of cauliflower
2 slices bacon, sliced
½ medium onion
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup red pepper, chopped
1 cup frozen peas, carrots, and/or corn, partially defrosted
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
¼ tsp. salt and pepper
2 egg
¼ cup green onion, 1-2 green onions

Instructions

  1. Use riced cauliflower or clean and cut the cauliflower into chunks. Place in food processor and pulse to chop the cauliflower until it resembles large grains of rice.
  2. In a medium-large sauté pan sauté the bacon over medium heat until it begins to crisp. Remove and drain the bacon on toweling. Leave 2-3 teaspoons of bacon fat in pan.
  3. Increase heat to medium high heat, add the onion and toss for 1-2 mins to soften; add the minced garlic and cook until aromatic. Add the red pepper and toss lightly.
  4. Move the vegetables aside, add the sesame oil then the cauliflower. Stir fry 3-4 minutes, until tender-crisp but not soft.
  5. Lower the heat to medium, add the partially defrosted vegetables, the soy sauce, and toss until the vegetables are heated. Return the bacon to the pan.
  6. Beat the eggs with salt and pepper.
  7. Add ¾ of the green onion to the pan vegetables and move them all to one side. Pour in the beaten eggs and stir to form soft curds and then combine with the vegetables.
  8. Top with remainder of green onions and serve. Serves 3-4.