Sunday, December 17, 2017

Sweet Potato Melts

I made these the day after making the Brussels sprout melts. I think this may become a lunchtime theme. I had plenty of bread left over, and I needed to use up more of my farmers market haul. Veggie melts like these are a great way to get in your vegetables and they make quite a yummy lunch. This one was inspired by my love of sweet potatoes fries with garlic aioli, and then I added some onions and parmesan because, well, I always do. Unlike the Brussels sprouts melt, this actually was planned in advance - I got the idea one day just sitting around, so I wrote in in the notes section of my phone as usual. Unfortunately, I was missing one element from my original plan that I think would have been delicious - I was planning on topping these with a little arugula lightly dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. If you have those ingredients, I'd highly suggest you give it a try (and then tell me what you think!). But I assure you these sweet potato melts are still plenty delicious without!

Sweet Potato Melts
Yield: 2 servings

For the sandwich:
1 sweet potato
1 medium red onion
1-2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Garlic aioli (see below)
4 1/2-inch thick slices of hearty country bread
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
For the aioli:
1/2 c mayonnaise
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
1 clove garlic
Squeeze of lemon juice
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 425. If you've scrubbed the sweet potato, you don't need to worry about peeling it unless you feel strongly about such things. Cut in half lengthwise, then slice into 1/4-inch thick half moons. Peel the onion and slice in the same way as the sweet potato.
  2. Add to a baking sheet (or a rimmed pizza stone, if you have one) and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for about 20-25 minutes, or until lightly browned. Once the vegetables are out, preheat the broiler if needed.
  3. While the vegetables cook, make the aioli: add the mayonnaise and parsley to a bowl. Mince the garlic, add a pinch of the kosher salt, and use the flat side of your knife to mash it to a paste.
  4. Add the garlic and a squeeze of lemon juice to the mayonnaise, season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. The aioli should have a fairly strong garlic flavor.
  5. Spread a thin layer of aioli on each slice of bread1, top with the vegetables, and finish with the parmesan. Cook under the broiler until cheese is melted and browned.
  1. You will have leftover aioli. I fully expect you to roast any vegetable you can find and use the aioli as a dip.
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Monday, November 20, 2017

Brussels Sprout Melts

Happy Thanksgiving week! I've got a very fall recipe for you today. I'd love to say that this one was premeditated, but the reality is that I went to make mushroom toast with some mushrooms I really needed to use up, only to find that I was a couple of days too late (RIP mushrooms, you deserved better). Fortunately I had some Brussels sprouts from the farmers market (I wonder how many times I've said that exact phrase?), so I instead threw them on top of the bread I'd bought for the mushroom toast. It was delicious! Even my sister (a Brussels sprouts hater) said so. With such a ringing endorsement and a small ingredient list, I'd suggest you make this very soon (a light Thanksgiving lunch, perhaps?).

Brussels Sprout Melts
Yield: 2 servings

1 small or 1/2 large sweet onion
1 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper, to taste
15-20 medium Brussels sprouts
Olive oil, for the pan
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
4 1/2-inch thick slices of hearty country bread
2 tbsp softened butter1
Garlic salt (optional)2
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  1. Cut the onion in half lengthwise and thinly slice into half moons. Add to a skillet over medium heat and cook until caramelized to your liking3. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  2. Preheat the broiler if yours is the type that needs preheating. While the onions cook, clean and dry the Brussels sprouts and thinly slice them crosswise (you don't even need to halve them, in which case you will essentially be cutting thin circles off the sprouts).
  3. Add the Brussels sprouts to another skillet with a glug of olive oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes, if desired, and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Cook the sprouts, stirring often, until they are beginning to brown. Remove from heat and mix in the onions.
  5. While the Brussels sprouts are cooking, spread the butter on the bread, sprinkle with garlic salt, if using, and run under the broiler to toast lightly4.
  6. When the bread is toasted, pile on the Brussels sprout/onion mixture and top with the parmesan. Broil again until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown. Enjoy!

  1. I had some delicious garlic-chive butter that I made over the summer in my freezer, so I defrosted that and used it on the bread. It was delicious, and I'd recommend making some: add a pasted garlic clove and a few tbsp chopped chives to a softened stick of butter. Combine in a bowl and then re-shape into a stick. Roll in plastic wrap, seal in a ziploc bag, and store in the freezer.
  2. If you don't have the aforementioned garlic butter, a nice sprinkling of garlic salt over the butter before broiling would be wonderful as well.
  3. Caramelizing onions takes a long time! Some recipes will tell you 15-20 minutes, but that's simply not true. This is more like a 40-minute process. Fortunately, you can make them in advance and store them in the fridge for quite a while.
  4. Even if you like your toast dark, don't overdo it here. The bread will go back under the broiler once it has the sandwich ingredients on it, and if you toast it too darkly at first, it will burn.
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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Carrot Fritters with Yogurt Sauce and Carrot Top Chimichurri

This was, improbably, one of the best things I have made in quite a while. I don't even like carrots overly much. I made the fritters because I had some (admittedly beautiful rainbow) carrots leftover from a stew I made (recipe coming eventually), and I made the chimichurri because I can't bear to throw out a huge bunch of edible greens. I did not expect the warmly spiced fritters to have such a glorious balance of flavor and texture, and I didn't even expect to like the chimichurri that much at all. I was worried the whole thing would be too overwhelmingly carrot-y - soggy fritters with a bland, oily sauce on top. But, improbably, I made them despite these concerns. And, equally improbably, they were unbelievable.

I could go on about what chimichurri is and how this is a twist on the classic, how you don't need to measure anything for the yogurt sauce or any spices for the fritters, and how my terrible nighttime pictures don't do them justice, but I'm just going to tell you to make these. Seek out carrots with leafy tops, rainbow ones if you can, and make these fritters ASAP.

Carrot Fritters with Yogurt Sauce and Carrot Top Chimichurri
Yield: about 20 fritters (serves 4-6)
Fritters adapted from King Arthur Flour
Chimichurri adapted from Love & Lemons

For the chimichurri:
1 c finely chopped carrot greens
2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (to taste)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c white wine vinegar
1/4 c olive oil

For the yogurt sauce:
1/2 c Greek yogurt
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, minced
Kosher salt
Drizzle of olive oil

For the fritters:
1 lb carrots, scrubbed but only peeled if you're particular about that sort of thing
2 eggs
1/4 c flour, plus more as needed
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp paprika
Vegetable oil
  1. Make the yogurt sauce: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Set aside to allow flavors to meld.
  2. Make the chimichurri: Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Taste on a cracker or small piece of bread and adjust seasonings as necessary.
  3. Make the fritters: Preheat the oven to 200 (or lowest setting). Line a rimmed baking sheet with a triple layer of paper towels and set aside.
  4. Grate carrots on the large holes of a box grater. Lightly beat the eggs, then mix all ingredients in a large bowl. The batter will not look very cohesive, and that's fine, but if it's really loose, add flour 1 tbsp at a time until the carrots look lightly coated.
  5. Heat a few tbsp oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Once a small pinch of batter sizzles when dropped in the oil, you can start cooking the fritters.
  6. Drop batter by rounded spoonsful into the oil and press down gently with a spatula. Cook for 2-3 minutes on a side, and transfer to the prepared baking sheet when done. Keep warm in the oven until serving time.
  7. Serve warm with the two sauces and rice, if desired (the sauces are fantastic on rice). Enjoy!
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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Butternut Squash Tacos

"Greater than the sum of its parts" is probably over-used in food writing, but it nonetheless is sort of a Holy Grail. To be able to take simple, easily available ingredients and make them into something delicious and satisfying is a pretty cool thing. I think this is true for a couple of reasons: readily available often means (relatively) affordable, using ingredients you can find at your local grocery store means you can replicate this recipe whenever, and it makes you feel like an awesome cook for just throwing together a few things and producing something wonderful (these reasons are mainly from a home cook's perspective, but hey, that's what I am!). Tacos are generally regarded as a type of recipe that fits this description, but I hadn't had much luck with homemade tacos until not too long ago. Truthfully, I'd only had a few really mind-blowing tacos in my lifetime, so I didn't have much to go on. Technically, I suppose, anything that is put in a tortilla and folded in half can be a taco, but having a few simple guidelines really helps. Starting with a flavorful, well-seasoned base of either meat or vegetables is a given, and from there I'd recommend only 2-3 toppings that each contribute something different. For example, these tacos have pickled red onions for an acidic, savory pop, ricotta for creaminess, and chopped cilantro for bright herbiness. Simple ingredients, but together they are magic. Did I mention these tacos are also cheap and filling?

Also, hello! At this point a several-month hiatus is becoming the norm (grad school...), so I figured there was no point in addressing it. I've got a few more things lined up that hopefully I'll get around to posting, including a few very loose recipes like the one for today.

Make these - warm, bright tacos on a winter evening are a lovely change of pace.

Butternut Squash Tacos
Yield: Honestly, however many tacos your little heart desires
Pickled red onions from Saveur

For the pickled red onions:
Half of a large red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1-2 cloves garlic, halved lengthwise
3/4 c red wine vinegar
For the squash:
Butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I used about 1/3 of a huge one for four tacos/one serving)
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Paprika and ground or whole cumin seeds
Minced garlic
For serving:
Corn tortillas
Ricotta cheese (or queso fresco or feta or...)
Chopped fresh cilantro

  1. Ideally at least an hour before dinner: Combine the onions and 1/2 tbsp kosher salt in a bowl and let sit for about 15 minutes, until onions start to soften and release a bit of liquid. While that happens, combine the rest of the pickled onion ingredients in a pint jar and shake. Add the onions when they are ready and refrigerate. The recipe says to wait at least four hours for using, but I found them delicious after just an hour or so.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375. Toss the squash with enough olive oil to lightly coat and season with salt, pepper, paprika, and cumin. Roast until soft all the way through, then turn off the oven, toss with garlic, and return to the oven.
  3. While the garlic cooks lightly in the oven, heat a nonstick skillet over high heat. Once it is very hot, (very) lightly moisten the tortillas one at a time and cook in the skillet on both sides, until warm, dry, and pliable, with a few small brown spots.
  4. Add a few spoonsful of the squash/garlic mixture to each tortilla and top with pickled onions, a few small dollops of ricotta, and some cilantro.
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