Friday, June 28, 2013

Fool Proof Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Baked sweet potato fries are not as easy to pull off as their white potato cousins. They can stick to the baking sheet and turn from an appetizing bronze to charcoal-tipped in moments.  This easy technique for baking then roasting lightly glazed sweet potato wedges takes the babysitting out of the equation and garners pure and wonderful results every time.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries
serves 4
4 medium sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
2-3 tablespoons water or beer
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 325˚F.  Line a large baking pan with 2-3 inch rim with foil and lightly oil.
  2. Peel sweet potatoes and cut into wedges by cutting each in half lengthwise.  Cut each half into quarters to yield 8 wedges per potato.
  3. Combine soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger and water.
  4. Place sweet potato wedges in prepared pan.  Pour sauce over potatoes and toss to coat well.  Tightly cover baking pan with foil.
  5. Bake sweet potatoes at 325˚F for 40-50 minutes, until wedges are almost tender.  
  6. Remove foil top and turn oven temperature up to 375˚F.  Continue cooking 10-15 minutes, gently turning the wedges with a spatula halfway through. 
  7. When slighty crisp and a deep bronze color, remove sweet potatoes from oven and season with salt and pepper.
What do you dip you sweet potato fries in? Ketchup is alright, but not the best match.  Try a sour cream dip or whip up an aioli mayonaise (garlic-infused) to compliment this easy side dish. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Orange Couscous

This knock out side dish is almost too simple to be this good.  The citrus sweet tones go perfectly with grilled pork tenderloin.

Because of its short preparation time, couscous is perfect summer fare.  Steep the tiny pasta in boiled water for five minutes and the couscous blooms.  An infusion of orange juice, orange zest and basil gives the side a light, ethereal flavor that goes perfectly with any summer grilled main course.  A last minute toss with fresh chopped basil and toasted almonds and Orange Couscous is ready for company, hot or cold. 

Orange Couscous
Serves 4
¾ cup couscous
Zest of 1/2 orange
½ teaspoon honey
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
2 medium oranges (one juiced and the second peeled, pitted and sectioned)*
-juice of 1 medium orange plus enough  boiling water to equal 1 cup
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
5-6 basil leaves, chopped (julienned is nice)
*4 ounces store-bought OJ and a small can of drained mandarin oranges can be substituted)

  1. Place couscous, orange zest, salt and butter in a medium bowl.  
  2. Mix juice and honey with boiling water and pour over couscous. Stir to moisten all the pasta.  
  3. Cover bowl with a plate and let sit 5-7 minutes.  
  4. Remove plate and with a fork, fluff pasta.  
  5. Stir in basil and almonds.  Chop reserved orange segments into bite-sized pieces and stir into couscous.  Garnish with extra basil leaves.
Orange Couscous is also a match for grilled lamb, chicken or fish.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Pesto Chicken Shell Game

There are a lot of really great pesto pasta shell recipes on the internet.  One, with chicken, seems to have been copied about quite a bit.  

I use a different selection of cheeses in my Pesto Chicken Shells and add chopped broccoli.  Adding a vegetable helps to lighten the filling and who can deny that pesto loves broccoli?  It surprises me that more recipes don't include more vegetables in rolled, stuffed and ground dishes. 

Just last week I made a wonderful chicken enchilada with a pumpkin sauce that was crying out for mushrooms and zucchini in the filling.  Next time, I may skip the chicken and use all veggies plus black beans, one of pumpkin's best friends. 

Pesto Chicken Shells are very simple but take about 45 minutes to prepare if you are not using already cooked chicken, so plan ahead.  Other than that they are easy, you can recruit help for the stuffing stage and you can even freeze the un-sauced shells individually for a quick, pure dinner down the road.

Pesto Chicken Shell Game
Yield: about 20 shells

20-22 jumbo pasta shells
1 large chicken boneless breast (or 1 ½ cups leftover cooked chicken)
1 cup broccoli florets
2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
1 ounce cream cheese
1/2-3/4 cup pesto sauce

1-2 cups marinara sauce
1-2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
¼ pine nuts (optional)

  1. Poach chicken breast, cool and dice into small pieces. 
  2. Meanwhile, steam broccoli until juts tender, 5-6 minutes.  
  3. Cook pasta shells according to package directions, opting for the shorter amount of time listed in the package and when the shells are flexible enough to open without breaking but not fully cooked.  (Toss in a few extra shells in case any tear.)
  4. While pasta cooks, combine the chicken, half the mozzarella, cream cheese and ½ cup pesto in a large bowl.  
  5. Chop cooked broccoli to about the size of the chicken pieces and fold into chicken mixture.  
  6. Taste and add salt and pepper or more pesto, to taste.  These are pesto shells so you want that flavor to stand out.
  7. When shells are ready, rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.  Drain thoroughly.  Using a teaspoon, fill each shell with about 2 heaping teaspoons of filling.  Set each filled shell in a lightly oiled baking pan. (and 8”X8” pan will fit the shells snugly).  
  8. At this stage, you may freeze the shells. Once frozen, they can be repackaged into individual servings for later use.  
  9. If enjoying tonight, preheat oven to 350˚F.  Pour marinara sauce over shells (use a light touch) and cover with remaining mozzarella cheese and the Parmesan cheese.  Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes.  
  10. During the last few minutes of baking, sprinkle whole pine nuts over the cheese.  Allow the pasta dish to rest a few minutes out of the oven before serving.  This will help with a neat service.  Pass extra heated marinara if your family likes more sauce. 
Enjoy your vegetables and preserve your garden's bounty.  More ideas coming this summer. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Isles Flotant for Two

A dessert to share...
Inspired by our niece’s wedding cake last year, this is a lovely anniversary dessert with lemon and raspberry flavors (and a touch of chocolate).   While much lower in calories, it will remind you of many a wedding cake including, perhaps, yours.

This romantic dessert for two requires only 1 egg and can be made ahead.  Iles Flotant are scoops (islands) of simple meringue floating in vanilla sauce. The recipe takes very little time.  Whip the egg whites for the meringue and make the sauce while the souffle bakes.   My recipe is based on Julia Child’s that serves 12 (and requires 10-12 eggs).   I refer you to her recipe to serve a crowd. Tonight, it’s just you two. 

Iles Flotant for Two
(recipe may be doubled)

Meringue Souffle (the Islands)
1 egg white
pinch cream of tartar
2 T sugar
1/4 t vanilla
Butter to prepare pan

  1. Preheat oven to 325˚F.  
  2. Butter a small oven proof dish- that holds about 3 cups and is strait sided.  
  3. Beat egg whites until foamy.  Add cream of tartar and a few grains of salt and beat until soft peaks form.  
  4. Add sugar a little at a time and beat until stiff peaks form.  Batter will be shiny.  Fold in vanilla.  
  5. poon into prepared dish and bake at 325˚F for 20 minutes.  Make ahead or serve immediately.  Souffle may fall slightly but will not affect dessert’s taste or charm. 

Crème Anglaise  (Vanilla Sauce)
1 egg yolk
2 T sugar
1/3 cup milk
1/2 t vanilla

  1. While souffle bakes, make the vanilla sauce.  In a small bowl, gradually add sugar to egg yolk and whisk until pale yellow.  
  2. Heat milk to 180˚F.  (Use a microwave-safe glass pitcher on high for 30 seconds.)
  3. Temper the milk with a tablespoon or two of egg yolk mixture, then combine the remaining milk and egg mixture in  a small, heavy bottomed pot.  
  4. Cook over very low heat to thicken sauce, stirring frequently to maintain a smooth and keep egg from cooking on bottom of pan.  This will take about 5 minutes.  Add vanilla. Set aside.

Sauces and Fruit
1/4 cup warmed lemon curd (heat in microwave for 20-30 seconds to make it pourable)
1/4 cup warm chocolate sauce or shaved chocolate
1/3 cup fresh raspberries (or strawberries)

To Serve
 Coat two shallow dessert plates  (or one to share) with Crème Anglaise and spoon out “islands” of meringue souffle using a large tablespoon or serving spoon, giving each person 2-3 small islands.  Pour chocolate sauce over one island and lemon sauce over the other.  Garnish with fresh raspberries.

Happy Anniversary Brooke & Wilson!
Sans chocolate!