tuscan sweet potato fries

tuscan sweet potato fries

I blame Nigella for this recipe, and many apologies to all of you who make these sweet potato fries – they are worse than a bag full of peanut M & M’s – no way is it possible to eat just one. If you’re ready, then go all in. Fair warning. But just so you know where I stand on this topic – GO ALL IN.

Last week I was teased into indulging in olive oil, cream and buttery Italian liqueur thanks to Nigella’s new book, and now I couldn’t help myself from trying her method for making Tuscan Fries.

She credits Cesare Casella, a chef originally from Lucca, for inventing Tuscan Fries; potatoes deep-fried with aromatic herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme) and whole garlic cloves. Sounds delicious, no? But what really got me interested in the recipe was the method Nigella adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, a “revolutionary” fuss-free way to deep-fry, which involves starting with the potatoes in cold oil, heating to a rapid boil and frying to perfection in about 25 minutes.

tuscan sweet potato fries

I don’t like messing with deep-frying usually, but I became very curious and decided to give it a go. I didn’t have any of the waxy potatoes called for in Nigella’s recipe, so I forged ahead with a few sweet potatoes instead.

I also decided not to use corn oil. For both health and flavor reasons, I don’t cook with ultra-processed vegetable oils. It’s olive oil or nothing for the most part (well, except for really good butter and the occasional fling with duck fat, which also makes killer fries).

However, I saved the extra-virgin oil for another day and used a “light” olive oil, which I’m afraid after reading the excellent book Extra Virginity is just as scandalously corrupted and impure as a tanker full of cheap soybean oil. But what the hell. At some point you have to just move on and start frying.

tuscan sweet potato fries

Which I did, and I’m pleased to report that the recipe worked like a charm. The sweet potatoes emerged dark and crisp and were perfectly tender on the inside. The crunchy bits of fried herbs shatter into tiny shards that coat the potatoes, giving every mouthful a taste of them. The garlic slips out of the skin, golden and soft; just right for squeezing out onto the sweet potatoes for even more flavor.

I had some smoked salt and sprinkled some of it over everything, which kind of took it over the top into sweet potato fantastic-ness.

One more great thing – save the oil; it’s aromatic with herbs and garlic. I measured the oil after cooking as Nigella says she did in the recipe introduction, and recovered almost exactly all of it. So cold-start deep frying might not be such an indulgence after all.

tuscan sweet potato fries

Serving Size: serves 4 - 6

A deep fry thermometer is highly recommended here.

Ingredients

  1. 3 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 ¾ pounds)
  2. 1 ½ quarts “light” olive oil
  3. 1 head of garlic, separated into cloves (unpeeled)
  4. Handful each rosemary, sage and thyme sprigs
  5. Smoked sea salt, kosher or sea salt

Instructions

  1. Trim off the ends of the sweet potatoes (no need to peel them), stand them on end and slice down vertically into ½-wide planks, then into ½-inch wide fries. If the potatoes are longer than 4 inches, cut the slices in half.
  2. Put the sweet potatoes in a wide, heavy pot (I used a 4-quart casserole pot 10 inches in diameter and 4 inches deep); cover with the oil, place over high heat and bring to a boil. It should take about 5 minutes.
  3. Once the oil is bubbling vigorously, set a timer for 15 minutes. Use a deep-fry thermometer to adjust the heat if needed, keeping the oil somewhere between 275 and 300 degrees.
  4. After 15 minutes, carefully move the sweet potatoes around with a pair of long tongs to mix them around a little. Add the garlic cloves and continue frying for another 5 or 10 minutes, keeping your eye peeled that neither the potatoes or garlic gets too dark.
  5. Test a fry – carefully- for doneness. If they are golden and crisp and tender on the inside, toss in the herbs (stand back while you do this in case of splatters) and fry for another minute or so.
  6. Use a slotted skimmer to transfer everything to a towel-lined baking sheet. Blot briefly and sprinkle with salt; serve right away.

Notes

Recipe inspired by Tuscan Fries in Nigellissima

http://familystylefood.com/2013/03/tuscan-sweet-potato-fries/

escarole lentil salad with sweet potatoes

Lentil-escarole-salad-with-roasted-sweet-potatoes

I’m on a roll with my Italian bitter greens, looks like. I grabbed a bunch of escarole yesterday while I was grocery shopping, bypassing the baby spinach-arugula-mixed lettuce I’ve gotten into the habit of buying.

Do you remember the time before prewashed salad came in plastic boxes? It seems like a lonnnnng time ago when I used to buy fresh, whole heads of lettuce, wash and dry them in my salad spinner. I know! The labor! The convenience of those containers of greens has made me lazy, I regret.

There’s a lot to be said for choosing whole heads of salad greens. For one, there are certain varieties that don’t come packaged in a little box – like Little Gem, which is like a small, tender version of Romaine. And speaking of Romaine, whenever I buy a head of it to make homemade Caesar salad instead of those bags of pale, wilted hearts, I appreciate how great Romaine is: leafy, crunchy and sweet.

escarole

But back to the subject – I didn’t mean to go off on a salad tangent. Actually, when I was growing up escarole rarely appeared raw in a salad. Rather it was the star – along with tiny meatballs – in a delicious soup my mom would make for holidays or what came before the main course at family weddings. I’m going to have to scout out that recipe…

Escarole was made for a hearty, wintery salad like this one. I cooked tiny black lentils and mixed them with some leftover roasted sweet potatoes. The contrast of colors in the bowl perked up the gray day outside, in a big way.

lentil-salad-with-escarole-and-sweet-potato

escarole lentil salad with sweet potatoes

Serving Size: serves 4

Any size or color lentils will be great in this salad, However, I like tiny green French or black lentils because they keep their shape after cooking

Ingredients

  1. 1 cup lentils – any size or color
  2. Salt
  3. 1 shallot, finely chopped
  4. 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  5. 2 teaspoons wine or sherry vinegar
  6. Fresh ground black pepper
  7. 1 small bunch escarole, outer leaves removed
  8. 1 cup diced, roasted sweet potatoes *

Instructions

  1. Cook the lentils with 2 teaspoons salt in a large saucepan of boiling water about 25 minutes, or until tender.
  2. Drain the lentils and mix in a bowl with the shallot, olive oil, vinegar and a few grinds of black pepper.
  3. Trim off the stem of the escarole and slice into bite-sized pieces; add to the lentils along with the sweet potatoes and toss together.

Notes

*To roast sweet potatoes, cut into wedges or chunks (no need to peel) and toss on a baking sheet with a few tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a preheated 425 degree oven about 20 minutes, until tender and lightly brown.

http://familystylefood.com/2013/01/escarole-lentil-salad-with-sweet-potatoes/

Sweet Potato-Black Bean Chili with Goat Cheese

Not-too-spicy vegetarian chili

Not-too-spicy vegetarian chili

We usually have at least one vegetarian sharing Thanksgiving with us, so I like to have a an interesting meatless main dish on the table along with some traditional side dishes – that way no one feels like they’re missing anything.
And personally, while I like trying a new turkey preparation every year – whether it’s brining, stuffing or not stuffing, oven-roasting or grilling, my enthusiasm for the bird wanes when it lands on the table. I’d much rather fill up on the colorful array of vegetables instead.
Plus, everyone knows that all Thanksgiving fixings taste better the next day, so having a pot of chili on hand is a good thing, vegetarian or not. There’s nothing wrong with some tasty chili in bowl, with a gravy-drenched turkey leg on top.

Sweet Potato-Black Bean Chili with Goat Cheese

Serving Size: serves 4 - 6

Ingredients

  1. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 1 medium red onion, sliced
  3. 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  4. 3 crushed garlic cloves
  5. 1 teaspoon each ground cumin, coriander, smoked paprika
  6. 1/2 teaspoon each ground black pepper and ground chipotle
  7. 4 cups peeled and diced sweet potato (about 2 large)
  8. Vegetable stock or water
  9. 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  10. 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  11. 1 (14-ounce) can black beans
  12. 1 (14-0unce) can pinto beans
  13. 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
  14. Warm tortillas

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a large (6-quart) pan or stockpot. Add the onion and cook until softened and just beginning to brown; stir in the salt and garlic and cook about 1 minute or until the garlic smells good.
  2. Sprinkle in the spices and ground black and chipotle pepper, stirring to dissolve in the oil. Add the sweet potatoes and pour over enough stock or water just to cover them. Cover the pot and cook over medium heat until tender (not mushy), about 20 minutes.
  3. Add the mustard, maple syrup and beans (including their liquid) to the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered another 10 minutes or so to blend the flavors. If you like your chili more soupy, add more stock.
  4. Serve in bowls topped with some cheese with warm tortillas alongside.
http://familystylefood.com/2009/11/sweet-potato-black-bean-chili-with-goat-cheese/