I apologize, ladies and gentlemen, for the lapse in our posting, but it has been a long week and a half. Since we last posted Dustin and I have packed virtually every item in our little home into boxes. We have meticulously planned our move, transferred utilities, found adequate transportation, and recruited assistance from very kind friends, only to find that on our planned moving day our road will be closed virtually all day for Nashville’s Music City Marathon. We will not have access to our street, or to the alley behind it, and will not be able to park within a 4 block radius of our current dwelling. So much for meticulous planning. After spending Saturday morning panic stricken, I came up with a slightly nutty plan B that will put our now free morning to use by installing the raised beds we have planned for our very first home vegetable garden.
A few weeks back I spent several hours perusing the Burpee catalog for the best possible array of organic seeds that could be direct sown into the garden. Just before ordering Dustin and I ventured out to Whole Foods, where we discovered that our local store had its own great selection of seeds, with no shipping required. Our current design is for four – four by four foot raised beds, arranged according to the length of the growing season (some we are hoping to get two seasons out of – be reaping, tilling, and resewing in late august) and the amount of water needed to grow the crops. We are also planning a salad table, a shallow, portable, and lightweight raised bed that can be used for growing delicate salad greens and have high hopes to grow “trash can” sweet potatoes.
I never used to be much of a fan of sweet potatoes. In my mind, they were part of the “potato” category, which I dismissed entirely as bland and starchy. It wasn’t until 2 years ago, on a camping trip in Kentucky, that I finally realized how wrong I had been to eschew this brilliant tuber. The powers that be that bestowed the name on this veggie got one thing right, they are indeed sweet, its hard to fathom that so many recipes for sweet potatoes call for additions of sugar, maple, or even, gasp, marshmallows. When roasted for long periods of time these bright orange gems literally ooze with sugary sweetness that is entirely their own.
In this dish, which was sparked by a sweet potato and quinoa side dish on Sprouted Kitchen, I combine sweet roasted sweet potato nuggets with smoky paprika, earthy lentils, nutty quinoa, and a zingy jalapeno dressing. The strong flavor components of the dish are inspired by the traditional smoky, hot and sweet notes of good southern barbeque. From a nutritional perspective this dish has it all covered. The sweet potatoes provide an almost unsurpassed source of Vitamin C which is best activated when combined with a small amount of fat, which can be found in the olive oil in our zingy vinaigrette. The lentils provide a great source of folate, iron, fiber, and protein. The quinoa is yet another great punch of fiber in this dish and a nice nutty and almost creamy texture to the salad. And I cannot even begin to sing the praises of Kale, it provides and excellent source of vitamins K, C, and A, as well as dietary fiber and has been hailed for its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. So don’t hesitate to dig in and enjoy this super healthy, super delicious salad.
Super Foods Salad
For the Salad Dressing
2 Jalapenos, Cut in Half (Seeds In)
3/4 C Chopped Cilantro
3 Large Cloves Garlic, Minced
2 Shallots, Minced
Zest (Minced) and Juice of 2 Limes
6 TBSP Olive Oil
For the Quinoa
1 Lg Onion, Diced
1/2 TSP Ground Corriander
1/2 TSP Ground Cumin
1/2 Cup Quinoa
1 C Water
For the Sweet Potatoes
2-3 Medium Sized Sweet Potatoes (1.5-2 lbs) Cut into 1 Inch Cubes
1 TSP Smoked Hot Paprika
1/2 TSP Kosher Salt
Olive Oil to Lightly Coat
For the Lentils
3/4 C. de Puy or Beluga Lentils
2 Bay Leaves
1 TSP Kosher Salt
1 Bunch of Kale Roughly Chopped
To make the Salad Dressing – preheat the oven to 425 degrees, rub the jalapenos lightly with salt, pepper, and olive oil and roast on a foil lined sheet pan for 15 mins, or until softened and slightly browned. Once roasted, place on a cutting board and allow to cool before mincing the jalapenos. Place the minced peppers in a small bowl along with the other dressing ingredients and mix well to combine, set aside.
To make the sweet potatoes toss the potato cubes with the spices and add just enough olive oil to lightly coat. Placed on a foil lined baking sheet and roast in the preheated oven for 20-25 mins, turning the potatoes over at least once during the roasting process.
While the potatoes roast make the quinoa. Add about a tablespoon of oil to a saute pan, add onion and sautee until softened and beginning to brown, add quinoa and spices and stir, allow spices and grains to toast, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes before adding the water, bring to a boil, add a pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 mins, or until the liquid is just absorbed. Turn off the heat and set aside.
To cook the lentils, place lentils in a sauce pan and cover with 1-2 inches of water. Add bay leaves and salt and bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until just tender (be careful not to over cook them as they will turn to mush.) As soon as the lentils are cooked, place the lentils in a colander and rinse with cool water (or shock in an ice water bath) until the lentils are just cooled (this will stop the cooking) allow to drain completely.
To serve the salad combine the sweet potatoes with the lentils, quinoa, and kale in a large bowl. Toss gently to combine. Add the dressing, a bit at a time, until just dressed (the kale will wilt slightly reducing the body of the salad, so err on the side of under-dressing as more can be added later.) Allow to sit for 15-20 minutes for the flavors to meld. Taste and add additional dressing, salt, and pepper as needed. Serve and Enjoy!
I have always had a soft spot for layered dishes, its beautiful when the many elements of a dish can build on one another harmoniously. Traditional french desserts often employ a layering technique to entice the diner with perfectly executed layers of decadent fillings, providing not only flavor, but textural contrast to each bite. Rustic savory tarts and lasagnas are even better in my mind, the home-made element of this layering creates slight anomalies in the spread of ingredients and makes each bite slightly unique. Allowing the diner to experience different combinations and quantities of flavors in unison, and to quest for their perfect bite.
This sweet potato tart, inspired by a recipe found in Yatam Ottolenghi’s first cookbook titled “Ottolenghi” fits squarely into that quirky, imperfect category that I so love. There really are just so many things to love about this dish. The hominess of sweet potatoes contrasts beautifully with the refined puff pastry. I use store bought pastry from Trader Joes which is really almost as good as store bought pastry gets, it is only a hair less superb than the ultra supreme DuFour Pastry which Whole Foods carries, but costs only a third of the price. I stock up on TJ’s puff pastry so that I have it on hand when I need to pull off something impressive looking for a party in a hurry.
Now, if I am being perfectly honest, I don’t think that I could call this dish “healthy” but as far as fancy looking party appetizers are concerned, they aren’t all that bad either. The sweet potatoes themselves are actually quite good for you, they are great sources of beta carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, and a number of B vitamins. Pumpkin seeds, often called pepitas, are also on the healthy side of the fence in this dish. The small seeds, which typically come from a pumpkin or other small gourd, are great sources of manganese, magnesium, and iron. Not too shabby for a decadently delicious appetizer.
Sweet Potato Tartelettes – Inspired by Yatam Ottolenghi
2 Nicely Proportioned Sweet Potatoes – See Note Below
1 Sheet of Frozen Puff Pastry (Or Homemade, If You Really Want to Make the Rest of Us Look Bad)
1 Egg Slightly Beaten
2 TBSP Sour Cream
1/2 A Jalapeno Pepper, Minced
2 TBSP Pumpkin Seeds
A Small Piece of Hard Goats’ or Sheeps’ Milk Cheese Such as Manchego for Grating
2-3 TBSP Chopped Cilantro
3 TBSP Olive Oil
1 TSP Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
Salt and Freshly Cracked Pepper
For this recipe you want to select two fairly evenly shaped sweet potatoes, about 2 inches wide by 5 inches long. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. While the oven heats scrub each potato under water with a potato scrubber. Lay the potatoes flat on a cutting board. Puncture each on the side that rests facing up several times with a knife. Place in a baking dish and roast in the oven until quite soft and sweet smelling, about an hour.Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a rack.
If using frozen pastry dough (highly recommended) remove the dough from the freezer and lay a single sheet out on a cutting board. Cut your pastry dough into 2 inch by 4 inch rectangles. Whisk an egg with a little bit of water and brush lightly on pastry. Allow it to dry for 2 minutes before spreading a light layer of sour cream onto each pastry, keeping a centimeter or so rim clean around the edges.
Place a few slices of sweet potato on each slice. Top with a slight sprinkling of chopped chilis, followed by a pinch or two of salt and a few grinds of pepper. On top of this layer the pumpkin seeds and a fine grating of cheese.
Bake in the oven until golden, about 20 minutes.
While the tarts bake mix together the garlic, cilantro, oil, and lime juice in a bowl, add a small pinch of salt and pepper and set aside.
Check to make sure the bottoms are cooked and crisp, not clear and soggy. Allow to cool on the pan for a few minutes before drizzling some of dressing mixture (there should be a light drizzle, be careful not to drench them.) These can be served hot or cooled slightly to just above room temp.