ROASTED SWEET POTATO WITH CORN AND SUNFLOWER SEEDS

A few things make this recipe a bit unusual. First, the sweet potato is roasted at a low temperature, 300F. Second, it is served either barely warm or at room temperature over fridge-cold lemony yogurt. And finally, it gets crowned with a hot and spicy mixture of sauteed sunflower seeds and corn. I know it all sounds a bit crazy, but when the husband praised this side dish more than he did the bison chili that went with it, I knew I had hit gold.

ROASTED SWEET POTATO WITH CORN AND SUNFLOWER SEEDS
(adapted from Start Simple)

3 medium sweet potatoes
olive oil and salt to season potatoes
1/2 cup yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tsp harissa paste
Urfa pepper (or another ground chile pepper you like)
salt to taste
2 tablespoons grape seed oil
kernels of 1 ear of corn (raw or cooked)
1/4 cup sunflowers seeds, raw
drizzle of toasted sesame oil

Turn the oven to 300F. Rub the sweet potatoes with a little olive oil, season with salt. Roast for 60 to 75 minutes, until soft (it depends on the size of the potatoes). Let the potatoes cool to room temperature, the flesh will sink and the skin will peel off super easily.  Cube the flesh in the size you like. Reserve.

Mix the yogurt with lemon juice and harissa, season lightly with salt. Place in the dish you will use to serve the potatoes.  Add the cubed potatoes on top. Just before your meal, add grape seed oil to a non-stick skillet, when it gets nice and hot add the corn kernels, season with Urfa pepper and salt. Sautee until fragrant, add the sunflower seeds and cook until they start to get golden.  Immediately add the hot mixture over the sweet potatoes, and take to the table.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: There are two ways to make sweet potatoes truly special, sous-vide and low-temperature roasting. The latter is the easiest, and if you’ve never tried them prepared this way, you are in for a treat. It is really a lot better than the more common method of blasting it at higher temperatures, either whole or cut in pieces. Roasted, they can sit in the fridge waiting for you, perfect texture, to be used in all sorts of preparations.

We enjoyed it over bison chili (made with this recipe, but using ground bison instead of ground turkey). The yogurt tames that heat from the chili, acts as a refreshing breeze on a warm summer night. A delicious dinner, that will be on our menu for sure in the near future.  The husband already requested it…

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CUCUMBER SALAD WITH HARISSA-YOGURT DRESSING

Simplicity hit again the Bewitching Kitchen. I used rose harissa because it is one of those ingredients I fell in love with a couple of years ago and now I cannot live without. If you don’t have it, use regular harissa and it will be wonderful too, it’s all about the delicate heat coupled with the soothing yogurt.  Perfect side dish for those hot days of Kansas summer. Have I ever mentioned I cannot get enough of summer?

CUCUMBER SALAD WITH HARISSA-YOGURT DRESSING
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

¼ cup full-fat yogurt
1 to 2 tsp rose harissa paste
drizzle of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Persian cucumbers, cut in rounds, then quarters
yellow or red grape tomatoes, cut in half
black sesame seeds

Mix the yogurt, oil, salt and pepper, add the harissa paste and mix gently. Add the cucumbers and tomatoes to a bowl, mix with the yogurt dressing. Let it sit in the fridge for 30 minutes (if you have the extra time), sprinkle with sesame seeds right before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I’ve shared quite a few recipes with rose harissa, one of my favorites involved chicken thighs. If you like to see the recipe, go back in time with a click here. I had never tried it in a salad dressing or any preparation in which it goes uncooked, so I am glad to report that it works well. You can adjust the amount according to your tolerance to heat. I find harissa quite pleasant, but you should play with it and see how it works best for you.

Surprisingly, leftovers were still quite good next day, I refreshed it with some additional black sesame seeds, and the flavors seemed to be even better. Cucumbers tend to release a bit of liquid, but not to the point of ruining the salad.   I hope you’ll give this recipe a try, it pairs well with salmon, chicken, pork, and if you have a nice bread, it can even stand alone as a light lunch.

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BULGUR AND CHICKPEA SALAD WITH POMEGRANATE SEEDS

I’ve been on a bulgur kick lately. It is such a nice grain, cooks in less than 10 minutes and you can enjoy it warm or cold. In the version I share today, it showed up as salad, with a very simple lemony dressing with fresh mint from our own garden. Disclaimer: I take zero credit for any fruits, legumes or herbs grown in our backyard. The husband is the gardener in charge, and for that I am forever grateful. I am a certified mint-killer.

BULGUR AND CHICKPEA SALAD WITH POMEGRANATE SEEDS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 cup bulgur
1/2 tsp salt
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 tsp paprika
2 Tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
fresh mint leaves
fresh pomegranate seeds
1/2 preserved lemon, cut in small pieces (optional)
salt and pepper for final seasoning

Cook the bulgur in a large volume of salted water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and rinse briefly with cold water. Reserve.

Place the drained chickpeas in a microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle some paprika and microwave for 15 seconds or so. Let them cool briefly.  Add the chickpeas to the bulgur in a serving bowl. Add mint leaves to taste, drizzle olive oil and lemon juice, mix everything well. Finally add pieces of preserved lemons (if using) and pomegranate seeds. Adjust seasoning, and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The little step of microwaving the chickpeas for just a few seconds with a touch of spice is absolutely worth it. I read about it a long time ago and now I just incorporate in every recipe that calls for canned chickpeas. It brightens up the flavor, and since it is such a short “cooking” time, it does not affect the texture. It exorcises  that “tinned” feel out of them.

I added preserved lemons because I made some from scratch back in April and this salad was a perfect opportunity to bring them to play. You can omit or add orange segments together with the pomegranate seeds. Leftovers keep quite well, in fact I think the salad was better at lunch next day. I added a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and a touch of additional salt. This will be in our regular rotation, I am sure.

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PICKLING RIBBONS

A couple of weeks ago we went out for dinner and I ordered a salad that  was surprisingly good. I don’t normally expect to be impressed by a salad, but that was the case. What made it so good was a simple ingredient: ribbons of pickled carrots. I got home, took a virtual ride to Google University, and found out I could double the carrot pleasure by using it also in the dressing.  Very pleased with this salad which was hearty enough to almost call it dinner. Almost. Because some boneless chicken breasts were also involved.

CARROT RIBBON SALAD
(inspired by several sources)

for pickled carrot ribbons:
(slightly modified from Chocolate and Zucchini)
2 large carrots
1 tsp grated ginger
120 ml (1/2 cup) apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
1 + 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 + 1/2 teaspoons sugar

Peel the carrots and, using the vegetable peeler, cut them into thin ribbons. Place the ribbons in a heatproof bowl.

Combine the ginger, vinegar, salt, sugar, and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. When the mixture boils, stir to make sure the sugar and salt are dissolved.

Pour the ginger brine through a sieve and into the bowl of carrots. Make sure the carrots are completely immersed, cover and let cool to room temperature. Transfer to a clean jar, close tightly with the lid and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

for carrot dressing:
1/2 cup chopped raw carrots (include leftover from making ribbons)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced ginger 2 tablespoons (30 mL) fresh orange juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a blender, puree the carrots with the olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, and ginger. Thin with a little cold water if too thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

for the salad:
(use as much of each ingredient as you like)
baby romaine leaves
slivered almonds, toasted
a couple of avocados, diced

Add the ingredients to a large bowl, add the carrot dressing and mix well, but gently. Drain the pickled carrot ribbons, and place on top.

Serve with your protein of choice, or a bowl of grains if you prefer to go the vegetarian route.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

I don’t know about you, but at this time of the year, when I just about had it with the weather, a platter of colorful food lifts my mood. Pickled carrots will be here to stay.  I’ve been keeping a small jar in the fridge for my own pleasure. It seems to go well with lots of main dishes, and the texture only gets better with time. Make sure to shave them thin, and probably best to avoid that central harder core. Just turn the carrot around and start from the other side.

I totally forgot to take a picture of the dressing, it ended up with a shockingly bright yellow color, really beautiful. If you like pickled foods, I hope you’ll give this salad a try. Just remember that it is not good manners to steal all the ribbons to your own plate.

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PUFF BREAD BALLS, TWO SALADS AND A COOKBOOK REVIEW

Do people need cookbooks these days? Just think about it. You can find pretty much any recipe you want with a click of your mouse. Endless content online by food bloggers and food sites, free for you to grab and enjoy. Some virtual spots might annoy you a bit with pop-ups and advertisement, but it is a small price to pay to get that recipe to put your bottle of pomegranate molasses or the jar of rose harrissa to good use. I have a different view, though. I buy cookbooks because I want to support the authors and honor their hard work. For that reason, I never share a recipe from a cookbook unless I get permission to do so. Last month I bought  “DOUGH: Simple Contemporary Bread”, from Richard Bertinet, and immediately fell in love with it. His approach to making bread is straigthforward and very creative. It takes a lot for a cookbook to impress me enough to write a review about it. However, I could not wait to share my views on Bertinet’s and in fact I loved it so much I had to also bring his book “CRUMB: Bake Brilliant Bread” into  my life.  If you love bread baking and want to have recipes that make you go “why I never thought of this?” – this one is for you!

(to see a video of his slap and fold technique, click here)

PUFF BREAD BALLS
(published with permission from Mr. Richard Bertinet)
from his cookbook DOUGH: Simple, Contemporary Bread)

10g yeast (fresh if possible) (I used 6 g dry instant yeast from King Arthur Flour)
500g bread flour
10g Salt
350g water

Heat oven to 475F.

If using fresh yeast, rub it into the flour using your fingertips as if making a crumble. Add the salt and water. Hold the bowl with one hand and mix the ingredients around with the other for 2–3 minutes until the dough starts to form. Knead the dough according to his method (see video link above) or use a KitchenAid type mixer for 2 minutes, then turn up to the next slowest speed and mix for a further 6-7 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.

Remove the dough from the bowl, transfer to a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball. Rest the dough  for about 20 minutes (the puff balls don’t need extensive proofing time).

Divide it into equal pieces (about 40g each).  Round each piece of dough into a small ball, cover with a tea towel and leave to rest for a further 5 minutes. Make sure there are no tiny pieces of dried dough on your work surface or rolling pin, as any particles that get into the dough will stop it from puffing up. Dust your work surface with some sifted flour (the idea is to avoid large particles at all cost).  

Roll out each piece of dough into a disc, turning it over a few times, and flouring well as you go. Continue rolling until the dough is very thin (1–2mm). You will need to bake the puff balls one or two at a time, depending on the size of your oven. I rolled them over parchment paper and simply carried the paper into the oven. It gets a bit yellow at the end of the baking time, but it does not burn. I find that if I try to place the thin dough over a wooden peel, it gets totally messed up in shape. If you are better at it, try it that way, which is the way Bertinet recommends. Bake for about 3–4 minutes. The puff balls should inflate very quickly and are ready when they are completely puffed up, golden brown and sound hollow if you tap them.

If you like to make pillows, use a square cutter, they puff just like the round balls, and are very cute.

Carefully remove each one from the oven and cool on a wire rack. The puff balls are at their best about 3–4 hours after baking, but can be kept for a couple of days in an air-tight container.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

These were so much fun to bake! I managed to stick three at a time in our oven, but they bake so fast, it’s not big deal if you need to bake one or two only. The balls would be fun to serve at a cocktail party, especially if you make the little pillows, and let your guests break them in half, or small pieces, using them as spoons to dig into hummus or other dips. I will definitely be making this often, as they are ready so quickly.

SALAD IN A BREAD BALL

Greens of your choice
Diced Tomatoes
Diced Cucumbers
simple salad dressing (olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper)

Brush a small circle of the base with water to soften the crust, then carefully cut out this softened disc with a sharp knife. Just before serving push a good quantity of salad gently into each puff ball. Let everyone break the tops with a spoon or fork, add dressing, and eat with the pieces of broken bread ball.

FATTOUSH-LIKE SALAD
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

a couple of bread balls shattered into pieces
olive oil
1/2 tsp sumac
baby lettuce leaves
1/2 cup canned garbanzo beans, rinsed
smoked paprika
tomato pieces
cucumber pieces
for vinaigrette:
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp sumac
1/8 tsp ground allspice

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick skillet, add the pieces of bread and sautee for a few seconds. Season with the sumac and reserve over paper towels to remove excess oil.

Prepare the garbanzo beans: coat them very lightly with olive oil, add smoked paprka, a touch of salt and microwave for 30 seconds. Remove from microwave and allow it to cool  before adding to the salad.

Make the vinaigrette by emulsifying all ingredients together. Assemble the salad in a large bowl, add the vinaigrette and pieces of seasoned bread.  Serve right away.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This salad was a winner, all the way. Normally made with pita, I think the broken bread balls worked even better, they developed a very nice flavor, and got super crunchy. The garbanzo beans straight from the can, benefit from a quick visit to the microwave, a trick I saw somewhere online and stayed in my memory. You can use other spices, the idea is to just break that boring canned feel. It works!  You could saute them briefly in a pan but the microwave makes it even easier.

And now, without further delay, my thoughts on a great cookbook. Thank you, Mr. Bertinet for so quickly answering my request to publish this recipe. You made the life of this food blogger a lot easier!

 

 

REVIEW OF RICHARD BERTINET’S DOUGH: Simple Contemporary Bread

The book is based around the kneading technique favored by  Bertinet, which is quite more energetic than folding, because you will be slapping the dough around with considerable enthusiasm, but he does so in a way that incorporates air into the dough much more efficiently. It is almost like a dance, I cannot help but think of samba as I go through those moves. You get into the rhythm, and  soon the dough starts developing structure right under your fingers. Fascinating and fun.

He organizes the book in 5 chapters according to the type of dough: White,  Olive, Brown, Rye, and Sweet Dough. Every bread in each chapter uses a single recipe for dough that he takes into unique directions, some will be familiar to you, others will intrigue and make you dream.  He uses fresh yeast, I have a hard time finding it where I live, so I use about 60% of the amount of instant dry yeast. I will list the recipes that called my attention in each of the chapters.

WHITE DOUGH. From this group I got the recipe for the cute bread puffs I shared today. But I loved the idea of “Bread Shots”, Sesame and Aniseed Breadsticks, Spicy Moroccan Rolls (OMG),  and also his Saffron Rolls.

OLIVE DOUGH. A departure from the first chapter, in this variation he adds a small amount of olive oil to the dough, which gives it more elasticity and softness.  Maybe you think that Tomato, Garlic and Basil Bread is too “common?” Wait until you see how he shapes it, and you will definitely re-consider.  How about making a soup bowl with your bread? He explains how, I cannot wait to try that soon, while soup weather is with us. I want to make a smoky tomato soup and serve it inside a cute bread bowl. And no, it’s not a round loaf with the crumb removed. This chapter has one cute idea after another, I was also taken by his Parmesan, Parma Ham, and Pine Nut Slices, they are shaped almost as cinnamon rolls. So so clever.

BROWN DOUGH. Honey and Lavender Loaf…. Cardamom and Prune Bread… Do I have your attention yet?  Those are two of the loaves that I definitely want to try, using what he calls brown dough as a starting point. As you may have guessed, it is a straightforward dough with a high proportion of whole-wheat flour in it. Once again his creativity shines in cute ways to shape bread, like his Poppy Seed Stars. Just lovely and you can definitely use that shaping in any bread dough you’d like.

RYE DOUGH. I really like his approach to rye. It is a tricky flour to work with, and the higher the proportion of rye in a dough, the worst it gets. Gummy, heavy, unpleasant to work with and not always ending on a happy note after baking. He uses a low proportion of rye so that you profit from its taste but it still handles as a regular dough during kneading and shaping. His Walnut Bread and Olive Bread are two that called my name pretty loud. They look hearty, rustic, and are both quite beautiful. Aniseed and Guinness Bread seems very intriguing and he also shares a recipe for Dark Rye Bread that flips the formula around, it is mostly rye with a touch of white flour. I should really give it a try, particularly with his kneading method. Could be fun…

SWEET DOUGH. I thought about showcasing one of the recipes in this chapter but the puff bread was too cute not to share. The thing with his sweet dough is that it works both for sweet and savory concoctions, because it is not overly sweet. I love that. I am fascinated by all recipes in this chapter, so I will give you just the top four: Orange and Mint Loaf, Chocolate Buns (they look amazing!), Apricot and Almond Tart (yes, he uses his sweet dough to line a tart!), Pain Viennois.

Every recipe in the book is also adapted for a KitchenAid type mixer, so don’t worry if you prefer not to go the Samba-Knead route. There are no sourdough recipes in the book, so all you need is some commercial yeast and a little time. He shares a nice method to increase flavor, in which part of the dough is stored in the fridge and “refreshed” pretty much like a sourdough starter would.  Bakeries use that trick very often and it’s a simple way to pump flavor in the home kitchen.

If you love to bake bread, or if you would like to start but feel a bit intimidated, get his books (links to amazon in the beginning of the post; I make no profit from your acquisitions).

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