Sweet Potatoes Stuffed with Caramelized Red Onion, Goat Cheese and Bacon

Sweet potatoes have become one of my new favorite vegetables.  While they also can be considered a carbohydrate, they are so filled with goodness in the vitamin and mineral category, not to mention the fiber, that they don’t count as a strike against you in the same way white potatoes do.

As we move into the deepest days of the calendar, when the daylight hours are at their ebb, meals that require the oven to be on for an hour or so are a welcome balm.  Right now, it’s all about the cozy, the creamy, the toasty and the mellow.  The way the salty bacon meets the tangy goat cheese blanketed by caramelized onions topping the soft, natural sweetness of the sweet potato is just exactly what the drop in light and temperature of this time of year calls for.Sweet Potatoes Photo Rocky Coast PhotographyWhen I first made this recipe, we actually had it as the main course with some roasted kale and homemade bread.  But it’s swanky enough to stand up as a holiday side with no problem what-so-ever.
Bacon Stuffed Sweet Potatoes Photo Rocky Coast PhotographySweet Potatoes Stuffed with Caramelized Red Onion, Goat Cheese and Bacon
To make fresh bread crumbs pulse the equivalent of three large rolls torn into pieces in the food processor until the pieces are the size of peas. Transfer to a baking pan and bake until the crumbs are crunchy, about 15 minutes.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (half for the onions and half for the sweet potatoes)
2 cups sliced red onions; about 2 large red onions
3 cups fresh bread crumbs, the equivalent of three rolls
4 large or 6 medium sweet potatoes, with skins on, cut in half
1/2 teaspoon salt (for the onions, sweet potatoes and stuffing to taste)
several grinds of fresh black pepper (for the onions, sweet potatoes and stuffing to taste)
3 slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 ounces goat cheese
3 tablespoons chicken broth or water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a half sheet of parchment paper. Place the sweet potatoes flesh side up on the parchment paper and rub with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 1 hour in the oven.

Meanwhile heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Add the red onion and sauté until the onions are very soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low when the bottom begins to stick. When the onions are finished, remove from the pan and add the bacon. Cook until the bacon is almost fully cooked. Drain the fat and then add the onion and the rest of the ingredients to the same pan. Combine well.

When the sweet potatoes are tender, remove from the oven and carefully top with the stuffing by pressing the stuffing into a shape similar to the potatoes. Bake for another 20 to 30 minutes.

Makes 4 to 6

 

 

Thanksgiving Leftovers – Take Three

Potatoes are the one leftover which needs to be used up before it is relegated to the compost pile.  They don’t freeze well, so think of ways to incorporate this Thanksgiving leftover into another meal sooner rather than later.

Potato Leek Soup Photo Rocky Coast Photography
Of course, mashed potatoes can easily become a side for another meal.  And I’ve already mentioned that roasted potatoes could become Turkey Hash.  But there are a myriad of other ways that these versatile spuds can take root in another dish (see what I did there?).

Potato Cakes – Combine the mashed potatoes with some bread crumbs and an egg or two.  Dredge them in more bread crumbs or in grated Parmesan cheese and pan fry them in a little oil or butter.  Serve along-side grilled hanger or skirt steak or for breakfast with eggs and toast.

Potato Bread – Add mashed potatoes to your favorite bread recipe, reducing the liquid by half.  For example, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of water, add 1 cup of mashed potatoes and 1/2 cup of water.  Add dill, fennel or caraway seeds as an optional flavor.

Potato Leek Soup – Sauté onions and leeks in butter, salt and pepper. Add white wine and stock.  Stir in mashed potatoes and adjust for salt and pepper.

Potato Leek Soup Photo Rocky Coast PhotographyAnnie
My refrigerator is still full.  What about yours?

Thanksgiving Leftovers – Take Two

So many leftovers, so little space in the belly.  This is day two of Thanksgiving leftover ideas and turkey hash is one of my favorites.  Especially so when combined with greens – a much needed addition after a bit of fat and carb overload.

I’ve pared this hash with Brussels sprouts greens after discovering that they are just as delicious as any kale or broccoli leaves.  I’m lucky enough to still have some in the garden and will need to cull the rest shortly before it succumbs to a really sustained frost.

Turkey Hash Photo Rocky Coast Photography

Turkey Hash
Cut turkey and roasted potatoes into 1/2-inch pieces.  Sauté onions and celery in a large skillet and add the turkey, potatoes and any vegetables or squash that you like.  Add salt, pepper, Dijon mustard and maybe some horseradish to the pan.  Sauté until the ingredients are warmed through and are beginning to brown on the bottom.  Serve with poached eggs and roasted Brussels sprout leaves (or kale or broccoli leaves).

Turkey Hash Photo Rocky Coast PhotographyAnnie
Using up what we’ve got… and what we’ve got it pretty great.

Maine Food Cruises – Veggies and Greens, Oh My!

One of the many questions I get from folks in the cooking realm is what to do with all the veggies that come for their CSAs.  Now that Community Supported Agriculture has taken parts of our country by storm, the questions keep coming.  Among them are… What else can I do with my kale?  How do I use up that ugly kohlrabi that keeps turning up in my box?  Is there a way to combine all of these veggies in a meal or dish?

Veggies1blog

On our Maine Gourmet Food Cruises we talk about how to combine veggies, what to do to make them interesting, and how to preserve them if you just have too darn much to use in a week’s time.

Vegetable Tip:  To keep lettuce and greens longer in the refrigerator, wash the lettuce and remove every bit of water that you can and then layer the leaves with a dish towel or paper towel.  Store in a large tub with a lid or in a resealable plastic bag.  I’ve used this technique on long, at sea adventures, on the Riggin and in my home kitchen to great effect.  Another way to preserve hearty greens is to clean and dry them, ribs removed.  Once they are dry, coat them in a thin layer of olive oil.  They will last for at least a week and a half in the refrigerator.

Annie
Thinking about greens galore and our next Maine Food Cruise, July 6 to 9!

 

On a Boat, It’s Not Always Perfect, But It Is Just Right

I traded swanky, landscaped, plated meals for the pine-studded coast liberally sprinkled with lichen-covered granite and a sea that is ever changing from a smokey charcoal to deep forest green.  My kitchen (galley) is outside and instead of being enclosed by four greasy walls lined with pots, pans and stainless equipment, I have pine tables, a cast iron wood stove and the smell of wood smoke.  My skin has the kiss of the sun, rather than the pasty white of someone who works indoors, even in the summer.

However, as a chef, there are a few things that occasionally ding my pride.  I’m a big girl, also an enthusiastic, optimistic one, so the moment doesn’t last long.  But I cook  on a boat all summer long and there are a number of situations that take priority over the visual attractiveness of my culinary hard work.  Sometimes my food doesn’t look perfect and it bothers me.

For example, the reason this salad has so many apples on it is not that Cassie, my assistant cook, got crazy with the apples, although this is not out of the question.  No, the true reason is that salad greens unprotected, literally, blow away with the first step on deck.  We feed the fish, not our guests.IMG_7753-001a

I love the look of micro-greens.  Do I ever use these delicate beauties?  No.  I would be the only one to see them.  See the blowing away reference above.

Also, the nature of my galley and the space available on any boat dictates that I serve family style.  I don’t have space to plate up 30 dinners in my galley.  Which means that sometimes my food is served in the pan in which it was cooked.  Again, there is a rustic simplicity, and dare I say beauty, to this look.  But no, beauty is not the word.  Practical, useful, convenient, expedient, safe, frugal.  These are the words I would use to describe my pans, but I tell you, a girl who wants to look pretty does NOT want to use these words and neither does the girl, who is the chef, who wants her food to look pretty.

The menu for lunch on the day these photos were taken was:

Local Porcini and Broccoli Leaf Mac n Cheese, Roasted Veggie and Local Italian Sausage Mac n Cheese, Garlic Knots, Apple, Walnut, Raisin Garden Greens Salad, Dijon and Champagne Vinaigrette and an Apricot Orange Pound Cake

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It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?  And then I look at these photos and I’m sad that they don’t do it justice.  I remember this meal and I loved the Porcini and Broccoli Leaf Mac n Cheese… There was nothing left of this meal.  But the look of it?  The pans are …  Hmm.

Ah well, at heart I am both creative, practical, artistic, and frugal.  It turns out that my food on this beautiful boat we sail, meandering along the breathtaking Maine Coast, has the exact qualities of both me and of Maine.  I’d rather be right where I am – in my outdoor kitchen, creating honest food that fits it’s place perfectly.

Annie
Just accepting what is

All Hail Kale – Kale is King!

Maybe it’s because outside it’s white and windy.  The grey and brown skeletons of the trees rise up against clouds filled with coming snow.  The only green to be seen in our landscape is from the frost-tipped branches of evergreens.  Perhaps this is why this season brings such a strong craving for greens.  If it’s not in our landscape, we want it on our plates?

Potato, Cheddar & Kale Souffle

I don’t know.  What I do know is that I need to honor the instincts of my body and have created a number of recipes for cooking winter greens, this time for kale.  Potato, Cheddar and Kale Souffle; Thai Peanut Shrimp with Kale; and Tuscan Kale, Chickpeas and Olives are all in the Maine Ingredient column this week.

Annie
Kale is King

Thyme and Lime Potato-Crusted Salmon with Greens

Extra greens this time of year seems to be what I crave over and over again.  More kale, more spinach, more Swiss chard.  I’ve even begun eating kale for breakfast with my eggs instead of having toast.  It’s delicious and gives me one more serving of what’s good for me anyway.

This column for the Maine Ingredient, created with holiday entertaining in mind, could easily become a weekend dinner with friends.  The recipes – Thyme and Lime Potato-Crusted Salmon, Brown Butter Kale with Toasted Almonds, and Spinach Salad with Pomegranate Seeds, Cranberries and Preserved Grapefruit – are all healthy, with a large dash of elegance.

Spinach Salad with Pomegranate Cranberry Preserved Grapefruit

Annie
Eating my greens

Roasted Radishes

Radishes are one of those vegetables that I’ve always wanted to like, but… never have… until recently, when I began growing them for immediate gratification.  The days to germination for radishes is 7 to 10 days, so they have my heart just for the small feeling of success that comes every time a row of baby leaves emerge.

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But roasted — now that’s a different story.  Roasting radishes, just as with any other root vegetable, brings out all of the sugars and softens the flavors.  And they are lovely this way.  They almost taste like potatoes — not quite mind you — but enough to ease any lingering doubt that these “mini root vegetables” can be a star.

Roasted Radishes

2 bunches radishes, de-stemmed and cleaned
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the oil and then carefully add the radishes.  Sprinkle with salt and cover.  “Stir” every minute or two by holding the handle of the pan and the lid with potholder and shake the pan like your grandmother used to do for popcorn.  Cook for 15-20 minutes or until the radishes are browned on the outside and very tender on the inside.

Asparagus and Tomato Gratin

Asparagus – classy, healthy and easy.  Three of my favorite things!  One incredibly simple way I like to do asparagus at home is to roast them in a bag with lemon and thyme.  The tang of the lemon combined with the herbal flavor of the thyme is a perfect combo for a light, healthy side to almost any protein.

Other asparagus recipes detailed in the latest Maine Ingredient column are:

Asparagus and Tomato Gratina
Red Rice and Asparagus Salad
Hake with Pork and Potatoes and Asparagus

Lemon and Thyme Bag-Roasted Asparagus
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the bottoms off one or more bunches of asparagus.  Place asparagus onto a large paper bag, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add 1 lemon cut into 8 wedges and a generous sprig of thyme. Roll the bag closed and then place into a baking sheets with sides. Place in the oven for 20 minutes or until the asparagus is just done.

Caveat:  There are some that suggest that oiling the bag before putting it into the oven is a way to keep it from burning, however, that has never made much sense to me. I’ve also never had an oven fire while making this recipe, so there.

Asparagus Tomato Gratin
Asparagus Tomato Gratin (see link above for recipe)

Annie
Sad that the asparagus will go away soon, but happy to start seeing peas and strawberries

Eating Spring Dug Root Vegetables – Parsnip Latkes

How fun to have both harvested the last of the parsnips on the same day that I planted next spring’s crop.  In playing around with these ivory beauties, I created a couple of new recipes for a column:  Parsnip Latkes, Root Vegetable Soup, Roasted Parsnips and Collard Greens.

Parsnip Latkes

Annie
Gone Digging