Za’atar Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Za’atar is a spice blend used in Middle Eastern cooking consisting of sumac, thyme, white sesame seeds and salt. In this recipe it lends a slight lemony flavor to, and enhances the earthy scent of, some lovely sweet potatoes.

Sumac Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 30-35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs. sweet potatoes
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. za’atar
  • 1 tsp. ground sumac

Directions:

  1. Place oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 425°F. Line a rimmed baking pan with parchment.
  2. Peel sweet potatoes and dice into 1″ cubes.
  3. Toss sweet potatoes with the olive oil and spices. Transfer to the prepared pan and spread into a single layer.
  4. Roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing the potatoes and redistributing into a single layer half way through cooking.

Potato, Herb and Cheese Stacks

A while back I was lured in by a glossy picture of Parmesan and Herb Potato Stacks in an retailers Instagram post. The recipe seemed straight-forward, the image looked inticing and I’m always seeking a new way to present potatoes at Saturday night dinner.

While the result was good I thought of several ways to improve the recipe. Here’s the result with my update ingredient list and rewritten in my own words. Enjoy.

Potato, Herb and Cheese Stacks
Servings: 8-12
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 45-50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 5 Yukon Gold potatoes, very thinly sliced (about 1/16 inch)
  • 6 Tbsp. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed or finely minced
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 12 fresh sage leaves for garnish (optional)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat an oven to 375°F. Coat a 12 cup muffin tin with vegetable oil spray.
  2. Place the sliced potatoes win a colander set over a bowl and set aside while you melt the butter. Transfer the butter to a large bowl and allow the butter to cool for at least 5 minutes.
  3. Add the Romano cheese, garlic, thyme and cream to the cooled butter and whisk together until combined.. Season with salt and pepper. Add the potato slices and gently toss to coat evenly.
  4. Divide the potato slices among the prepared muffin cups, stacking them in layers.
  5. If using them, arrange a sage leaf on top of each stack.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes then sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the potato stacks. Bake for another 10 minutes. The potatoes should be tender with crispy edges and the Parmesan should be fully melted. If not cook for another minute or two.
  7. Let cool slightly, then carefully remove the stacks from the pan and serve warm.

Notes:
Don’t be tempted by the cheese in a plastic jar which is found in the pasta aisle of your local megamart. You should find a wedge of Romano, and another of Parmesan, in the “fancy” cheese case near the deli counter. Yes, you’ll pay more than you will for that plastic jar however the flavor will far exceed the price difference.

Grilled Green Beans with Sesame

This recipe was inspired by a search for some kind of grilled vegetable to go along with some oven-barbecued pork. I originally thought I’d make a summer squash sort of thing however my search results were unwhelming. When I expanded the search to just grilled vegetables I found one reference to grill green beans. I used the basic technique from that recipe, adding the sesame rather than their overcomplicated onion/garlic/rosemary mash-up. I enjoyed the charred beans, which were a bit smoky ‘cuase grilling.

Grilled Green Beans with Sesame
Servings: 8-10
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. white sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil

Special Equipment:

Directions:

  1. Heat your gas grill to medium high for 10-15 minutes. Once the grill is started I trim the green beans.
  2. Combine the prepped green beans, vegetable oil, a generous pinch of kosher salt and a dozen grinds of black pepper in a large bowl. Toss the beans until well coated with oil.
  3. Place the grill pan over 2 active burners on the grill. Transfer the oiled green beans onto the grill pan and spread the beans across the pan. Close the cover and ignore for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Stir the green beans, spread across the pan once again and cook for another 3-4 minutes, cover up this time. While the green beans cook toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat for a minute or so. You want the sesame seeds to be lightly browned. Once toasted transfer the sesame seeds to a small bowl to prevent burning in the hot pan.
  5. Check a green bean; if it is not done to your liking then toss, spread and cook for another minute at a time until you are happy with the doneness. When done remove the grill pan from the heat.
  6. Transfer the grilled green beans to a bowl. Add the toasted sesame seeds and toasted sesame oil. Toss, adjust salt and pepper if necessary and serve.

Notes:
Green beans can be prepped up to 2 hours in advance. Cover with a barely-damp paper towel and stash in the fridge.

Slow-Cooker Barley & Lentil Soup

[Barley and Lentil Soup]The new year always brings an onslaught of “healthy eating” recipes. I suppose I’m not different as this soup is fairly healthy. Lentils and barley both provide a decent amount of fiber and carrots are good for you, right. I use a reduced sodium broth base and then add salt at the end via sriracha and/or a bit of Parmesan cheese.

As an aside, I like the concept of a slow cooker however in practice most of the recipes finish too quickly for them to be practical for me on a weeknight. When I work from home though I can take 10 minutes mid-morning, toss some ingredients together and then have dinner ready when I want to eat.
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Watercress and Endive Salad with Pistachios and Dried Cranberries

[Watercress and Endive Salad with Pistachios and Dried Cranberries]Our Christmas Eve dinner usually includes a plated courses in place of the family-style dinners we do for Saturday night. While the prep work during the day can be a bit annoying the salad course goes from component pieces to finished product in less than 5 minutes. When the plating starts folks know we’re about to get serious with the eating and find their places around the table.

This year used a recipe from The Way We Cook by Sheryl Julian and Julie Riven as a starting point. I’ve tweaked the ingredient list a bit and written up the instructions in my own words. Enjoy.

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Braised Kale and Radicchio

[Braised Kale and Radicchio]I’m surprised I haven’t added a recipe like this yet given the frequency that I make braised greens of some type. We belonged to a CSA in 2011 and with it came an abundance of leafy greens I had never tried except in the “baby” form via salads at restaurants. Through a bit of cookbook and web surfing we came up with several uses for whatever leafy greenness the CSA threw at us, braising being the chief one.
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Spinach and Zucchini Curry

[Spinach and Zucchini Curry]Monday night found me with no dinner plan. There were a couple of aging zucchini in the fridge, still firm but starting to blemish and a purple bell pepper, all from the farm stand near work. I found a package of frozen spinach in the freezer and a vague plan started to form. The result was a curry-like dish.

Spinach and Zucchini Curry
Servings: 4-6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 10 oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach, mostly thawed (see first direction)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 2 medium zucchini, quartered and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped, or pressed through a garlic press
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp. sweet curry powder
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • kosher salt and black pepper

Directions:

  1. Remove the brick of spinach from the package, place it on a cutting board and cut it into about 20 cubes. This is easiest if spinach is mostly thawed. Transfer cubed spinach to a clean dish towel, twist towel into a ball and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and bell pepper, sprinkle with salt and toss to coat with oil. Cook, tossing occasionally, until the onions and peppers have softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer cooked onions/peppers to a bowl, retaining as much oil in the skillet as possible, and set aside.
  3. Return skillet to medium heat. When oil is shimmering add the zucchini, sprinkle with salt and cook, undisturbed, for 2 minutes. Shake the pan to redistribute zucchini and cook, undisturbed for another 2 minutes. Transfer zucchini to the bowl with the onions and peppers, again retaining as much oil as possible.
  4. Once again return the skill to medium heat. Add the spinach. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the moisture has been released, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until aromatic, probably no more than 30 seconds.
  5. Return the onions, peppers and zucchini to the pan and add the curry and paprika. Stir until spices are distributed throughout the skillet then add the tomatoes, yogurt and water. Stir until the yogurt is fully dispersed into the vegetables, creating a sauce. Cook for 5 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper; adjust as desired.

Notes:
I nuked the frozen slam of spinach for a minute on full power to knock it from brick to mostly thawed. Your mileage, and microwave, may very.

You may wish to remove the seeds from the zucchini. I do this after quartering by just running the knife along where the seeds meet solid zucchini. Seeds aren’t really a problem on smallish zucchini. When the zucchini get to the large size the seeds can turn to mush in your dish.

We served this with white rice.