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October 30, 2006

Halloween Potluck

The sweet potato salad described in my last entry was well-received. (And admired for its Halloween color scheme.) It's a keeper for potlucks, since it's pretty simple to make (especially if you avoid setting off the smoke alarm) and fulfills my two potluck rules:

  1. Bring something that you yourself want to eat.

  2. Bring something vegetarian, or, if possible, vegan, because you might save someone from having to lunch on dry crackers and carrot sticks.

At this particular potluck, we had options for people of every dietary persuasion. In addition to potluck staples like devilled eggs (yum), brownies, and the relish tray, my coworkers brought homemade ciabatta, duck pate (which I don't think was homemade), tomato and mozzarella salad, pickled beets, bean and vegetable soup, apple pie, wild rice and couscous salads (from the salad bar at Whole Foods), and a really scrumptious curried chickpea dish. (I'm going to have to see if I can get the person who brought that to part with the recipe.)

In fact, we had so much food that I think we all came home with leftovers, except for the bread baker and the devilled egg maker. (Few people seem to be able to resist homemade bread or devilled eggs.) So, I'll be eating sweet potato salad for lunch this week, at least when I'm not eating leftover roasted pumpkin.

The leftover situation around here is approaching critical. My freezer is full. The fridge is pretty crowded. (Every time I start to make headway on emptying the freezer, I make a pot of soup or stew, and then I'm back where I started. We may need to call a soup moratorium here. That or I need to teach Mr. Spaceling to eat leftovers.)

Posted by spaceling at 08:51 PM

October 29, 2006

Halloween Sweet Potato Salad

My department at work is having a Halloween potluck tomorrow. I decided that I wanted to come up with a dish in Halloween colors, so I decided on a sweet potato and black bean salad. (Pumpkin was another possibility, but I've done quite a bit of cooking with pumpkin recently - which I should discuss in another entry - and I'm not sure I'm ready to tackle another one. I've got a callus at the base of my right index finger from all the cleaver-chopping involved in breaking down my first pumpkin.)

I started with this Epicurious recipe, and tinkered. Some tinkering was by design - I added black beans, and decided to replace the red bell pepper with roasted pasilla peppers. Some was by accident - I came back from the grocery store and discovered that I'd forgotten to buy limes. I had one in the fridge, as well as a couple of small blood oranges - so I made the dressing with half lime juice, and half blood orange juice. This was a serendipitous substitution - the sweetness of the blood orange juice goes wonderfully with the sweet potato. (Regular orange juice would probably work just about as well.)

I set off the smoke alarm while roasting the pasilla peppers. (I did them straight on the burner. Next time, I'll use the broiler.) I think I need to be very very nice to Mr. Spaceling for the rest of today.

Read on for the recipe.

The Ingredients

The Steps

  1. Cover the sweet potatoes with water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 7 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender but not mushy. (When a fork goes in all the way easily, they're done.) Drain the sweet potatoes.
  2. While the sweet potatoes are cooking, roast the pasilla peppers by placing them under a broiler or over a gas flame and turning until they are charred all over. Put them in a paper bag and and let them steam for 10 minutes.
  3. Prepare the dressing: whisk together olive oil, cumin, chili powder, and lime and orange juices. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. When peppers have finished steaming, rub off the charred skins with your fingers. (Pasillas have kind of thin skins. It's kind of tricky to get all of the skin off. I settled for most of it.) Remove the seeds from the peeled peppers, and cut them into short strips.
  5. Combine the sweet potatoes, peppers, black beans, cilantro, scallions, and dressing in a large bowl and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper, and drizzle in a little extra olive oil if necessary.
Makes a lot of servings.

The salad has been covered with plastic wrap and is now chilling in the fridge. I'll report on how it goes over tomorrow.

Posted by spaceling at 11:34 AM | TrackBack

October 28, 2006

Meatball and Butter Bean Stew

Premade sausages or meatballs are a great way to throw together a quickie dinner. Since they're usually highly seasoned, you start with a lot of flavor, and they cook quickly. If you read labels carefully, you can usually get chicken or turkey sausages/meatballs that aren't ridiculously high in fat. (Do read the label, though. Just because it's turkey doesn't mean that it's lean.)

This was an improvised quick supper that I threw together a couple of weeks ago. Mr. Spaceling liked it enough to request that I make it again sometime. Hence, it goes in the blog for posterity.

The canned butter beans called for in the recipe are very large white beans that have a nice flavor and a creamy texture, but if you can't find them, I think cannelini beans would work.


The Steps

  1. In a deep saute pan or sauce pan, brown the meatballs. Remove to a plate.
  2. Add the onion, and cook, stirring, until translucent.
  3. Add the tomatoes with their juice, butter beans, olives, herbs, and the browned meatballs. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the meatballs are heated through and the tomato juice has reduced a bit.
  4. Stir in the spinach (you may need to do this in batches) and cook, stirring, until the spinach is wilted. Serve.

Posted by spaceling at 12:28 PM | TrackBack

October 26, 2006

Thompkins Square Park Greenmarket - 10/22/2006

Last weekend I was in New York City. But why let a little thing like being 3000 miles from home prevent you from visiting a farmers' market?

The most famous of the New York City farmers' markets (or greenmarkets, as they call them out there) is the one in Union Square. I didn't make it to that one. I did get a chance to stroll through the Thompkins Square Park market on Sunday afternoon, though. It's a smallish market, with maybe a half-dozen stalls, focusing pretty much exclusively on fresh produce.

The first thing I spied was a big pile of quinces. I was quite excited - I don't encounter quinces much, and have never purchased any. I decided not to try to take any home with me. There were more varieties of apples than I've ever seen in one place. Also lots of pears. Orange cauliflower, some rather sad-looking bell peppers, beautiful pumpkins and butternut squash, and lovely bunches of parsnips.

I bought two Braeburn apples, which I ate as afternoon snacks over the course of the next couple of days. They were delicious.

Posted by spaceling at 09:20 PM | TrackBack

October 04, 2006

A Veggie Burger Even a Carnivore Could Love

Recipe for a quick weeknight supper: cook two frozen Boca burger patties in a skillet. Place on whole wheat English muffins, top with crumbled bleu d'Auvergne cheese while the patties are still hot. Serve with green salad and steamed cauliflower.

Putting bleu d'Auvergne on a Boca burger veggie patty seems vaguely ridiculous, like drinking champagne with Twinkies. It tastes soooo good, though. (The bleu/Boca, I mean. Not champagne with Twinkies. I've never tried champagne with Twinkies. If anyone out there has, let me know how it works.)

Posted by spaceling at 09:19 PM | TrackBack