“like all magnificent things, it’s very simple.”

Cornmeal3

polenta…..so very simple….water, milk and cream, corn meal….and it is magnificent.

this simple divinity has its roots in Northern Italy. it is very true that a nation of people identify themselves as a distinct culture by the traditional foods they eat. for the Italians, it is often both pasta and pizza that are the cornerstones of what makes Italian food Italian. however, polenta is a humble staple food of Northern Italy that does not get the accolades it deserves, but it certainly should be considered the third cornerstone that completes the Italian food trinity. polenta is so very versatile and deep-deep-deep soul satisfying. 

the key ingredient for polenta, yellow cornmeal is a staple in my pantry. it is cheap and it goes a long way, especially when you use it to make polenta.  polenta is the foundation on which you can build magnificent meals. you can spoon it into a bowl in its creamy form and top it with thick soups and stews; you can make casseroles with polenta; top with nuts, seeds, dried and fresh fruits and milk for a hearty breakfast; top with pasta sauce and meatballs; replace your baked potato with polenta and top with your favorite baked potato toppings….seriously your options are endless.

i love to make a pot of polenta and make polenta rounds. i get about ten rounds and utilizing them for various meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) they last me about four days. there are so many topping options for polenta rounds; and the rounds work well as an hors d’oeuvres, as lunch (with a side salad), as a side dish or a full meal. last week, i topped a grilled polenta cake with shredded leftover slow cooked pork ribs, black beans, mashed avocado and sour cream. one polenta cake topped with all of that goodness was enough for each person at my dinner table. you can top polenta rounds with fresh fruit, yogurt and honey for breakfast or top with a crispy fried egg, crumbled sausage and a drizzle of hot sauce for breakfast; and good god, a poached egg over crispy polenta….there are no words.

polenta is the foundation for whatever food masterpiece you wish to create.

P1030016

the kind of pot you use for cooking polenta makes a huge difference. to prevent the polenta from sticking and scorching, make sure you use a heavy pot. unless you have a copper polenta pot, enameled cast iron is the best choice when making polenta.

this is one of my favorite polenta round recipes. i will serve it as a side dish or as an hors d’oeuvre. the ingredients are simple and it is so easy to make. the key with polenta is to add the cornmeal slowly, otherwise you will have very lumpy polenta. and, while i do not mind lumps when i am using my polenta as a base for stew or soups (i can’t help myself, sometimes i just love biting into a thick polenta jewel), for the rounds, you want the polenta to be smooth.  you can make the polenta rounds and the onions up to two days ahead. just reheat the onions and pan grill the polenta rounds when ready to serve. if you can, purchase local cheese and local honey; it gives such a snap of freshness.

Grilled Polenta Cakes with Caramelized Red Onions and Goat Cheese

Polenta

1 cup of whole milk 1 cup of heavy cream 2 cups of water 1 teaspoon of kosher salt 1 cup of polenta 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (divided)

  • Onions

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

Topping

2 ounces of goat cheese, crumbled honey to drizzle

************

Polenta

prepare a 9×13 pan for the polenta by coating it with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

in a large pot, bring the water, milk, heavy cream, and salt to a boil. slowly whisk in the polenta. turn the heat to low, and continue whisking for 5 minutes, or until polenta is smooth and creamy. spread the polenta in a 9×13 baking dish, and set aside to cool.

Polenta

Onions

while the polenta is setting, add the butter and olive oil to a cast iron pan (or other heavy bottomed pan) and set the heat to  medium-low heat. add the sliced onions and a sprinkle of kosher salt. cook, stirring occasionally until soft and caramelized- about 25-30  minutes. redonions

Grilled Polenta Cakes

put the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil into a skillet, set over medium heat. using a 3″ round cookie cutter, cut circles out of the firm polenta, and place in the heated skillet. cook until slightly browned and crusty on one side, about 2 minutes, then flip and cook the other sides another two minutes. 10293653_10203066414734155_6620713100702553552_o   grilled-polenta

Assembly

to assemble the polenta cakes, place grilled polenta cakes on plates, add one tablespoon of caramelized red onions to each cake, top each with about one teaspoon of crumbled goat cheese, and drizzle with honey. 1507518_10203066409094014_4799470990853380379_o

“it is spring again. the earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”

Spring is here! and i have a renewed pep in my step. it seems that this past winter was more brutal and longer than any i can recall in the recent past. seriously, i felt like my skin was crawling all winter long. while i love to watch snowflakes peacefully dance in the sky and gently fall to the ground, the short days and the darkness that comes with winter, i can do without.

years ago, i would rejoice when Spring arrived. Spring was like a long-lost lover back then….because the cold showers would be more bearable when our gas was turned off for non-payment; and the longer days provided light in our apartment that was often without electricity for the same reason. although my days of no heat/hot water and electricity are long gone, the long winter days often stir up the feelings i had as the young girl shivering in the shower or the young girl trying to do her homework with a flashlight. so, when Spring finally arrives every year i do a happy dance. and i have been happy dancing for the last week. the weather this past weekend was glorious. my flowers are blooming. my vegetables are growing. and birds sing me a song every morning as i drink my coffee under my willow tree.

this recipe is perfect for Spring. instead of pasta with the meatballs, braised beet greens is a lighter choice. you can find beet greens at your local farmer’s market or your local food co-op or natural food store. if you can’t find beet greens without the beets attached, remove the beets and voila’ you have your greens. roast your beets and use them in salads, or pickle them, or make borscht (also perfect for a Spring meal).

this is great as a meal, but also fabulous as a hors d’oeuvre: place a spoonful of beet greens on an individual hors d’oeuvre dish and top with a meatball and garnish.

10170934_10203001366107980_1820569300546713978_n

Braised Beet Greens
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 carrot, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 small yellow onion, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 celery rib, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 pound beet greens, coarsely chopped

2 cups of beef stock

in a pot, heat the oil and add the carrot, onion and celery; season with salt and pepper and cook over moderately low heat. stir until the vegetables are very tender and caramelized; about 20 minutes.

10294348_10203001365867974_3045990064546820165_n

add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the tomato paste is deep red; about 5 minutes. add the beet greens, season with salt and pepper, and cook, tossing occasionally, until wilted.

10364062_10203001365627968_2438489897140594715_n

add two cups of beef stock and simmer on low, uncovered for 45 minutes.

10302447_10203001366667994_51062949505546431_n

Ricotta Meatballs
2 ounces day-old bread (one 1-inch thick slice)
1/4 cup whole milk
1 pound ground beef (25 percent fat)
1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish
1 large egg
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1/2 tablespoon ground fennel (i grind whole fennel seed in my spice grinder)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup canola oil
chopped parsley and sea salt, for garnish

1511013_10203001365427963_542055679571115280_n

in a bowl, soak the bread in the milk until the milk is absorbed, about 5 minutes.
in a large bowl, combine the beef, ricotta, Parmigiano, egg, lemon zest, crushed red pepper, parsley, ground fennel, kosher salt and black pepper. squeeze any excess milk from the bread and add the bread to the bowl. mix the meat mixture well, then roll it into eighteen 1/2-inch balls; transfer to a baking sheet.

10309735_10203001366347986_5288358604393635689_n

in a cast-iron skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the canola oil. cook half of the meatballs over moderate heat, turning, until golden brown and no longer pink within; about 15 minutes.

repeat with the remaining 2 tablespoons of canola oil and meatballs.
rewarm the beet greens and transfer to a platter; top with the meatballs. garnish with Parmigiano, chopped parsley and sea salt.

1454618_10202700855075392_56818873_n (1)

**store-bought ricotta is fine, but homemade ricotta brings a wonderful freshness to the meatballs. and it is so easy to make!!! link to homemade ricotta recipe: http://thefoodanista.com/patience-is-bitter-but-its-fruit-is-sweet

“i’m not a farmer, but i’m known to push those collard greens.”

this recipe is often made on New Years Day; according to folklore, if you do so you will have a year of prosperity. i love this recipe and decided that per my own folklore, eating it throughout the year will double, triple, quadruple my chances of prosperity.

many folks use smoked meats to add a smokey flavor to collards. however, i use Chipotles in Adobo Sauce and they give a beautiful, rich smokiness to the collards. it is the season for collards, so i suggest heading to your local farmer’s market and buying your collards there. while you are at the farmers market, you may as well pick up the garlic and onions also needed for this recipe. not only will you be getting fresh organic collards, onions and garlic; you will be supporting local farmers!

 IMG_7795
Collards with Black-Eyed Peas
2 1/2 Cups of Organic Chicken Stock
2 Chipotles in Adobo Sauce
3 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and left whole
1 large Vidalia Onion, peeled and quartered
2 1/2 Pounds of Collard Greens, ribs discarded and leaves chopped
One 15 Ounce Can of Black-Eyed Peas, drained and rinsed
2 Tablespoons of White Wine Vinegar
IMG_7787
in a large pan, combine 1 1/2 cups of the chicken stock, the chipotles, the onion and garlic. add a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper and bring to a boil. add handfuls of the collards, allowing each handful to wilt before adding more.
IMG_7788
cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally. until the collards are tender; about 30 minutes. uncover and cook until the stock is slightly reduced. discard the onion and garlic.
IMG_7789
in a small saucepan, boil the black-eyed peas and 1 cup of stock. simmer over moderate heat for 10 minutes. season with salt and pepper. using a slotted spoon, add the black-eyed peas to the collards and add the white wine vinegar. season with salt and pepper.
IMG_7790

 

“when you die, if you get a choice between going to regular heaven or pie heaven, choose pie heaven. It might be a trick, but if it’s not, mmmmmmmm, boy.”

Easter is a week away and i have been busy in my kitchen testing recipes. i treasure each holiday and each guest that sits at my holiday table. blood relatives i no longer have and therefore, i embrace my dear friends as if they were family. i want them to be happy; to feel special; to feel loved at my dinner table. so, i put much thought and effort when planning my holiday meals.  i tested this recipe today and it is worthy of my beautiful created family that will be sitting at my dinner table this Easter.

during the holidays, i often do what i can to lessen the stress of preparing the dinner menu. and so, i will use store-bought pie crust when making my pies. while my homemade pie crust is divine, you can find quality pre-made pie crusts in the supermarket. what i do to jazz it up is brush the crust with melted butter and stick it under the broiler for about two minutes before pouring the filling in.

IMG_7800

 Buttermilk-Coconut Custard Pie

3 large eggs
3/4 cup of sugar
1 cup of buttermilk
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup of unsweetened coconut milk
2 tablespoons of flour
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of coconut extract
1/4 cup of shredded coconut

in a large bowl using a whisk attachment on your hand mixer or standing mixer, whisk the eggs and sugar until pale–about 5 minutes. add the buttermilk, butter, coconut milk, flour, vanilla seeds, and the vanilla and coconut extracts. whisk until smooth. stir in the shredded coconut.  pour into the pie shell and bake for approximately 45 minutes. the custard should be set around the edges and slightly jiggly in the center. remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

IMG_7815

Blackberry Sauce

2 cups of blackberries
3/4 cup of sugar plus 2 tablesppons
1/2 cup of heavy cream
2 teaspoons of Chambord
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
pinch of salt

in a small sauce pan, combine 1 cup of blackberries with 2 tablespoons of sugar, the 2 teaspoons of Chambord and 1 tablespoon of water. cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until the blackberries start to burst–about 5-7 minutes.

IMG_7797

transfer the berries and the juices to a blender or food processor (i use my mini food processor) and puree until almost smooth.

IMG_7814

transfer to a bowl and allow to cool slightly. whisk in the cream, vanilla extract and pinch of salt.

IMG_7799

in a medium saucepan, combine 3/4 cup of sugar and a 1/4 cup of water. cook over moderate heat, swirling the pan until the sugar dissolves. once the sugar has dissolved, allow this to cook undisturbed until it turns amber in color (do not overcook or your blackberry sauce will taste like burnt sugar!).

IMG_7804

add the blackberry cream mixture to the sugar mixture and simmer, whisking until the sauce is smooth–1-2 minutes. allow to cool slightly and then add 1 cup of blackberries. this sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead of time, just bring to room temperature before serving. this sauce is also fabulous on ice cream.

IMG_7810

 

“blood may be thicker than water, but it’s certainly not as thick as ketchup. nor does it go as well with French fries.”

i am not a food snob….seriously, i’m not. but, i do think we should make whatever we can in our own kitchens. aside from fabulous meals, there is no reason why we shouldn’t make our own bread, desserts, jams, beverages, condiments, etc.

after what seemed like a never ending, brutal New England winter, Spring has finally shone her beautiful face. and with Spring comes the familiar fragrance of charcoal and rich smokey meats and poultry dancing among the flowers pushing their way through the earth. so, over the last two weeks i have been preparing for many rendezvous with my charcoal grill. i have made relishes, pickled jalapenos, pickled red onions, pickled banana peppers, and i have made my supply of homemade mustard and ketchup.

making homemade condiments allows the home cook to add unique, depths of flavors. it also makes a simple hamburger or hotdog something special; takes it from mundane to gourmet.  this is my favorite ketchup recipe and i often double it. the ginger gives it just the right kick of spicy zing.

folks, it is so easy to make that it would be a sin not to make it. go, get in the kitchen!

487454_10202745956922910_2930900739151567888_n

Ketchup

½ cup of white wine vinegar
¼ cup of sugar
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 teaspoon of finely grated ginger

14 ounce can diced tomatoes

in a small saucepan, combine the vinegar and sugar and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until a medium amber caramel forms, 8 to 10 minutes.

1981884_10202745955722880_7888151592473076503_n

1012871_10202745955882884_2348275201772190333_ncarefully add the tomatoes and red pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is very thick, about a half hour.

1925009_10202745956202892_8595125267781329640_n10170679_10202745956402897_8608022189202071244_n

transfer to a blender and puree. strain the ketchup through a sieve. stir in the ginger and season with salt and pepper.

10155456_10202745956642903_741411897154786646_n

“starting here, starting now, honey, everything’s coming up roses!”

rosewater

who doesn’t love the beautiful velvety petals of roses? who doesn’t plunge their nose deep into the body of a rose and inhale its sultry perfume? roses are used to express love and friendship. we place roses in delicate vases to brighten up our homes and offices. but did you know the rose can be used to create rosewater, which in turn adds delicateness to desserts? during the Victorian ages, desserts that had rosewater in them were called flowers of the orient.

you can make your own rosewater, however i purchase mine at the Indian supermarket. rosewater can also be found in some supermarkets, natural food stores, and specialty stores. rosewater can be used in recipes for light puddings and custards,  ice cream, frosting….my favorite use of rosewater is in shortbread cookies. the lightness of the shortbread marries magnificently with the tender floral flavor of the rosewater.

10172633_10202708906996685_1498449237_n

you will see that this recipe calls for rice flour. this may seem odd but rice flour has long been the secret of many a baker’s deliciously sandy shortbread cookies. i buy my rice flour at the Indian supermarket as well, for a whopping $1.79. if you do not have the inclination to head to the Indian supermarket, use the same amount of regular flour; but i suggest you sift it twice.

1471752_10202708906836681_878106327_n

Cardamon-Rosewater Cookies

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 1/2 cups white rice flour plus more for rolling
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1 teaspoon rosewater
poppy seeds and ground cardamom for garnish

whisk cardamom and 1 1/2 cups of rice flour in a medium bowl and set aside. using an electric mixer, beat the sugar and butter in a medium bowl until smooth. add the egg and rosewater and beat to blend.

reduce the mixer to low-speed and gradually mix in the dry ingredients (dough will be stiff). cover and chill overnight.

preheat oven to 300

this dough is very stiff and will be even stiffer after having sat in the fridge overnight. allow the dough to sit out for about 45 minutes. now, this may require some digging—scoop about a tablespoon of dough and, using lightly floured hands, work the dough in your hands to soften the dough and once softened, roll into balls. i know, i know—this sounds like a lot of work for a cookie, but the explosions of joy on your taste buds when you have these delicate floral cookies with a spot of tea is well worth it!

place the balls of cookies on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing about 1 1/2 inch apart. using the palm of your hand flatten balls to a 1/4-inch thickness. use a fork or any item to create a decorative pattern on the top of the cookie (i use a tiny heart cookie cutter). sprinkle cookies with poppy seeds and cardamom powder.

10001510_10202645607894247_1150382780_n

bake cookies until firm but still pale, 15-20 minutes.  transfer to wire racks; allow to cool. 

10152573_10202645651135328_1894018934_n

***you want the cookie to keep its pale buttery appearance; and remember they will continue to cook while they cool.  i am of the cookie school of thought that i rather under cook a cookie than over cook it—i prefer soft, my teeth easily sinks into the cookie kind of cookies. so, you be the judge of your taste buds—if you want a crunchy cookie let them cook longer.

“when life gives you lemons, please, just don’t squirt them in other people’s eyes.”

IMG_6871

“when life gives you lemons, please, just don’t squirt them in other people’s eyes.”   because that would be a disgraceful waste of this tangy goddess.  instead, make preserved lemons.

preserved lemons pair fabulously with olives, potatoes, risotto, quinoa. they hold their own against garlic and cilantro. preserved lemons are a staple in tagine and tandoor recipes–chicken, lamb and fish. one of my absolute favorite recipes is tandoori chicken with preserved lemons and olives.  you can top your favorite salad with chopped diced preserved lemon. even better, make Cambodian chicken and preserved lemon soup. i regularly make a large pot of quinoa and toss it with pomegranate molasses, pomegranate seeds, diced preserved lemon, fresh lemon juice, shelled pistachios, slivered almonds, crumbled feta cheese and mint leaves. i keep it in the fridge and i have lunch and a side dish for the entire work week.

i make my own preserved lemons because it is so hard to find them. you can order them online, but why would you when you can make your own for half the cost? although it is very quick and easy process to make the preserved lemons, you have to be patient because the lemons need to ferment for one month before you can use them.

although you preserve the entire lemon, you actually only use the skin of the preserved lemon. the melodious yet zealous high notes of the lemon peel is soft to the touch and silken in the mouth; heavenly!

the recipe below is for basic preserved lemons. but, you can be creative with add-ins such as: cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, lavender, herbs, garlic, etc.  also don’t waste the pulp!  it can be stored in a jar and used for bloody mary’s.

IMG_6872Preserved Lemons

7 organic lemons
4 tablespoons of kosher salt

sterilize the canning jar in boiling water or the dishwasher.

cut 5 lemons in half lengthwise and then cut into 4 wedges. place a tablespoon of salt into the bottom of a pint-size canning jar.

IMG_6873

place six wedges on top of the salt. with a muddler or the handle of a wooden spoon, press down on the wedges to partially juice and compact them. repeat in layers with the remaining wedges and salt.

IMG_6870

juice the remaining lemons and pour the juice into the jar so that the lemons are completely covered.  cover the jar tightly with the lid.

keep the jar at room temperature for one month. invert the jar once a day to mix the juice and salt. add more fresh lemon juice when necessary to assure that the lemons stay covered. after one month, the preserved lemons are ready for use. before using any of the lemon, rinse well to remove the salt, and remove the pulp.

IMG_6869

 

butter, like love, seems common enough yet has so many imitators.

butter has been misunderstood and vilified for the last few decades. however, butter is probably one of the healthiest fats you can eat. and if i am honest, its health factors mean nil to me. the sharp smell; the depth of flavor; and the creaminess….hot damn! frankly, i can eat it by the spoonful.

many traditional cultures held butter up to be a sacred food. many cultures have found butter to be a sign of divinity. for example, isolated Swiss villagers used to place a bowl of butter on their church altars, set a wick in it, and let it burn throughout the year as a sign of divinity in the butter. and indeed, butter made from the milk of grass fed cows is indeed sacred; which is why when i make butter i assure i use full fat heavy cream made from grass fed cows (which can be found at natural food markets, farmer’s markets or from the farms directly). do not fret, you can use any full fat heavy cream and the results will be the same. once you make and taste homemade butter, you can never go back to store bought butter. you may in fact be driven to create an altar for your homemade butter, stick a wick in it and chant praises.

 Butter

1 quart of heavy cream
1/3 cup of creme fraiche
ice water

whisk the heavy cream with the creme fraiche. cover with plastic wrap and let it stand at room temperature for at least 24 hours and up to 48 hours (i always let it sit for 48 hours).

1959977_10202574898406554_433170259_n

this process creates your cultured cream.

1960050_10202574898926567_297348408_n

put the cultured cream into the bowl of a standing mixer, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for one hour.

place the pouring shield onto the rim of your mixing bowl (or use plastic wrap). using the whisk attachment, beat the cultured cream on high speed until the solids form into a ball.

1012090_10202574899326577_797973693_n

drain the butter solids in a fine sieve set over a bowl. viola, the remaining liquid is buttermilk! place in a jar and place in the refrigerator and save for another use.

1898013_10202574904246700_330747176_n

1531618_10202574906566758_779886612_n

place the butter to a large bowl and knead to expel any excess buttermilk. pour 1/4 cup if ice water over the butter, knead and drain. repeat four times, adding 1/4 cup ice water each time. then, continue kneading until there is no additional water expels from the butter.

if you desire salted butter, add salt to taste at this point.

1978739_10202574906206749_1404709260_n

1925080_10202574906406754_1801927774_n (1)

form the butter into a block, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, followed by parchment paper. refrigerate for up to one week.

“pomegranates are like little explosions of awesome in your mouth.”

the pomegranate is an ancient gem, originating somewhere between Iran and the Himalayas of northern India. it has been grown and cultivated since ancient times. ancient Egyptian mythology art features the pomegranate. this red luscious fruit is mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible and the Babylonian Talmud. the pomegranate has been cultivated throughout India, China, Egypt and the Middle East. it was introduced to the United States in the late 1700’s by Spaniards. pomegranate trees were planted in California and Arizona where they continue to grow.

because the pomegranate has hundreds of seeds, it is regarded as a symbol of fertility, prosperity, abundance and generosity.  it has numerous health benefits: pomegranate juice destroys breast cancer cells and leaves the healthy cells alone; it has anti-inflammatory properties; prevents, and may help fight cardiovascular disease. the pomegranate is loaded with folic acid, b vitamins and potassium.

fresh pomegranates are typically only available in the United States between September and December, you can get the same health benefits from pomegranate juice and seeds, and both are available in grocery stores and specialty markets.

and good god, the pomegranate is sweet and tart and juicy; just an explosion of flavors  in your mouth. i keep a supply of pomegranate molasses in my refrigerator at all times so i can get my pomegranate flavor fix whenever my tummy is calling for such. pomegranate molasses works well in sweet and savory dishes. you can use it as a dipping sauce (my boyfriend loves dipping his Bell and Evans chicken nuggets in pomegranate molasses). you can use it as glaze or marinade for meats and roasted veggies. i frequently begin my day with plain greek yogurt, fresh fruit and a dollop of pomegranate molasses.  the possibilities for the use of pomegranate molasses are endless.

1506576_10202566582718667_985877015_n
Pomegranate Molasses

4 cups of pomegranate juice
½ cup of sugar
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

in a large saucepan, combine the pomegranate juice, sugar and lemon juice; heat on high until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid has reached a simmer. simmer until it has reached a syrupy consistency and has reduced to about 1 ¼ cups; about an hour. if you desire a sweeter molasses, add more sugar while you are reducing the liquid. allow the molasses to cool and store in a jar with a tight seal and refrigerate.

10001362_10202566582878671_1978828241_n

“broccoli may get stuck in your teeth, but french fries get stuck on your ass.”

it is broccoli month at my local co-op, and i had to jump on the bandwagon. well, it is a good bandwagon to jump on–broccoli is good for you! so, it has been a month of experimenting with new broccoli recipes, as well as revisiting old favorites.

i absolutely love this recipe. sometimes i serve it as an hor d’oeuvre; other times i serve it with dinner. depending on my hunger level, sometimes it IS dinner. the blood orange adds great depth to the sweet potato mash and mellows the heat from the Thai chili. the roasted broccoli and sweet potato marry beautifully. if you have any broccoli left over, you can use it as a side dish for another meal. or toss it with pasta, olive oil, pecorino romano and crushed red pepper.

 broccoli

Sweet Potato and Broccoli Toasts

Sweet Potato Mash

1 large sweet potato, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 red Thai chili, halved (leave the seeds if you like a kick, remove some if you don’t)
½ cup of juice from a blood orange (or a regular orange if you can’t find a blood orange)
1 cup of water
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

combine the sweet potato, Thai chili, orange juice and water in a medium-sized sauce pan. season with salt and pepper. bring to a boil, turn the heat down and allow to simmer until the liquid has evaporated and the sweet potato is very soft (add more orange juice or water as needed).  remove from heat and mash.  allow to cool slightly.

*you can make the sweet potato mash a few days ahead of time, just be certain to warm the mash slightly before spreading it on the toasts.

 

Roasted Broccoli

1 large head of broccoli, stems removed and cut into large florets
2 cloves of garlic, minced
8 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
4 slices of baguette (cut four sections; cut those in half lengthwise)
3 tablespoons of chopped pistachios
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon of freshly chopped basil, divided
1 tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves, divided
sea salt
crushed red pepper

preheat the oven to 425. toss the broccoli with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the minced garlic.  roast in the oven in a baking dish until tender—-about 20 minutes. remove from oven. allow to cool slightly and then coarsely chop.

while you are allowing the broccoli to cool, brush both sides of the bread with olive oil and toast in the oven until golden brown, about 8 minutes.

toss broccoli with the remaining olive oil,  lemon juice, pistachio nuts, half of the basil and half of the thyme.

now, spread the sweet potato onto the toasted bread top with the broccoli mixture and remaining basil and thyme, drizzle a little olive oil on top, and sprinkle with sea salt and crushed red pepper.

1939985_10202477563173234_1653088382_n