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One Sweet Potato Is a Meal

On days when I just don’t want to expend a lot of thought on dinner  – and yes, there are those days – I turn to my fall and winter standby, the sweet potato. One medium sweet potato is a meal, and requires very little fuss. My favorite go-to preparation is to scrub the potato and then cut it either into slices (like fries) or rounds or wedges; whatever seems easiest depending on the tuber’s shape.

Toss the pieces with olive oil and the spice of your choice. I really like going spicy with sweet potatoes so I usually opt for smoked paprika or chili powder, often in combination with cumin. But curry powder or any Indian spice combo would work just as well. As might nutmeg and cinnamon, I suppose. Salt and pepper, and spread the pieces out on a baking sheet – use parchment paper to make clean up even easier – and roast/bake at somewhere around 350 or 375 degrees until crispy and browning. Depending on your oven and the size of the potato this should take about 30 -40 minutes or so. If you’re feeling industrious, flip the pieces about half way through.

Serve this with a herb yogurt sauce. Continue reading

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Fun Things to Do With Pita

Here are some things you can do when you have a stack of pita (rounds):

Spinach enchilada (variation): grated Colby Jack cheese, mixed with chopped fresh spinach, between pita halves; proceed as with a classic grilled cheese sandwich: start with one pita half in a hot, oiled cast iron pan, layer on the spinach and cheese, top with second pita half; after about 5 minutes or so, once the bottom pita has crisped and browned, flip the whole thing and let the other side brown.

Tuna melt or vegetarian chickpea of the sea: on a pita, layer spinach leaves (young), tuna salad (or chickpea version), cheddar or Colby Jack and place the sandwich under the broiler until the cheese is melted.

Chicken and caramelized onion sandwich with melted cheese: prepare chicken breast following this method – moist and tender chicken breasts – but start the pan off with sliced onion (1 medium onion) in butter and olive oil; let onions soften, then follow the chicken-breast cooking method, stirring onions and leaving chicken in the middle of the pan, surrounded by onions. This will cook the chicken breasts and give you nicely browned and caramelized onions. Then toast the pita half, smear with mayo, pile on onions; leave chicken in pan, add on cheese slices (cheddar or similar), cover pan; maybe fire up the stove again for 30 sec to ensure enough heat to melt cheese; wait about 1 minute; place chicken breast on onions, top with second pita half (also mayo on that, if you want); eat delicious, messy sandwich, perhaps with roasted potatoes on the side.

Summer Improvisation

An easy riff on summer themes, or, one way to clean out the summer bounty aging in your fridge:  Braised chicken and summer vegetables.

The players: 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts; 1 medium (and in my case, rapidly softening) zucchini – cut however you like it; most of a pint of cherry tomatoes (also going soft) – red and sweet orange ones that I left mostly whole, although I did halve the larger ones; 2 scallions (chopped); a handful of shriveled basil leaves;  butter; 1/2 cup of chicken stock, and a generous pour of sherry vinegar;

The motif: an improvisation from something like this delightful template a la Blue Kitchen.

Dredge the chicken breasts in flour, brown in a pan of hot canola oil for about 4 minutes per side. As an extra flourish, I added in the stems from the basil leaves to give the oil some flavor. Place the browned chicken on a plate and let sit while you add some butter to the pan. Oh, and remove the basil stems and discard. Once the butter is done foaming, add the scallions and let them brown a bit. I also threw in two large basil leaves at this point.

The zucchini go in next, with a bit of salt and any spices you feel like – I added some cayenne. Let the zucchini brown a while, to get some good color on it before adding in the tomatoes. Toss everything around a bit, then add the chicken back in along with any juices, and the stock and vinegar. Let come to a slight boil, put the lid on the pan and let it braise for about 10 minutes or so.

Once the chicken is pretty much done, add in the rest of the basil (torn or chopped), and perhaps let the sauce cook down a bit.

For the final touch, toast some day-old ciabatta bread and serve alongside to mop up the lovely braising sauce; if there are leftovers in the pan, cut the leftover chicken into smaller pieces, toast some more bread, cut it into cubes, and toss it in the veggies and sauce for a sort of panzanella salad (bread salad) for later.