Sweet Potato Burrito Bowls with Green Sauce

Vegetal Matters - Burrito Bowls with Green SauceI don’t repeat dishes often. What I’m cooking constantly changes based on seasons and whims. As always there are a few exceptions, but usually in the form of a dish based on staples that I can easily adapt with whatever veg and other seasonings are available. Burrito bowls have been in the rotation for years now, but I always felt like they could use some kind of binder and shredded cheese never really cut it. These grilled sweet potato bowls inspired me to go the sauce route, and the first time I made this green sauce I felt like I cracked the burrito bowl code. It is the kind of sauce you make a jar of then end up putting it on every meal you have. Try it with tacos, or the scrambled eggs you make to go along with leftover beans.

Sweet Potato Burrito Bowls with Green Sauce

Serves 6. Loosely based on these.

Sweet potatoes are a personal favorite, but you could use any veg you have in addition or instead of them. This could easily become vegan by making a few substitutions in the sauce: use agave instead of honey, silken tofu instead of the yogurt, or leave out the yogurt altogether. You could easily turn these into actual burritos, or serve with smaller tortillas on the side. To the cilantro haters: I’m very sorry, and parsley could be subbed. One more note: jalapeños can greatly vary in spiciness, so taste a little bit if you are worried about adding too much heat.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

  • 1.5 lbs of sweet potatoes (this was 2 for me)
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • heaping 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • heaping 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • Salt

Black Beans

  • 3 cups of black beans and their cooking liquid (or 2 15oz cans)
  • 1/2 cup of  red onion (a quarter of  a large one for me, with a bit of the remainder chopped for topping)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar

Green Yogurt Sauce

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 small jalapeño, or half a large (seeds removed if you don’t want the spice)
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves and stems
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • juice from 1 lime (mine was 3 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (regular or Greek would work)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey

For serving

  • cooked brown rice
  • chopped red onion or scallion
  • hot sauce
  • chopped avocado
  • chopped jalapeño

Preheat the oven to 425F. Scrub the sweet potatoes (no need to peel though), and chop into 1/2 inch pieces. Put the coriander and cumin seeds in a small dry pan and heat on medium. Let them toast for about 5 minutes, until they start to color and you can smell them. Let them cool for a minute and then grind in a mortar and pestle (or a spice grinder if you have one, but not your coffee grinder). Toss the sweet potatoes in oil, ground spices, chili powder, and a pinch of salt. Pop them in the oven and roast for 25 minutes.

Chop the onion and then heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the onion and saute uncovered for 5 minutes until slightly softened. While it is sauteing mince the garlic clove. After 5 minutes add the garlic clove and saute for 1 minute. Add the beans, cover, and bring to a simmer. Remove the lid, and left simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has thickened. Finish with some salt and the teaspoon of vinegar.

Start the motor of your food processor and drop in the garlic clove. Let it get pulverized, then drop in the jalapeño until it is equally pulverized. Wipe down the sides with a spatula, then add the cilantro. Run until the cilantro is minced, then add the cumin, lime juice, yogurt, olive oil, honey, and a pinch of salt. Run until it is a smooth, green sauce. Alternatively, you can mince the garlic, jalapeño, and cilantro, then whisk together with the rest of the ingredients.

Serve bowls with rice, topped with beans and sweet potato. Let diners add additional toppings and sauce to their liking.

Cheese + Chocolate

Vegetal Matters - Cheese + ChocolatePlease drop everything and plan a fondue party. It is the easiest, most crowd pleasing dinner party that you can possibly throw. No fondue pot? No problem. In fact unless you are going to do this once a week I see no point in letting one take up space in your kitchen.  If you really care that much about having the named piece of equipment, just grab one at a thrift store, use it, and donate it right back afterwards.  Fondue sounds impressive, but it is truly as easy as prepping some dip-able items, melting cheese and chocolate, dunking, and enjoying.

Equipment and set up:

  • 1 small pot for up to 6 people, more than that and go with 2 pots and a doubled recipe
  • 1 fork per person (or grilling skewers if you have them, but maybe not with kids)
  • 1 trivet per pot
  • If you have a small crock pot you could use that instead, but I wouldn’t use one that is too wide because it will likely result in a flat cheese/chocolate brick
  • If you have a small heating pad you could also use that under the pot to keep it warm, but not necessary
  • Don’t use a tablecloth or place mats, melted and cooled cheese and chocolate are 100x easier to wipe off of a table than pick off of cloth

Cheese Fondue

Adapted from Alton Brown – Serves 6

Plan to dip whatever you like to eat that you think would be even more delicious doused in cheese. Some variety of bread, vegetables, and protein. This is what I served recently, but it is infinitely adaptable to your tastes. For 6 people:

  • 1 loaf of really good bread
  • 1.5 lbs of sausage
  • 1.5 lbs roasted red skinned potatoes
  • 1 lb of roasted broccoli with garlic
  • 1 Macintosh apple (stick with tarter varieties)

Alternatively: soft or hard pretzels, chicken (or any leftover meat), cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, carrots, parsnips….just please try the apple. My whole party was skeptical, but that apple was gone by the end. If you want to make your life really, really easy then outsource the dipping items to your guests and just make the cheese.

  • 10 oz melting cheese (I used 4 oz Gruyere and 6 oz Gouda)
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 12 oz dry hard cider
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon brandy (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • Freshly ground pepper

(First prep all dipping ingredients, and keep the veg and meats warm in a low oven while you melt the cheese.) Grate both cheeses and mix with corn starch. Put cider, lemon juice, brandy (if using), and salt in a small, heavy saucepan. Turn the heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Add the cheese one handful at a time, stirring until it is fully melted. Then add the next handful in the same manner. Reduce the heat if the mixture begins to bubble. Once all the cheese is melted and coats the back of a spoon, add in the curry powder and pepper. Serve immediately.

Now is the time to clear the plates, let your pot soak, and play a game with your guests. The discussion will inevitably turn to making all meals small items dipped in hot, luscious substances. Then you will further impress them by revealing that dessert will also be fondue, this time chocolate and even easier. The equipment needed is exactly the same, the ingredients fewer, and the process simpler.

Vegetal Matters - Cheese + Chocolate

Chocolate Fondue

Serves 6

  • Some kind of baked good, such as pound cake or peanut butter cookies (nothing too crumbly)
  • Pretzels
  • Nuts
  • Fruit, fresh or dried such as strawberries, raspberries, bananas, oranges/clementines
  • 12 oz chopped chocolate, I used semi-sweet
  • 1 cup of cream (more if you like you fondue runnier, less if you like it thicker)
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Chop any larger fruits or cakes into bit sized pieces (good job to outsource to guests!). Melt all ingredients in a small, heavy saucepan over medium low heat while stirring constantly. Be careful not to let the chocolate burn, if you’re worried you could use a double boiler. Heat for a couple more minutes after the chocolate is fully melted, then serve immediately.

Soups/Salads

20150114_1858011The beginning of the new year brought frigid temperatures in New England, as if winter wanted to prove that she was really, truly here. I get it winter, I’ve embraced your chill as an excuse to make at least a pot of soup a week. But it’s also January, a month of resolutions and eating at least 1 cup of vegetables to make up for every baked good consumed in December. Hearty winter salads though, with cabbage and kale and toasted chickpeas and homemade dressings. December is always a month of extremes, and this steady soup/salad diet is bringing me back to equilibrium.

Soups

Cassoulet with Lots of Vegetables – This is not the traditional French cassoulet, which involves many separate components to be cooked and layered into an earthenware pot for long cooking. It embraces the same flavors and ingredients though, and translates them into a hearty soup that can be put together in 20 minutes, with a cooking time not much longer. As with many Bittman recipes a small amount of meat is used to great effect. I’ve only made it with sausages (the better they are, the better the soup is), but I imagine it would be even more enjoyable with chops or duck as he suggests.

Hot and Sour Soup – My allegiance to Joanne Chang is no secret. I’ll stop worshiping her when she stops putting out amazing, foolproof recipes. There is a lot of vinegar in this, but it is what makes the soup so delightfully sour. This one also comes together real quick, ready to eat in under half an hour. I’ve left out the pork in a pinch, but I like it best when included.

Winter Vegetable Chowder with Mustard, Lemon, and Crispy Cabbage – I’ve been drooling over this soup since Laura posted it last week. Such interesting vegetables and flavor combinations! It did not disappoint, with brightness from the lemon and mustard that we need on chilly days. The cabbage topping was my favorite part, which I can foresee on many a future soup. It’s also vegan, and pairs very well with white wine.

Salads

Roasted Cabbage Wedge Salad – I think savoy cabbage is one of the most beautiful vegetables, and I’ve seen quite a few of them around recently. Plus I love the presentation of this salad, which seems so much more refined than a tangle of greens.

Shredded Kale Salad with Tomatoes, Olives, and Feta – I successfully served this to a friend who had never had kale before (another kale lover! rejoice!). Winter tomatoes are on my list of least favorite things, so instead I use sun dried tomatoes (packed in oil) or roasted red peppers.

Chopped Thai Salad with Sesame Garlic Dressing – Yes, another kale salad. I could devote a whole blog to them if I was so inclined. I love heartier green salads in the winter months because the greens are much more likely to come from closer by, and they pair so well with soups. Peppers are not in their prime right now, and I think a few colors of carrots would be just as nice.

PS – Lacinato kale, or more preferably dinosaur kale, because it makes me picture t-rex’s scaled in kale (someone! make a t-shirt!), is my favorite for raw salads. It’s more tender than other kales, especially when chopped small in a salad.

Food Resolutions

Vegetal Matters - Food ResolutionsI’m most definitely a resolver. I love the beginning of a new year, the chance to reflect on the past 12 months, and thinking of ways to grow and improve. I always make a list of resolutions, some more about who I want to be or how I want to behave, but there are always a few that revolve around cooking and eating. A few years ago it was to cook more fish (which never really happened, and I’m fine with that). This past year it was to eat less meat, and when eating meat choose the more sustainable options (eating less definitely happened, and I can’t vouch for the happy life for every animal I ate, but I do think it was a larger percentage).

This year I’m focusing on being a better reader overall (taking more notes, reviewing and retaining more), and I want that to carry over into the kitchen as well. I try new recipes a lot, but it happens way more than it should that I read the ingredient list, skim the instructions, and then miss a step. Nothing tragic has ever come of this, but definitely a few frazzled moments. I also want to focus more on simple food. I love trying new and challenging recipes, and don’t plan to stop doing that entirely. But sometimes after making something super simple that turns out well I think ‘why don’t I do this more often?!?’ So, now I will.

The photo above does not exemplify this resolution in the slightest. It is my first ever buche de noel that I made on Christmas (plus the 2 days leading up to it) from Flour, Too. It involved a very flat and not as pliable as I’d hoped cake, amazing white chocolate whipped filling, chocolate ganache, and meringe mushrooms (I didn’t read the bit about leaving them in the cooling oven overnight…so that didn’t happen). It was fun and impressive but quite a bit of work. I will always find joy in doing projects like this, but there is equal merit in doing something simple very well.

PS – Here are a few food related titles I’m planning to pick up in 2015:

An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler

The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture by Wendell Berry

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach

The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation by David Kamp

More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin

PPS – Thanks Ken for the wonderful photo and editing!