Sweet Potato Panzanella

 

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As you are reading this, I am frolicking (or tango-ing) through the streets of Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Which is something that I never ever thought I would ever say (write).

But I am, and I’m hoping it’s awesome. (I’m sure it will be.)  The Paris of South America?  Umm, check.  And hopefully next week I can share some amazing photos/stories with you.  I don’t speak Spanish, and I don’t eat meat, but I drink Malbec (my favorite wine), so I am absolutely positive that I will have some great stories to share.

But, since I am writing this post in future-tense, I am still showing a loyalty to all things American and will dutifully continue pre-scheduling posts and continue my Thanksgiving 2013 menu line-up.

This panzanella was a hodge podge recipe.  There’s a component of a sweet potato hash here from Williams-Sonoma, but I thought I would put a salad-ish twist on it by converting it into a nice, hearty panzanella.  Here’s the deal:  this is great as a panzanella, but I will warn you.  You have to handle the sweet potatoes with a gentle hand, as they will break apart a bit if you are too rough.  Actually, though, in all honesty, I thought the combination of soft sweet potato and lightly toasted bread was a great contrast in textures, and I think I may prefer it. And the best part?  This salad has a ton of options.  If you aren’t a sweet potato fan, just substitute your favorite cooked squash here.  And, even though I don’t like 2-day recipes, it really does save time if you bake the sweet potatoes the night before.

This is definitely a festive-in-your-face-Happy-Thanksgiving-panzanella salad (actually, with a few toasted nuts in here for added protein, this could be a great main course…well, at least for me…because I like this kind of food over big heavy meals.)

 

Life is good.  Life is very very good.

 

 

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Sweet Potato Panzanella

Servings:  about 4-6

 

Ingredients

4 cups whole grain bread, cubed and lightly toasted (I used a baguette that I sliced into cubes and toasted in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes or so)

3 medium sweet potatoes

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 Fuji apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

3-4 green onions, sliced

1 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

3-4 cups fresh spinach leaves (I used Earthbound Farm.)

 

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Place the sweet potatoes directly on the oven rack and bake for about 50 minutes or so.  Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature (or until cool enough to handle).  At this point, you need to chill the sweet potatoes so that they become firm.  Refrigerate until this happens-a few hours or preferably overnight.

3. Once the sweet potatoes have chilled, peel them and cut them into 1-inch cubes.

4. In a saute pan over medium heat, melt two tablespoons of butter.

5. Add the apple and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apple starts to caramelize and brown around the edges, about 5 minutes.

6. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter to the pan.

7. Add the green onions and cranberries and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 minute.

8.  Add the cinnamon, allspice, and sweet potatoes and cook, stirring gently but frequently, for about 4 minutes.

9. Add the salt, stirring gently to combine.  Remove the mixture from the heat and let cool for about 10-15 minutes.

10.  In a large bowl, combine the toasted bread, sweet potato mixture, and the spinach, tossing gently to combine.  Season to taste with salt and pepper (add in toasted nuts/some sort of cheese if you like).  Enjoy.

 

Source:  Adapted from Williams-Sonoma.

November 12, 2013 - 9:37 am

shobelyn - Oh, I love the new look of your site. I thought I was opening someone else’s blog. Do not get me wrong I love the other look too, but this one look more relaxing and laid back. Looking forward for the photos you will share next week. Have fun.

November 12, 2013 - 2:05 pm

Kelli @ The Corner Kitchen - Such a fun fall take on panzanella! This would a great additional to my Turkey day line up! Hope you’re having a blast in Buenos Aires (I have always wanted to go there!!)!

November 12, 2013 - 6:40 pm

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar - Oh man, so jealous of your travels! AND this salad is super fab! Yum!

November 12, 2013 - 11:49 pm

Joanne - I’m picturing you tango-ing away as I read this!! With a bowl of this panzanella in your hand. Now wouldn’t THAT be the life?

December 5, 2013 - 2:21 am

Whole Wheat Beer Cheese Bread

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I know I just posted a Cheddar Ale Soup.  But I’ve kind of been on a serious beer/cheese kick lately.   I think it’s the combination of dark evenings, cold rainy weather, and a fully packed DVR that I cannot seem to ever get less than 98% full.

Eating cheesy food/watching TV on dark nights is way easier than feeling inspired to prep a lot of vegetables and go for a run outside.  I’m just saying.

I played around with whole wheat flour here.  The original recipe called for exclusively all-purpose flour, so I substituted in half whole wheat flour.  The bread definitely had a denser consistency with the whole wheat flour, but I found that I actually prefer a denser bread (especially if a big chunk is going to be served with a hearty soup/stew).  As far as type of cheese goes, use whatever kind you like.  I went with a sharp cheddar, which I loved.  Next time I might do a combination of cheeses just to make it interesting.

I’m serving this as my “bread” this year for Thanksgiving.  Served warm with a bit of melty butter on top?  I might skip the rest of the meal and just eat the whole loaf by myself.  Yay for carbs and cheese.

 

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Whole Wheat Beer Cheese Bread

Servings: 1 loaf (I used a 10-inch bread pan.   The original recipe calls for a 9-inch loaf pan.)

 

Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 garlic clove, minced

1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

3 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese

1 (12-ounce) bottle lager-style beer

Cooking spray

2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, divided

 

 

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Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray your bread loaf pan thoroughly with cooking spray.

2. In a small frying pan over medium-low heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering.

3. Add the chopped onion to the pan; cook until lightly browned, about 5-10 minutes stirring occasionally.

4. Add the pepper and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

5. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

6. Add the onion mixture, cheese, and beer to the flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

7. Pour the batter into your prepared loaf pan and lightly drizzle 1 tablespoon of the melted butter over batter.

8. Bake for 35 minutes, and then lightly drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon butter over batter.

9. Bake for an additional 25 minutes or until deep golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

10. Cool in pan for at least 5 minutes before handling.

 

 

Source:  Adapted from Cooking Light as part of my monthly contribution to the Cooking Light Bloggers’ Connection.

November 7, 2013 - 7:29 am

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar - Beer bread makes me freaking happy. Love this!

November 7, 2013 - 1:31 pm

Maria Tadic - This looks so yummy! I love breads like this. I definitely wanna try this along a big bowl of warm soup!!

November 7, 2013 - 6:43 pm

Joanne - I’ve done parmesan beer bread before (SO.GOOD) but somehow missed the memo on cheddar!! Need to amend that with the gazillion bottles of pumpkin beer I always seem to have around!

November 12, 2013 - 3:41 pm

Amelia - Shanon, you had me at “beer” and “cheese.” YUM!! I can’t wait to make this.

Crispy Polenta Bites with Roasted Beets and Horseradish Creme Fraiche

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Dear Daylight Savings Time,

I have to admit, I kind of a love-hate relationship with you.  I mean, it’s comforting to wake up in the morning with the sun shining (???-let’s be honest, though, most of the time the sun is definitely not shining-we have entered the official Midwest “cloudy season”), so that’s a great thing.  What’s not so great is that Scout’s internal alarm clock is still set at “rising partial sun” apparently, so she’s *innocently* flapping her ears adjacent to my head at approximately 4:30 am everyday so that I might *accidentally* wake up and let her out/feed her.  (I have to admit, as much as I complain about this phenomenon, I am lucky to have such a lovely, wonderful dog in my life, so I’m exaggerating here.) I usually have to coax her back to sleep by telling her what a great dog she is (this actually works), and I can get at least another hour or so of sleep in.

But, I have to admit, it’s a little sad when it’s 5:30 pm and already dark out.  I come home from work (when, in the summer/spring, it’s daylight and I feel energized and up to the task of exercising), and literally all I want to do is watch reruns of Real Housewives and eat pints of ice cream.  Or put butter on things and then eat them.  I tried to eat a Caprese salad the other night, with out of season tomatoes, in a semi-dark apartment, and I felt a little sad.  There are no longer boats going up and down the river, the restaurant downstairs closed its patio (well, they closed in general), and I am wearing boots when I take Scout out for a walk in the morning.  The season has officially turned. Sigh.

But there are some shining gems.  Like Sundays where it’s so cold out that all I want to do is cook/eat.  And utilizing my oven to roast various vegetables.  And time to read, drink spice-flavored teas, and curl up with an electric blanket.  There are some perks.

This is a recipe that really isn’t difficult to make.  I’m a huge fan of polenta, but I’ve tried making various versions, and I have never gotten a polenta to have a firm consistency that’s amenable to frying. So I used pre-made, store-bought polenta here (by the way, if you have  a good recipe of fry-able consistency polenta, let me know.  I’d love to have it.) to make frying easy (and to cut down on time.)  I whipped up some horseradish creme fraiche (with store-bought horseradish, so adjust your amounts of horseradish to your own personal tastes), and topped it with some roasted beets.  A simple appetizer which can be eaten hot or cold.  I decided to coat the polenta first in some whole wheat panko mixed with grated Parmesan for a little extra crispiness, but if you are short on time, you can skip this step completely.

Oh, by the way, this is my first of my Thanksgiving 2013 series.  Here’s your appetizer.  :)

 

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Crispy Polenta Bites with Roasted Beets and Horseradish Creme Fraiche

 

Servings: about 10-12

 

Ingredients

One 17.6 ounce tube store-bought yellow polenta (or your own version), cut into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch thick slices (thickness at your own discretion)-I cut mine into squares.  You can keep yours circular, if you like.

1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1/2 cup whole wheat panko

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup creme fraiche

1 teaspoon horseradish (or more, to taste)

Sea salt, to taste

2-3 medium beets, roasted and diced (see this recipe if you want to learn how to roast beets.  I used a combination of yellow and purple.  I had leftovers, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Did you know that beets are one of the best liver detoxifiers out there?  I eat my beets while drinking a beer…..they counterbalance each other.  Hahaha.)

Chives, chopped, for garnish (if desired)

 

 

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Instructions

1.  Lightly brush each polenta slice with water to moisten each side.

2. In a small bowl, combine the whole wheat panko and Parmesan, mixing to combine.

3. Lightly dip each piece of polenta in the panko/Parmesan mixture, gently pressing in the panko mixture on both sides (it’s ok if you don’t coat each piece completely.   Also, you may have some of the whole wheat mixture leftover depending on how thick you slice your polenta.)

4. In a nonstick frying pan over medium to medium-high heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering.

5. Fry each polenta slice in the oil until lightly browned and crispy, about 2-3 minutes on each side.

6. In a small bowl, stir together the creme fraiche and the horseradish, adjusting to taste with more horseradish (if desired) and salt.

7. Place a small dollop of the creme fraiche over each polenta slice.

8. Top each polenta slice with about 1 teaspoon of chopped beets.  Garnish with fresh chives, if desired.  Enjoy warm or cold.

 

Source:  A Curvy Carrot original.

November 5, 2013 - 8:19 am

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar - I’m not sure about daylight savings time either…I especially hate it for food photos!!! I can never get a good shot of my dinner. BOO! Love these little bites. Yum!

November 5, 2013 - 8:52 am

Christina - As pretty as a picture. Lovely.

November 5, 2013 - 9:29 am

srlacy - Hi Katrina!
YES! I totally agree about the pictures-I find myself racing the sun on the weekends (or getting up super early) in order to have enough time to prep, make everything, and try to get some decent shots. :)

November 5, 2013 - 1:25 pm

Ker - This is a beautiful appetizer, and sounds delicious!

If you do receive the answer as to how to make good fried polenta, I’d love to know. I’ve never had much success either.

Enjoy the holiday season!

November 5, 2013 - 8:50 pm

Joanne - Leaving work to find pitch black darkness is DEFINITELY disheartening!! I try to keep lots of good food on hands at all times so that when I get home I’m less tempted to eat ALL THE BUTTER. Sometimes it works. :P I’d be so happy to have these polenta bites to nibble on!

November 6, 2013 - 4:55 am

Elizabeth - I’ve never seen pre-made polenta in the grocery stores in Australia so I’ll have to try this with homemade polenta. They look delicious.

November 6, 2013 - 12:29 pm

Ruthy @ Omeletta - Me and Ole Daylight Savings Time have a similar love-hate, and my dog just doesn’t get it, either! Thankfully I can usually coax her back to sleep as well.
I love that you added the panko here- I love making anything even crispier with breadcrumbs.

November 6, 2013 - 6:46 pm

Stephanie @ Girl Versus Dough - I hear you about this DST business. It’s great for getting me up in the morning, but then I usually want to be in bed by 8 p.m. because it’s been dark out for so long. The old grandma lady side of me loves it, though, I guess. ;) These Thanksgiving apps sound lovely!