Friday, February 14, 2014

Creamy and Rich Sweet Potato and Roasted Almond Soup

I love sweet potatoes. The great news about them? Unlike most things I love, sweet potatoes are actually GOOD for us. They are one of the best sources of beta-cartotene and are a great source of vitamin A, the vitamin that promotes good eyesight! Plus, in order for us to get the benefits of all the beta-carotene in the sweet gems, we should have a little fat with our sweet potato - what's not to like?

This recipe is a riff on a pumpkin soup that I often prepare. It's easy to do - especially when you have the sweet potatoes already roasted. Like for the Double Stuffed Sweet Potatoes in the February 14th Friday Four! 

Sweet potatoes possess the same creamy, rich texture of sauces and soups, mousses and flourless cakes that keeps us coming back for one more little bite. This soup achieves that texture nirvana by pureeing the veggies and adding them back into the pot. And topping the soup? A hit of crunch and salt with a sprinkle of chopped roasted almonds.

1 More Sweet Potato Still in the Oven!!!
Sweet Potato and Almond Soup

The Glorious Sweet Insides of Four Roasted Sweet Potatoes
24 oz Veggie Broth
1 ½ Cups Apple Juice
1/2 Cup Natural, Creamy Almond Butter
1 TB Grated Fresh Ginger
1 Clove Garlic, Grated
1 TB Fresh Lime Juice
2 TB Fresh Orange Juice
1/8 Tsp Cayenne Pepper
Sea Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper To Taste
Zest of 1 Lime
½ Cup Nonfat Greek Yogurt
¼ Cup Thinly Sliced Green Onions (Green Tops Only)
¼ Cup Finely Chopped, Roasted Salted Almonds*

Step One
In a medium stockpot, combine the sweet potato, veg broth, and apple juice. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Step Two
Return to the pot. Add the ginger, garlic, juices and cayenne pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes over medium heat. Taste for salt and pepper.

Step Three
Mix the lime zest with the Greek yogurt. Garnish each bowl with a TB of the yogurt mixture, and sprinkle with the almonds.

* To roast the almonds, place on a sheet pan and slide into a 400F oven for about 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and spray or drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Ummmm! Warm, Sticky and Sweet Roasted Plantains

You may have seen these gnarly-looking-black-kind-of-bananas in the produce section of your grocery store and thought, "Ick". You were wrong.

Wait til you taste the rich, gooey sweetness of a roasted plantain. They are SO good and SO easy to make. Plantains soon will be a star on the side of your plate.

Discovering the ease and versatility of roasting has changed the veggie game. As vegetables roast, they lose moisture and their flavor is concentrated and sweetened. Broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, or any of the veggies that were on your personal "Ick" list, now taste delicious...and plantains do, too!

Native to India, but grown all in tropical climates all around the world, plantains are popular in Latin American, Caribbean and West African cooking. A little longer than a banana with a thick tough skin, the easiest way to peel them? Cut off each end and score the plantain with your knife, from one end to the other.
Once peeled, you are ready to season and roast. They are a great side to a veggie plate, as an accompaniment to a piece of grilled fish, or an sweet addition to a black bean salad!

Roasted Plantains

4 Black Plantains
2 TB Olive Oil
1 TB Smoked Paprika
1 Tsp Sea Salt

Peel and Slice the plantains into 1/2" diagonal slices. On an aluminum foil lined sheet try, toss them with the olive oil, smoked paprika and sea salt. Slide into a 400F oven and let roast for 30 minutes or until soft and caramelized around the edges. Serve and enjoy!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Toast is HOT! Sautéed Pears on Warm Goat Cheese TOAST

Who knew? Toast is the next Kale, or at least it is to some of the food-trend-prognosticators that I follow. So imagine my surprise, when presented a menu last week, with an appetizer appropriately named, “Three Toasts”. (Don’t ever tell me Atlanta’s food scene isn’t on the cutting edge! Or, ummm maybe the chef and owner Ford Fry reads the same culinary journals I do?)

When the plate arrived it was filled with…toast. Last year we probably would have called it Bruschetta, but that’s so 2013 isn’t it?

From left to right in the picture above, you can see Broccoli Pesto with Almonds, Ricotta and Pear and the Gorgonzola and Beets on some rustic country bread. My favorite? Hands down the ricotta and pear was the most interesting. Broccoli pesto was good – but not inspirational. Gorgonzola and Beets? Brilliant, proving that anything can top toast. But the idea of sautéing some teeny tiny squares of luscious pear, crowning a bit of soft, savory cheese and then sprinkling on some toasted pecans is sweet and savory heaven. Here’s what I am going to do with Chef Fry’s good idea:

Sautéed Pears on Warm Goat Cheese TOAST for Two

1 Small Bosc Pear, just barely ripe
1 TB Butter
1 Tsp Maple Syrup
1 TB Goat Cheese, softened
1 Slice Rustic Country Bread
1 TB Toasted Sliced Almonds

Peel the pear and cut into small cubes about ½” on each side. Warm the butter in a small sauce pan and add the pear and maple syrup. Cook and stir until the pear is starting to soften. While the pear is sautéing, pop the bread into the toaster. When it is done, spread the goat cheese over the bread and pile on the pear. Sprinkle with almonds, cut the bread in half, and find a friend!
(I'm serving this tonight with a bowl of warm and steamy tomato soup!)