Cherry Tomato Tartlets

I walked on Romar Beach with my sister, brother-in-law and niece at sunrise on Saturday morning. There are storms in the Gulf, so the sky was red in warning.

On the way home, I stopped by the Coastal Alabama Farmers and Fishermans Market and bought a bunch of cherry and grape tomatoes.

I had seen an episode of Kitchen Queens – Women Chefs of New Orleans and watched Melissa Araujo whip up a tomato tart. It looked lovely but I had to make a few changes – it needed a little cheese for starters. Also, since I’m away from my herb garden, dried herbs. I cooked them in the muffin tin so we could all enjoy our own little tartlet.

While baking it made the house smell wonderful but the true joy was eating them. Bright, rich tomato flavor and the balsamic vinegar added a lovely touch.

Cherry Tomato Tartlets

1 lb cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon dried basil (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
1 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
½ teaspoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
½ cup mozzarella cheese, grated

Store bought pie crust

Large muffin tin or tart pan

Generously butter the muffin tin. Cut the pie crust into 6 rounds (you’ll have to ball up the pieces and reroll for the last 2. Place a round in the bottom of each muffin tin, letting it come slightly up the sides.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Slice the tomatoes in half. Heat the oil in a medium skillet and toss in 2/3rds of the tomatoes, reserving the remaining third. Sprinkle with salt. Sauté the tomatoes until they soften slightly. Add basil, oregano and garlic and stir. Stir in the balsamic vinegar. Cook until most of the liquid has cooked away.

Divide the mozzarella cheese evenly between each muffin tin. Divide the cooked tomatoes between each muffin tin. Set the uncooked tomatoes, cut side up, on top of the cooked tomatoes.

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes until the filling is bubbling hot and the crust is golden brown. Allow to cool for 15 minutes and then remove from pan. Let cool an additional 10 minutes and serve.

Grilled Sweet Potatoes

I was grilling some Boston butt country style ribs and decided to use the long cook time to grill a sweet potato, too. It is sort of a misnomer as they aren’t really ribs but they take a fairly long cook to melt the collagen so I had about 2 hours of grilling time to play with.

If you’re concerned about the fat, toss the potatoes in olive oil instead of butter.

This method adds delicious flavor to the potatoes plus the addition of smoke, raises things up a level. In fact, I baked an extra sweet potato to completion on the grill (a little over an hour) and then removed it from the skin and mashed it up to put in a later recipe (like mashed sweet potatoes, sweet potato biscuits or sweet potato pancakes). Freeze in 1 cup amounts in a zip top bags so you’re ready to go when the urge for sweet potato hits.

Grilled Sweet Potatoes

2 large sweet potatoes
3 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried rosemary (1 tablespoon if using fresh)
½ teaspoon salt

Wash the sweet potatoes. Set up the grill for indirect grilling by placing a chimney full of white hot coals along one side. While the fire is at its hottest, place the sweet potatoes between the meat and the hot coals. Grill for 30 minutes.

Remove the sweet potatoes from the fire.

Cut into rounds and peel. Place in a bowl with the butter. Once it has melted, stir to coat the sweet potato rounds. Sprinkle on the brown sugar, rosemary and salt and stir again.

When there are 30 minutes left on the meat cooking, return the sweet potato rounds to the grill. I placed them on a grill pan, in two rows with the thickest rounds in the first row and the smaller in the next. If your grill grates are close enough together, you can place them directly on the grill.

Set the sweet potatoes almost but not over the coals and grill for 30 minutes more.

They are done when tender. Serve warm.

Scalloped Potatoes

I was making pork schnitzel (see recipe here for chicken schnitzel) and decided that instead of hot potato salad, I’d try scalloped potatoes again.

I’ve failed before on making au gratin potatoes before as the milk fats can separate and make for a still tasty but pretty ugly dish. This version has you make a roux to hold the milk together. You’re not aiming for any color on your bechamel sauce so 3 to 5 minutes should be sufficient. Once you’ve added in the cheese to melt, it is almost foolproof – and I know as I’ve been fooled before!

Final dish is cheesy and creamy and delicious. You can make it with cream or milk, although I can tell you it is super luscious with cream.

A wonderful comfort food in this time of uncertainty.

Scalloped Potatoes

4 cups thinly sliced potatoes
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 1⁄2 cups cream (or milk)
1 teaspoon salt
1 dash cayenne pepper
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1⁄2 cup grated cheese, to sprinkle on top

In a small sauce pan, melt butter and blend in flour to form a roux. Cook, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes over low heat to cook the flour taste out. Let sit for a minute. Add all of cold cream/milk, stirring with a whisk. Season with salt and cayenne.

Cook sauce on low until smooth and boiling, stirring occasionally with a whisk. Reduce heat and stir in cheese. Place one third of the sliced potatoes in a lightly greased one quart casserole dish. Pour a third of cheese sauce over potatoes and use a spatula to spread over the entire surface.

Repeat with second and third layer of potatoes and cheese sauce.

Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Bake uncovered for an 1 hour at 350°F. Let stand for 5 minutes to tighten up before spooning onto plates.

 

Sweet Potato Filled Manicotti

I saw one of Kevin Belton‘s episodes recently on Louisiana Yams. One of the recipes on the show was for making sweet potato ravioli. While he doesn’t have the recipe on his website, my local Create TV station showed it twice in one day so I was able to scribble down the recipe, as I haven’t been able to find it online.

I’ve never had much luck with ravioli – they always seem to explode on me. So, I decided to try filling manicotti shells. After boiling them, they were large enough for me to spoon the filling in. I recommend using a small spoon or a piping bag to fill them, otherwise you risk tearing them. For even easier filling, you might want to try using large pasta shells instead.

The flavor of the filling is quite good but combined with the mushroom pecan sauce is what makes this dish a real winner. I cheated with a jar of portobello mushrooms I had in the cabinet but 8 ounces of fresh sliced would be great, too.

I used cottage cheese but ricotta cheese would also work in the filling.

This recipe uses dairy and eggs but no meat and so would be a good offering for vegetarians.

Sweet Potato Filled Manicotti

Sweet potato filling:
1 cup cottage cheese
2 cups cooked sweet potato, mashed
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

6-8 manicotti shells

Buttered mushroom and pecan sauce
½ cup unsalted butter
1 – 16 ounce jar portobello mushrooms (about a cup when cooked)
½ cup pecans, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor combine cottage cheese, mashed sweet potato, parmesan cheese, egg and seasonings. Process until smooth.

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Place in the shells and add a generous pinch of salt. Boil about 4 minutes or until tender enough to work. The shells will finish cooking in the oven once filled.

Use a spoon or piping bag to put the filling in the shells. Place the shells in a casserole dish and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a skillet over medium heat melt the butter. Once the foam has subsided and it begins to turn golden, add the mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes. Add in pecans and seasoning, stir well to combine.

Spoon over the filled manicotti shells and cover the dish with foil. Bake for 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Of course, now Michelle is dreaming of what else we can fill with that sweet potato filling. Any ideas?

Soufflé Potatoes

This potato casserole went really well with Thanksgiving dinner in place of mashed potatoes. It is also a little more diabetic friendly because of the cottage cheese and eggs.

My mom is a fan of mixing a packet of Lipton Onion Soup and Dip Mix in a container of sour cream to eat as a dip with potato chips. She had just made some when I had the idea of using a 1/2 cup  in this recipe instead of just plain sour cream and it added a subtle onion flavor to the final dish. Yum! I may need to use more of this in other recipes that call for sour cream and would be enhanced with onion flavor.

Soufflé Potatoes

3 cups mashed potatoes (about 6 potatoes)
1 cup cottage cheese
½ cup sour cream
3 egg yolks, well beaten
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
3 egg whites, stiffly beaten
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a two quart casserole dish.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together mashed potatoes, cottage cheese, sour cream, egg yolks, melted butter, garlic, salt and pepper. Use an electric mixer to beat the mixture until light and fluffy. Fold in the egg whites.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Dot with the butter.

Bake in the 350 degree F oven for 1 hour or until the casserole is puffed and top is golden.

Mushrooms with Lemon and Garlic

I love sautéed mushrooms and this recipe simmers them in a dark rich sauce that goes really well with the roasted chicken I served with them (the recipe for the chicken can be found HERE).

Reduce the lemon juice, if you don’t want them too tangy but all my guests loved them as is. Aleppo style pepper has less heat than red pepper but adds a lovely flavor to the dish.

Mushrooms with Lemon and Garlic

4 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound button or other mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup sherry
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Aleppo style pepper or red pepper flakes
Salt and black pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms have given up their liquid and are beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.

Add the lemon juice, sherry, Worcestershire sauce and pepper to the pan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 15-20 minutes, or until the liquid is nearly evaporated. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper, if necessary.

 

Rosemary Fondant Potatoes

Fondant style potatoes traditionally means cutting potatoes into cylinders and then cooking them in broth to make them meltingly tender. I find trimming them to be a bit wasteful so I just slice off the barest ends of a bunch of Yukon gold potatoes and nestle them in a skillet with broth and butter and oil and cook them low and slow.

So good!

2 lbs smallish Yukon gold potatoes
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2-3 cups chicken stock or broth

Trim the potatoes of any eyes or damaged areas and, for those you don’t trim, cut off the ends. Wash well in cold water and drain.

Stir together the softened butter, olive oil, garlic and rosemary. Toss the potatoes with the mixture. Arrange the potatoes in one layer in a 10-inch skillet. Pour in enough stock or broth to come up halfway of the potatoes and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan but leave the lid a tad ajar, and simmer until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 20-30 minutes. The liquid should still halfway surround the potatoes; if it doesn’t, keep adding more broth or water until it does.

Once tender, press gently on each potato until they crack open. Return the pan to medium-high heat and boil, uncovered, until all the liquid has evaporated and the potatoes have browned on one side, about 10 minutes. Gently turn the potatoes and brown the other side, another 5 minutes or so.

Remove the pan from the heat and let the potatoes rest for 5 minutes before transferring them to a serving platter. Serve immediately.

 

Stepping up the Gazpacho Game

I have a recipe for Simple Gazpacho that I blend up in just a few minutes and which I make several times a summer when the tomatoes are at their peak. However, for something to really knock your socks off, a few additional steps can mean a world of difference.

Roasting the garlic and onion deepens the flavors and takes out any harshness from having them raw. I also added roasted cashews as a thickener and for a hit of protein. You could use almonds instead.

Additionally, I used Aleppo pepper here for a lovely pepper taste without adding much heat but you can use a pinch of cayenne if you’d rather. As the flavor intensifies the longer it rests, don’t add so much seasoning you can’t eat the leftovers!

It is so pretty and oh, so delicious! Summertime never tasted so good!

Roasted Gazpacho


1 small head garlic (about 5-8 cloves)
1 small onion
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
2 lbs tomatoes – about 4 good sized
1 large cucumber
1 green bell pepper
1 slice bread, torn into chunks
1/4 cup sherry or red wine vinegar
1/3 cup cashews
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1 cup V-8 or tomato juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the top off the head of garlic. Place it on a piece of aluminum foil and drizzle generously with olive oil and seal the foil around the bulb. Roast for about 30 minutes or until tender. Squeeze out the softened garlic and let cool.

Quarter the onion and separate the layers. Toss generously with olive oil and place on a baking sheet in the oven with the garlic. Roast until the garlic is done, flipping layers over once during baking.

Wash the tomatoes and cut small x’s in both ends. Place in boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove to an ice water bath. Peel off skin, core and quarter. 

Peel cucumber, scrape the seeds out with a spoon and cut the cucumber into chunks. Core and seed the bell pepper and cut into large pieces.

Soak the bread in the sherry vinegar. While adding the bread isn’t necessary, I find it thickens the soup and mellows the flavors.

Pulse the cashews in a food processor until they become a fine meal.

Combine tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, onion and garlic in the food processor with the nuts and pulse several times. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula. Add in the sherry vinegar soaked bread, then drizzle in the remaining olive oil, salt and Aleppo pepper until well combined. Add just enough V-8 or tomato juice until the soup reaches the desired consistency. It should not be thin or watery but neither should it be the consistency of a smoothie, either.

Chill for several hours or overnight. Taste for seasoning before serving. Serve with fresh bread.

Michelle made a gorgeous loaf of crusty bread to go with our soup.

Yummy! I’ll see if she’ll give me the recipe for blogging.

Spicy Sweet Potato Fries

These sweet potato fries are some of Michelle’s favorite. She likes the seasoning blend a lot but she also likes how they are like thick cut fries but are so soft and tender.

I like ’em because I can pretend I’m eating healthy when I have them.

Either way, you should give these a try next time you have a craving for sweet potatoes.

Spicy Sweet Potato Fries

3 medium sized sweet potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix all the spices together in a bowl.

Slice sweet potatoes into 3/4 inch wedges. Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Toss with 3 teaspoons of the spice mixture (remaining spice mix can be stored in an airtight container).

Use remaining olive oil to coat a large baking sheet. Place sweet potato wedges in a single layer on baking sheet, skin side facing the same way (to make it easier to know which you’ve flipped later). Bake for 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven and turn wedges over and bake for another 10-15 minutes. They are done when soft and tender.

 

Mississippi Style Potato Logs

One of the best things about getting off the highway is finding great food on the road less travelled. In fact, some of the tastiest boudin, barbecued brisket and fried chicken I’ve eaten has come from gas stations across the South.

One of things I’ve found in Mississippi gas stations (and some local fairs like the Okatoma Festival), are potato logs. These are large wedges of baked potato, dredged in seasoned flour and deep fried. You basically get the creamy interior of a baked potato plus the crunchy skin and coating of the best French fry. All in all, they make a really awesome appetizer or side dish.

I tried several versions at home and found I like best Creole Seasoning in the flour (1 teaspoon seasoning per 1/4 cup flour – each large potato cut into 5 wedges used about 1/2 cup flour). I also found that you only need a double dip of flour (toss in flour, dredge in an egg beaten with some oil, and then dredge through the flour again). I found using breadcrumbs was unnecessary and actually a little heavy.

I used peanut oil as that is my go-to deep fry oil but you can use your choice. I fried them after I brought the oil to 325 degrees F in a cast iron skillet. Fry for about 3 minutes per side or until the crust is golden brown. After removal from the heat, drain on a brown paper bag. Salt generously.

These are delicious as they are but, if you like them with a dipping sauce, I enjoyed them with ranch dressing with a little sriracha mixed in. They had a lovely kick.