Grilled Sweet Potato Steak-Fries

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Grilled Sweet Potato Steak FriesFact 1: Like most of you, we have but one oven in our kitchen. Whoever decided Thanksgiving needed to be a massive feast of turkey, ham and a plethora of side dishes and desserts (all of which require the use of an oven) surely ignored Fact 1.

Fact 2: At Thanksgiving (one of the top 3 holidays food-wise here in the US) everyone wants to help cook something. My wife wanted to make her famous cranberry apple crunch dessert, my mother in law needed to saute aromatics to add to her slow cooker stuffing recipe. Okay, that one didn’t need the oven, but it involved the stove top, practically the same thing. Then my daughter was making pumpkin pie -that one definitely used the oven. Thank goodness my son and his girlfriend were cooking the turkey at their place, otherwise we’d be doomed (refer back to fact 1.)

But wait – what about the sweet potatoes? A true staple of the late November holiday; it must be done. And I’m the only one left standing without a whisk or spatula.

Fact 3: Look outside. The barbecue grill is sitting there, beckoning you to fire it up and cook those darn sweet potatoes. Never mind the cold weather; that’s what coats, hats and gloves are for, right?

This recipe, taken from my upcoming cozy culinary mystery The Apple Pie Alibi (shameless plug)  was easy to make, tasted great and had little to clean up afterward. Look at the ladies inside and tell me you don’t appreciate that last one! Anyhow, try this sometime -and don’t wait until next Thanksgiving.

What you need to start:

9×12 glass baking dish or something of comparable size to serve the potatoes once they are done.

4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges. I also cut the wedges in half (personal preference)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 gallon zip lock bag

2 Tablespoons cinnamon

2 Tablespoons salt

1 Tablespoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon black pepper

Aluminium Foil

Outdoor grill

What to do:

Place the potato wedge halves in the baking dish. Drizzle the olive oil over the top of the potatoes and, using a wooden spoon or your hands, mix together coating the entirety of the spuds.

Wash your hands. (Isn’t it fun to play with the food? I knew you didn’t use the wooden spoon! I didn’t, either.)

With dry hands, put all of the spices into the gallon zip lock bag. Close the bag tightly (well, yeah) and shake well.

Open the bag back up and put a good handful of the potato wedges inside. Close the bag back up and shake. Take the now-coated potato wedges and place in the baking dish. Repeat this operation until all of the potato wedges are seasoned. If your bag runs truly dry of spices, make a new batch. However, these amounts will last a while, even if the bag looks like it is empty. Judge by the potatoes coming out – not by the bag’s appearance.

Take your dish of seasoned potatoes outside to the grill. My grill is a gas-fueled version so I could just turn a knob and fire it up. If you are a traditionalist, I hope you have lit the charcoal well in advance. Maybe I should have mentioned this earlier, but I have to give you credit for grillmanship basics.

Place several sheets of aluminum foil over the grill grate to prevent the spuds from over-searing from direct contact with the flames. Now lay out the potato wedges on top of the foil, in a single layer. With the grill now fired up, close the lid and go back inside to witness the cacophony and help when possible. You can do it.

Ten minutes later, go back outside and using a spatula or tongs, flip the spuds over once. Close the lid and go back inside for a drink of wassail or something.

Take a paper towel and wipe out your baking dish. This will take most of the extraneous oil away, leaving you with a greased pan, perfect to serve the potatoes once they are finished baking. The treated surface of the baking dish will be just slick enough to keep the spuds from sticking to the pan.

By now (about ten minutes after the potato flip) it should be time to go back outside one more time and retrieve the now baked potato wedges. Place them in the baking dish and bring to the table. With luck there’s still room.

These potatoes are savory, with the sweetness coming mostly from the potato itself. No marshmallows required.

Happy Thanksgiving to all and thanks so much for keeping Exploding Potatoes in your bookmarks. And stay tuned for news about the first in a series of culinary mysteries, The Apple Pie Alibi. (Gotta end with another shameless plug, right?)

DJ sends.

 

 

 

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Turnip Greens with a Twist

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With a twist of lemon juice, that is.

This past weekend I helped out our church bazaar by standing post at the fresh vegetable stand. We had sweet potatoes, hayman potatoes, kale, collards, apples, homemade vegetable beef soup and…turnip greens? This iconic Southern US side dish was one I had not ever used in a recipe or tasted on a plate. As for greens, I prefer collards with a little vinegar. Spinach is okay but I find it is usually over cooked to the point of being seaweed-like green mush. Not much mouth appeal, in spite of what Popeye may have us believe.

Back to the turnip greens. These were fresh cut, bright green and only a dollar a pound. So I thought, why not?

Turnip Greens

I asked around and everyone, and I do mean everyone said “Turnip greens? Just put a ham hock in a pot of water and bring to a boil, then add the greens until they wilt.”  I imagine this would not take too much time. Put me in a pot of boiling water and I bet I wilt quickly, too. That said, and remember – I live with vegetarians – I knew I had to find a different, bacon-less recipe.

Aha! Check it out here. This article gives you more health and nutrition facts about turnip greens than I thought possible. Huzzah for healthy eats, people!

Anyway, so I added my own little spin on the usage of the greens – and I will say it turned out okay. Not great, but for what is essentially a bunch of bitter leaves, it wasn’t bad. You try it and be your own judge. It’s only a dollar, at least at our stand.

Ingredients:

1 cup of turnip greens, the leaves only, torn from the stems and ripped into small, bite-sized pieces.

1 English muffin, halved and toasted

1 egg, scrambled (or however you like it cooked)

Dressing:

3 Tablespoons of olive oil

1 Tablespoon of lemon juice (see, I told you there was a twist!)

1 Tablespoon minced garlic

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a large pot, add 1 – 2 inches of water and place over high heat. You will be using this to steam the greens.

While the water is heating up, make the dressing by mixing the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt/pepper in a small bowl, stirring with a fork.

Now put the English muffin halves into your handy toaster and start toasting to your favorite shade of burned light brown.

The water in the pot should be steaming now. Carefully (remember that steam can burn you very easily. I know.) add the turnip greens to a large strainer and place over the top of the pot.

Steaming the Greens

Now, in your best egg pan, cook your eggs however you like. I prefer scrambled eggs, but you may be a sunny-side up person. To each their own.

Once the eggs are done, the turnip greens will be ready to go. Now all you have to do is assemble the dish.

Starting from the bottom, here is how I layered everything:

English muffin (bottom)

Drizzle some dressing on the muffin

Add the steamed turnip greens

Drizzle a little more dressing (the bite of the lemon juice with the pungent power of the garlic will help belay the bitterness of the greens.)

Add the scrambled egg for protein and creaminess.

Drizzle just a bit more dressing on for good measure.

And top with the other English muffin half.

Eggs on muffin and greens

There you go – protein, calcium, vitamins galore, good for you fats, and some nice tasting food.

Like I said, for me this was okay. I think the next time I make this sandwich, I will add bacon. All those church ladies can’t be wrong!

Even Tink the cat liked it!

Tink

 

 

 

 

 

Heart Healthy and Tasty, too!

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Emma Pearl Merlot, 2009

The problem with cooking good-tasting food is that it gets eaten before anyone can get a decent photo! Fortunately, my intrepid (and future Pulitzer winning) pho-tog, Emma, had already taken a photo of the wine – an integral part of this heart-healthy dinner.

Easy to cook, not too time intensive, and definitely tasty – try this sometime!

Ingredients:
1 cup long grained rice
2 cups water

3 – 4 serving sized fresh salmon fillets (wild caught preferred)
4 dashes of lemon juice
2 ounces of light brown sugar
2-3 ounces of lite soy sauce, just enough to dissolve the brown sugar

3-4 head of fresh broccoli
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Directions:

Steamed Rice
– Okay, this is easy if you use a rice cooker. Just follow the directions. If you don’t have a rice cooker, then go get one! I use a Black & Decker model (see disclaimer post) that costs $11. That’s two trips to Starbucks. Just do it!

When the rice has about 15 minutes to go…

Grilled Salmon
– Dribble the lemon juice on the salmon fillets
– In a bowl, mix brown sugar with soy sauce. Dribble some on the fish.
– Spray some non-stick cooking spray into a skillet, then begin to heat skillet on the stovetop, set to medium high.
– Carefully place the salmon in a the heated skillet, skin side down. Cook for about 8 minutes or so.

Okay, while the salmon is cooking for that 8 minutes…

Stir Fried Broccoli
– Heat up a sauce pan, add some Olive Oil once the pan is noticeably warm.
– Add some fresh broccoli, chopped to a size of your preference.
– Stir in a little minced garlic (you can never have too much garlic!)
– Stir.
– Don’t burn the broccoli, you may need to reduce heat.

By now, the salmon has cooked for those 8 minutes…

– Flip the salmon; cook for a minute – just enough to sear the top.
– Flip the salmon back onto the skin side. Add a little more of the brown sugar-soy sauce marinade.
– Cook until salmon is flaky. It probably won’t take too long.

If everything works out as planned…

– The salmon will be done when…
– The broccoli is hot, dark green, and still al dente, and…
– The rice cooker “dings!”

Pairs very well with a glass of red wine. I used a nice Merlot, shown above!

Great taste and great for Heart Health, too!

Cheers!