18 May 2015

Pineapple Sweet Potato Salsa


It feels like summer has arrived in Georgia and spring is already all but forgotten. It happened fast. While I was distracted the rains ended and the temperature rose. Air conditioners came to life and mosquitoes began to challenge my comfort on the front porch…and still, I haven’t posted the filling I devised for those Wonton Cups.

To be honest, I have been sorely distracted. Another photo disaster has been the focus of my free time this past week. Some days ago I opened the photo album from my first few years of marriage and found water damage and mildew that had been hidden by a strong binder since our latest move. Hardly phased by this latest challenge I simply got on with what had to be done. Over the next week I scraped the photos from nearly 100 old magnetic pages, scanned them into digital files, and stored the undamaged photos in a new book.

Now that I have salvaged what I can I am remembering the salsa I made to fill those crispy Wonton Cups I shared a couple of weeks ago. The salsa I made reflects the change of seasons. The flavors are tropical and the colors are rich and warm: sunny yellow pineapple, deep orange sweet potato and crisp white flakes of coconut. Add a squeeze of lime, a touch of spice and a spoonful of honey and those beautifully browned Wonton Cups are dressed for the season.


Pineapple Sweet Potato Salsa

1 cup diced sweet potatoes (½-inch dice)
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cups diced fresh pineapple (½-inch dice)
¼ cup flaked unsweetened coconut
2 Tablespoons macadamia nuts, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely minced
Zest of one lime
2 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons honey
pinch of salt
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of red pepper flakes

Toss diced sweet potatoes with 1 teaspoon of olive oil (or spritz with an olive oil filled oil mister.) Spread sweet potatoes on a small baking sheet. Roast at 400F until tender. Remove from oven and let cool.

In a medium bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Stir in the cooled roasted sweet potatoes.

Cover and allow to rest in the refrigerator for several hours to allow flavors to blend. Just before serving sprinkle with additional unsweetened flaked coconut, toasted would be nice, and/or chopped macadamia nuts.

Serve with mild tasting chips, ginger snaps, or nestled in Wonton Cups.

Enjoy!

30 April 2015

Wonton Cups


Neither Here Nor There

Spring can be a little confusing. One day the air is languid and warm, the sun is shining and I slip into sandals and shorts. The next day the mercury plummets, the sky is deep in cloud cover and I am reaching for a cozy sweater and my favorite boots.

Held between one and the other I often address the tension by shutting down my kitchen. I’m not sure what I want to eat so I rely on quick answers and bland choices: rotisserie chicken and steamed vegetables, picked up last minute from the market. At home I focus on spring cleaning and organizing my closet and life rather than more creative pursuits like cooking and writing.

A Neutral Palate

What I need is inspiration, a clean space and an empty vessel. Here’s a recipe that begins like simplicity itself; with a neutral palate. All you need are two ingredients: cooking spray, which you likely have on hand, and wonton wrappers, which are readily available but sometimes take a little looking to locate at the grocery store. Spray muffin tins, mini-muffin tins or custard cups and arrange wonton wrappers with a few creatively attractive creases and folds, to form a cup, a vessel for whatever your creativity unfolds.

Wonton Cups are mild in flavor and commit to neither sweet nor savory. They blow with the prevailing winds and act as a vessel, a vehicle for whatever flavor your appetite is currently inclined toward. For an appealing appetizer, fill them with a sweet or spicy salsa, sweet jam or something of your own design.


Wonton Cups

1 package square wonton wrappers
nonstick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350F.

Spray 24 muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange one wonton wrapper in each muffin cup, gently line each muffin cup with one wonton wrapper, fitting the center of the wonton wrapper into the bottom of the muffin tin and arranging the corners to extend upward.

Spray the top edges with nonstick cooking spray. Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from oven. As soon as possible remove the wonton wrappers from the muffin tins and allow them to cool completely on a wire rack.

Fill and enjoy!

03 April 2015

Honey Roasted Parsnips


Familiar Root Vegetables

Over the years I have become familiar with a variety of root vegetables. I have even pulled a few from the ground and brushed the earth off their homely faces. I have gorged on fresh carrots when they are slender, leggy, and easy to love. I have come to appreciate beets for being well rounded and imbued with raw sweetness and voluptuous color. I’ve watched radishes mature quickly and contribute a crisp blush of piquancy to the palate and I’ve avoided turnips like uncles, earthy and substantial with strong and sometimes objectionable opinions.

Parsnips and I, on the other hand, are practically strangers. While they have a rather common reputation I can’t remember ever growing them in our garden back home. Neither do I remember them being served at our table. I have seldom even seen them on a menu. It wasn’t until last year that, out of boredom or curiosity, I picked up a bag at the grocery and made their acquaintance. Now I can only wonder - where have they been all my life?

The Nature of Parsnips

The charm of a parsnip is subtle. They are unassuming at their introduction. Even among humble root vegetables, a parsnip is pale and homely. It’s skin is sallow and etched with brown ridges. It’s shape is generally top heavy and it’s waist is thick. Parsnips are like the carrot’s matronly aunt; graying and full-figured. Neither sugary sweet nor piquant, they keep their persuasions to themselves. When pressed, however, they shyly begin to reveal their nature.

Beyond their dowdy appearance and modest character you will discover an unexpected freshness at the heart of a parsnip. Inside there is a hint of citrus, notes of green grass and fresh herbs. The juxtaposition of appearance and aroma makes me smile. Something about its surprising yet gentle unfolding informs me of the hope of spring.

Parsnips are great for roasting. While they are gently sweet, unlike sweet potatoes, they retain their texture nicely, softening without turning mushy, holding their edges while only gently yielding. Sliced into long thin strips they curl slightly in the oven giving them an interesting appearance as they brown. Pair them with beef or lamb or serve as a point of contrast on a vegetable plate.


Honey Roasted Parsnips
Adapted from a recipe in Real Simple magazine

1 ½ pounds parsnips
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 425F.

Wash parsnips and cut into 3 to 4-inch lengths. Halve thinner pieces and quarter thicker pieces, lengthwise.

Combine parsnips, honey, oil, salt and pepper in a gallon sized Ziploc bag. Seal the bag and shake until the parsnips are well coated.

Spread the coated parsnips on a rimmed baking sheet.

Roast at 425F, turning occasionally, until golden brown, approximately 30-35 minutes.

Note: For a more colorful side dish, you can combine parsnips with similarly sliced carrots.

Enjoy!