Perhaps one of the trickier aspects of moving into a new kitchen is getting your bearings. Unless you're lucky enough to have your kitchen built to your specifications, there are probably a lot of...
As we gallop toward the holidays, I wanted to do a series of cookbook giveaways to feature some of our favorite cookbooks of the year. Most of the books we'll give away in the coming weeks are from authors we know personally, but all of them are books that made us stop and take a second look.
Our first featured book is Weeknight Vegetarian, by Ivy Manning. Ivy is a fellow Portlander and veteran recipe developer. She has serious restaurant chops but is a master at writing recipes for home cooks (the two don't often go together). We've been wowed by Ivy's books before--Crackers and Dips and Better From Scratch are both beautiful and super fun to cook from. This year, Ivy wrote a vegetarian cookbook that pretty well sums up our preferred approach to vegetarian cooking--lots of colors, flavors, and textures that leave you completely satisfied.
Why we picked this cookbook
Let's face it. We could all stand to eat more vegetarian meals. Vegetables are delicious, and most Americans grow up in "meat and three" households where dinner is a big piece of overcooked protein surrounded by sad mounds of overcooked vegetables, most of which are starchy vegetables. We could all use a little inspiration when it comes to creative vegetable cookery. Ivy's book is great because it focuses on seasonal vegetarian cooking. A vegetable is going to taste its best when it's in season, right? The dishes in this book are also hearty. You won't be asking where the beef is because you won't miss it. Finally, this book is not preachy or precious. It's just a really wonderful homage to delicious food that happens to be vegetarian.
Why we picked this recipe
I grew up eating sweet potatoes one of two ways--drowned in butter or topped with brown sugar and marshmallows. Neither of those things is inherently bad. In fact, I think you could argue that a sweet potato drowning in good, salted butter is a perfect food (can't say I'd argue the same for the marshmallows). But sweet potatoes have far more potential than they are given credit for, beyond being vehicles for excessive amounts of dairy and sugar.
I especially love seeing sweet potatoes in savory applications. How better to show off their incredible natural sweetness? This recipe stood out as something I could probably eat once a week during the winter. The sweet potato is really the star here, and not just a side dish. It's savory, hearty, and gorgeous. The filling is perfectly seasoned with cheese and white miso, and a healthy dose of sauteed greens adds heft and a fresh flavor not normally found in sweet potato dishes. The potatoes are topped with a cayenne-inflected pecan mixture that just pushes them over the edge. It's got the indulgent feeling of a loaded baked potato, but without the feelings of self-loathing and regret afterwards.
The recipe calls for spinach, but I used kale (because what self-respecting Portlander doesn't have kale in their fridge already?). I imagine you could use pretty much any good cooking green--chard, collards, mustards, etc. The miso is really important here. I wouldn't skip it. If you don't already have miso in your fridge, I highly recommend picking up a tub. It's packed full of umami, and it's your ticket to one of the world's best soups (and if you think that umami is just a word that foodies throw around to sound smart, I don't blame you, but once you've tasted miso, you'll understand exactly why umami is really amazing).
How to enter this contest
Simply click on this link and enter your name and email address in the form. A winner will be randomly selected and notified via email. Good luck!
Author's note: Garnet yams have mahogany skins that yield bright orange flesh. They are not interchangeable with pale-skinned sweet potatoes, which tend to have a much dried flesh and are significantly less sweet.
4 large garnet yams (about 3/4 pound each)
2 tablespoons white (shiro) miso
1 cup (4 ounces) grated provolone or cheddar cheese
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups packed (6 ounces) baby spinach
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup (4 ounces) pecans, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 teaspoons packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Prick the yams all over with a fork, then bake them until tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. (Alternatively, after pricking them, place the yams on a paper towel and microwave them on high, turning once or twice, until they yield easily when squeezed, 10 to 15 minutes.) Reduce the heat to 350°F.
2. Cut a long slit down the length of the yams. Using a sturdy spoon, scoop out the centers, leaving a 1/2-inch shell. Transfer the scooped out flesh to a large bowl. Add the miso and cheese to the bowl, and, using a potato masher, mash until mostly smooth.
3. In a sauté pan, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the spinach and sauté until wilted, 3 minutes. Transfer the mixture to the bowl with the mashed yams and stir to combine; season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture into the yam skins.
4. In a small bowl, combine the pecans, butter, brown sugar, rosemary, cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Sprinkle the nut mixture on top of the yams. Transfer the yams to a baking sheet and bake until the tops are golden brown, 25 minutes. Let the stuffed yams cool for a few minutes and serve.