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Sunday, December 07, 2008

roasted sweet potato slices and broccoli with parsley pesto


eating with your eyes

It’s a cliché, but true…  if something looks pretty on the plate, it’s more appetizing and appealing to the palate! I’m never one for constructing elaborate garnishes; carving radish rosettes or deep-frying sage leaves has never been my forte. But I do love to serve vibrantly-colored and contrasting dishes together! This has two benefits: the plate looks lovely and the meal is packed with nutrients! A classic combination is orange vegetables with dark greens, as shown here…  and I can’t ever seem to get enough of this pairing in the wintertime. When I’m planning a meal, I try and imagine what color the dish will be, and then think about what foods would provide good contrast.

This is one of my favorite suppers (not to mention great lunch leftovers), and it couldn’t be simpler…  You really don’t need anything else! The slow-roasted caramelized sweet potatoes go so nicely with the savory broccoli. You can use my parsley pesto recipe, or just use pesto from the store.


roasted sweet potato or yam slices

This recipe is based on one from Cook’s Illustrated.  First, let’s get our terminology straight. Sweet potatoes like the ones I’ve used in this recipe are usually called yams in the grocery store—for example, garnet yams.

Starting the sweet potatoes in a cold oven keeps the temperature lower at first, to allow more of the starches in the sweet potatoes to convert to sugars. Then the 425-degree final temperature browns and caramelizes them. Trimming the small ends of the sweet potatoes prevents them from burning. If you prefer not to peel the potatoes, just scrub them well before cutting.

3 pounds yams or sweet potatoes (about 6 medium), ends trimmed, peeled, rinsed, and cut into 3/4-inch thick rounds
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt

1. Toss sweet potatoes in large bowl with oil and salt until evenly coated. Grease a large rimmed baking sheet with olive oil or cooking spray.
2. Arrange sweet potatoes in single layer on baking sheet and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Adjust oven rack to middle position and place yams in COLD OVEN. Turn oven on to 425 degrees and cook sweet potatoes 30 minutes.
3. Carefully remove foil, and return sweet potatoes to oven and cook until bottom edges of yams are golden brown, 15 to 25 minutes. If they are very tender and brown, they are already done! (Whether they are done or not will depend on how fast your oven heats up.) If not tender yet, go to Step 4.
4. Use a spatula to flip slices over. Continue to roast until bottom edges of sweet potatoes are golden brown, and they are quite soft in the center, 10 to 20 minutes longer.
5. Remove from oven; transfer to platter and serve.

broccoli with parsley pesto

You can make this recipe with my parsley pesto, below, or just use prepared pesto from the store. Either way, it’s great with the sweet potatoes! And it’s great left-over, as well.

2 pounds broccoli
½ to 1 cup Parsley Pesto
sea salt or kosher salt
freshly-ground pepper

1. Make the pesto, and put a generous dollop of it in the bottom of a large bowl. If already made and frozen, put a nice-sized hunk of frozen pesto in the bottom of a large bowl to thaw. (I usually put it in a big ceramic bowl and nuke it for a minute in the microwave.)
2. Peel the broccoli stalks if the skin is tough, starting from the bottom of the stem, using a paring knife—the thick skin will peel away from the stalk. Then slice the stalks into coins less than ¼” thick. Cut the florets into bite-sized pieces.
3. Put about an inch of water in the bottom of a pot that you can put a steamer basket in. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. When the water boils, put the broccoli stems in the steamer basket and steam for 4-6 minutes until barely tender. Check them every minute after 4 minutes, poking with a sharp paring knife.
4. Remove the stems, shake excess water off, and toss them in the bowl with the pesto.
5. Put the broccoli florets in the steamer, and steam for 3-5 minutes until just tender, keeping a close eye on them. Toss them with the stems and pesto. Taste for more pesto and add more if you like. You’ll need to use more parsley pesto than basil pesto, since it’s not quite as pungent as basil pesto. Season with salt and pepper if needed, and serve!

Parsley Pesto
This recipe makes more than you’ll need for the broccoli recipe, but you can very easily freeze the extra. Make sure to label it “parsley” because you don’t want to mistake it for basil pesto, later.

2 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
4 cups packed parsley leaves
½ cup pine nuts
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

1. In a food processor, chop the garlic with the salt.
2. Add the parsley leaves and pine nuts, and turn on the motor, beginning to grind the parsley. It’s OK if all the leaves aren’t incorporated yet.
3. While the motor is running, pour in the olive oil gradually. Let the blade run for a while to puree the mixture. It won’t be very smooth, but I find it impossible to get the parsley pesto smooth, anyway—the leaves are too tough. But it’s still delicious! 
4. Taste for salt, and add more as needed.
5. Use what you’d like for tonight’s dinner, then scoop the rest into a freezer ziplock bag and freeze flat.



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