Recipe: FAST BAKED SWEET POTATO HOME FRIES
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled
- Extra-virgin olive oil or nonstick vegetable spray
- Coarse-grained salt and cracked black pepper
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
You won’t miss Mc-You-Know-Who’s fries a bit once you make this delicious alternative. These are so quick to prepare and so deeply satisfying, you’ll be surprised at how simple it is to add another side dish to the evening meal.
PREHEAT oven to 400F. Cut sweet potatoes crosswise into 1 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place only enough olive oil on a cookie sheet to prevent sweet potatoes from sticking.
ARRANGE sweet potatoes in a single layer on cookie sheet. Turn them over once before baking to ensure that both sides are coated with oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake until golden, turning once and seasoning undersides with salt and pepper at halfway point, about 25 minutes total.
WHILE the potatoes are in the oven, in a small bowl toss together parsley, garlic, lemon zest, and a bit more salt and pepper. Taste. Adjust seasonings.
TRANSFER cooked potatoes to a large bowl; add parsley mix. Working quickly, toss potatoes to coat evenly; place back on cookie sheet in a single layer. Bake for an additional 2 minutes, which will take peppery bite out of the garlic.
SHORTCUT CHEF Peel and slice the sweet potatoes, place in a plastic bag, drizzle with olive oil, seal the bag, and then shake and turn to coat with oil. Keep refrigerated. Make the parsley, garlic, and lemon zest mix ahead, too.
If you drizzle the olive oil a teaspoon at a time onto the cookie sheet and use a paper towel to distribute it, you’ll find that you use considerably less oil.
If you don’t feel like fussing with the parsley, garlic, and lemon zest part of the recipe, don’t. The sweet potatoes are fantastic with or without the seasonings.
Recipe: GRILLED SHRIMP AND CHOPPED VEGETABLE SALAD
- 8 bamboo skewers (see sidebar on facing page)
- 1 pound medium or large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 4 teaspoons plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 to 7 ears corn, shucked
- 8 scallions
- Coarse-grained salt and cracked black pepper
- 2 red bell peppers
- 8 to 12 cups loosely packed salad greens
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
You know how I’m always telling you to throw extra veggies on the grill to get a jump start on tomorrow’s dinner? This is one of those recipes. If you’ve got the BBQ fired up, it’s always safe to throw on a few extra red peppers.
Choose the sweetest corn you can get your hands on. By all means choose a variety of lovely, flavorful, sweet and peppery salad greens. Iceberg just won’t do. If you’re not sure what constitutes sweet and peppery, ask the nearest produce person. Bring home different lettuce varieties and try them out.
PREHEAT grill. Skewer shrimp by holding 2 skewers side by side and slightly apart and threading each shrimp onto both skewers, which will make them easier to work with on the grill. Rub shrimp with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and set aside in refrigerator.
PLACE corn cobs and scallions in a plastic bag (I use the one I bought them in). Pour 2 teaspoons olive oil into bag and season with salt and pepper. Seal bag. Shake and turn bag to distribute oil and seasonings evenly.
WHEN grill is ready, place red peppers over hottest flames and cook, turning, until charred on all sides. Place in plastic bag. When cool enough to handle, peel, stem, and seed peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces, and place in a very large salad bowl.
WHILE peppers are roasting, grill corn, scallions, and shrimp. When corn is cooked and cool enough to handle, cut kernels from cobs directly into bowl with red peppers. Thinly slice scallions (white and green parts) and add to bowl with vegetables. Remove shrimp from skewers and add to bowl. Add greens to bowl. Pour lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil over salad. Toss until all ingredients are evenly distributed. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve immediately.
Whisk the vinaigrette together ahead of time, shuck the corn at the store, skewer the shrimp the night before, and/or clean the lettuces and the scallions, too. Do the following only if it’s the difference between your trying this recipe or not: use frozen corn, prewashed packaged lettuces, and/or jarred roasted, peeled peppers. Freshest is always best, but you knew that.
If the queen’s coming for dinner: Choose delicate salad greens, such as fancy mixed greens or arugula. Toss lettuces separately, divide among serving plates, and serve chopped salad in center of greens.
Roast the peppers first, throw them right into the plastic bag they came in, close the bag, and let them steam so they’re ready to peel when you’re through grilling. Grilled, peeled, stems removed, cored, and seeded, they keep well in the refrigerator or freezer, covered tightly.
Soak bamboo skewers in water the night before or at least 1 hour ahead so they won’t burn (at least that’s the theory). I’ve found that they don’t burn as quickly and it does make a difference, but if you forget, proceed anyway. You won’t lose any shrimp on the barbie.
If you’ve got a great sense of adventure and a little extra time on your hands, add other vegetables to your heart’s desire. All of the summer squashes, any sweet onion, or any meaty mushroom (white button, brown, portobello, shiitake, or porcini) would be a delicious addition to this salad.
Recipe: CHICKEN BURGERS
- 1 pound ground white meat chicken
- 2 cups coarse to fine fresh bread crumbs
- 1 1/2 cup low-fat milk
- 3 tablespoons grated sweet onion (or finely, finely minced)
- 1 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3 1/4 teaspoon coarse-grained salt
- Cracked black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
You never could have talked me into chicken burgers in my past life. I was a Whopper-with-cheese kind of girl. These chicken burgers are so profoundly flavorful I’ve given up fast food burgers for good. Okay, for the most part. You may be tempted to serve these hamburger style on a bun but they’re devilishly good on their own.
PLACE chicken in a mixing bowl. Using a rubber spatula, fold in 1 1/2 cup bread crumbs, milk, onion, ayenne, salt, and pepper to taste. Mixture will be very wet, so it will be a bit icky forming it into patties, but forge ahead. Place remaining 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs on a dinner plate or cookie sheet. Divide chicken mixture into 4 or 5 piles (you decide which portion size is best for you) and, using your hands, shape into patties. Coat each patty with bread crumbs. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and when hot, fry patties until golden and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Serve immediately.
Guyometer: Now you’re talking!
Be sure to use ground white meat chicken. If you’re buying your ground chicken from the grocery store, ring the bell and ask if they’ve got what you’re looking for or if they’ll grind some chicken breast for you. You can also grind it yourself in a food processor. Remove all excess fat and cartilage from boneless, skinless chicken breast and tenders, cut into 1-inch cubes, and pulse until coarsely chopped.
Make a double or triple batch and freeze individual patties. Be sure to portion them out properly. As we know, size matters.
From Mom’s lips to your ears
You can make fresh bread crumbs ahead. It takes only a few extra minutes. Remove the crusts from good bread (or don’t remove the crusts), tear into chunks, and pulse in a mini chopper or food processor. Make a giant batch and freeze it so next time you can skip this step.
Recipe: DARK CHOCOLATE CHERRY CHEESECAKE
- For Crust
- 1 1/4 cups fine cookie crumbs (graham cracker or chocolate wafer cookies)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon water
- For Filling
- 8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (1 1/2 cups)
- 1 1/4 cup brewed espresso or strong coffee
- 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup cherry pie filling
While testing a dozen recipes for cheesecake using low-fat dairy products, I was disappointed over and over again with the less-than-satisfactory flavors and textures. Nothing tastes as good as the real thing, so I got out fresh eggs, real cream cheese, and semisweet chocolate and made this delicious chocolate cherry cheesecake I know you’ll enjoy. Most cheesecakes are made in 9- or 10-inch springform pans and call for double the amount of fat and sugar I use here. I reduced the ingredients and the pan size. This way you can enjoy a smaller portion and fewer calories. Send leftovers to your neighbors or to the office so you won’t be tempted to eat slices of cheesecake until it’s gone.
PREHEAT oven to 350F.
PREPARE CRUST: In a medium mixing bowl, combine crumbs and sugar. Stir until combined. Add melted butter and water; mix until completely incorporated. Pour crumb mixture into an 8-inch springform pan. Using fingertips, press evenly onto pan bottom and 1/2 inch up sides. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until crust hardens slightly. Set aside to cool. Reduce oven temperature to 300F. Place a 9-inch cake pan filled with water on bottom oven rack (this will add moisture to oven so cake will be creamy and dense, not dried out).
PREPARE THE FILLING: In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat chocolate chips and coffee over lowest heat, stirring often, until chocolate is completely melted, 7 to 9 minutes. Cool.
IN a mixing bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add sugar and salt. Beat on medium speed 1 minute. Scrape down sides and add eggs, one at a time, beating on medium for 30 seconds and scraping down sides of bowl between each addition. Add melted chocolate mixture and vanilla to bowl, scrape down sides once more, and beat on medium 1 minute. Pour batter into crust. Bake on middle rack for 60 to 65 minutes, or until internal temperature reads 170F. Take cake’s temperature by inserting an instant-read thermometer into center of cake. Turn oven off and let cake stand in oven for 20 minutes more. Remove from oven and cool for 20 minutes on a wire rack. Refrigerate 1 hour. Then freeze 1 hour.
CUT into 12 slices, topping each slice with 1 tablespoon cherry pie filling just before serving. Alternatively, after cheesecake refrigerates for 1 hour, pour entire can of cherry pie filling over cake and refrigerate 2 hours more, or until cake and topping are set.