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Recipes: These twice-baked sweet potatoes make a whole meal

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Sweet potatoes may be merely a supporting player at Thanksgiving, but for other meals throughout the year they can easily anchor a main course. These recipes, a twice-baked stuffed sweet potato, a pasta with mushrooms and spinach, and a bright soup, are healthy, satisfying, and straightforward. And each one gives the sweet potatoes a starring role.

TWICE-BAKED SWEET POTATOES WITH CHICKEN, BROCCOLI RABE, AND FONTINA

Serves 6 (1 half per person)

The filled sweet potato shells will keep in the fridge, covered, for a couple of days. But they’ll take a few extra minutes to heat through.

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3        medium-large sweet potatoes (about 20 ounces each), scrubbed and dried

3        tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

1         medium bunch (about 1 pound) broccoli rabe, thick ends trimmed

1½    tablespoons minced or grated garlic (about 8 medium cloves)

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2        cups cubed or shredded cooked chicken, skin and bones removed

2/3     cup sun-dried tomatoes, preferably oil-packed, drained, dried, and chopped

2        cups coarsely grated fontina cheese

Prick the sweet potatoes in several spots with a fork and microwave on high until a skewer meets little resistance, about 20 minutes, turning them over halfway through. Cut in half lengthwise and when cool enough to handle scoop out all but a ¼-inch layer of flesh. Finely chop enough scooped flesh to equal 2 cups and set aside.

Meanwhile, with the rack in the middle position, heat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place a wire rack on the foil. Brush the potato shells inside and out with 1½ tablespoons oil and sprinkle the interiors generously with salt and pepper. Set cut sides down on the wire rack and bake until skins begin to crisp, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, but leave the oven on, adjusting to the heat to 400 degrees. Working carefully to avoid ripping the shells, turn them cut sides up and set aside.

Meanwhile, place a colander in the sink and fill a large bowl with ice water. In a large saucepan, bring 1½ quarts of water to boil. Add ½ teaspoon salt and the broccoli rabe and cook until just wilted, about 1½ minutes. Drain the rabe and place it in the ice water for about 2 minutes. Drain the rabe again, squeeze out additional liquid, chop and set aside. In the now-empty saucepan, heat the remaining oil and the garlic over medium-low heat, stirring, until sizzling, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the broccoli rabe and ¼ teaspoon salt. Scrape into a large bowl. Add the chopped sweet potato, chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, and 1½ cups cheese and stir to combine. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.

Fill each of the shells with 1 generous cup of the sweet-potato mixture. Top each with the remaining grated cheese and bake until the filling is heated through, about 20 minutes. Rest the potatoes for about 5 minutes and serve.

SKILLET PASTA, SWEET POTATOES, MUSHROOMS, AND SPINACH

Serves 4

¼      cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

1         pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned and quartered (about 6 cups)

Salt and ground black pepper

1         large onion, chopped

1         tablespoon pressed or grated garlic (about 5 medium cloves)

1         tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

1/8     teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2        cups low-sodium chicken broth

1         pound sweet potatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise, each quarter cut into ½-inch-thick slices

½      pound stubby pasta

10     cups loosely packed fresh baby spinach (about 5 ounces)

 2/3     cup finely grated Parmesan, plus extra to pass at the table

1         tablespoon finely grated zest and 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon

In a very large saute pan or skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Add the mushrooms and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, until liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms begin to brown, about 12 minutes. Scrape them into a bowl and set aside.

Return the pan to medium heat, add the remaining oil, and heat until shimmering. Add the onion and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary, and red pepper flakes and continue to cook, stirring, about 40 seconds. Add the broth, 2 cups water, sweet potatoes, pasta, and 1 teaspoon salt, stir, adjust the heat to medium-high, and bring to a strong simmer. Partially cover the pan and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potatoes and pasta are al dente and the liquid is largely absorbed, 10 to 12 minutes. Working in batches, add the spinach and stir to incorporate. Stir in the mushrooms and Parmesan, then the lemon zest and juice and black pepper to taste. Adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper if necessary. Serve at once, lightly drizzling each portion with oil and passing extra grated Parmesan at the table.

TIP: STICKY BUSINESS

SWEET POTATO-LENTIL SOUP WITH ORANGE

Makes about 3 quarts

This brightly flavored, golden soup is a welcome meal on a dreary late-winter day.

2        tablespoons neutral oil

1         large onion, finely chopped

3        medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped

Salt and pepper

1½    tablespoons minced or grated fresh ginger

1         tablespoon minced or grated garlic (about 5 medium cloves)

2        teaspoons ground coriander

1         tablespoon finely grated zest and 3 cups juice from 5 or 6 medium oranges

1         quart low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1½    pounds sweet potatoes, peeled, quartered, and each quarter cut into thin slices

 2/3     cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed

1½    tablespoons honey

2        teaspoons fresh lemon juice

½     cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion, carrots, and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 4 minutes. Adjust the heat to medium-low, cover, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes longer. Add the ginger, garlic, coriander, and orange zest and cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Add the broth, 1 cup water, sweet potatoes, and lentils, stir to mix, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer until the lentils are broken down and the sweet potatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in the honey, lemon juice, most of the cilantro, pepper to taste, and the orange juice.

In a blender, working in batches, carefully puree the hot mixture until smooth (or use an immersion blender). Return the mixture to the pot and heat over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until soup is heated through, about 3 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary and serve, sprinkling each portion with remaining cilantro.

Adam Ried appears regularly on “America’s Test Kitchen.’’ Send comments to cooking@globe.com.



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