Tag Archives: sweet potatoes

Harissa-Spiced Cassoulet

L1040015If anyone had told my younger self that I would go through menopause in my late thirties, I probably would have shrugged and went on with my life.   Back then, I thought menopause would merely be a ceasing of menstruation and maybe a year of hot flashes.  However, I’m learning that the experience of menopause is a heck of a lot more than that, and it’s a really difficult transition.  Just the other day I was so frustrated and disheartened that I thought to myself, Why aren’t there menopause support groups the way that there are AA meetings?  The thought kind of made me laugh, but then I soberly wondered if any actually exist.
L1040007It wasn’t until recently that I came to the conclusion that all of my ailments were due to my hormones being out of whack due to menopause.  It’s pretty amazing how much control our hormones have over how our body functions; they control everything!  They’re like the lobbyists of the U.S. political system.  (Ok, I won’t get political…but isn’t that a good analogy?!)

I am trying to remain patient and maintain some sense of normalcy with this transitional phase of my life, but it has been a struggle the last few months as my symptoms become more acute.  Yoga definitely helps.  And I’ve started training for the half-marathon that I will be running in April.  Every little thing helps.  I just hope that I am one of the more fortunate women for whom menopause lasts two years instead of ten.  Gulp.
L1040004This was my first time making a cassoulet.  I came across this recipe in Food & Wine, where a Minneapolis chef was sharing riffs-on-casserole recipes.  If you haven’t ever made one, they are as easy as a casserole, and even more delicious.  And this particular cassoulet is perfect for hunkering down on a cold winter’s night.  It’s almost March, people!
L1040013Harissa-Spiced Cassoulet
Adapted from Food & Wine

Yield:  10-12 servings

1/2 pound thick-cut bacon, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely diced
1 celery rib, finely diced
2 medium carrots, finely diced, plus 2 large carrots, cut into 2 1/2-inch lengths
14 oz. can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Sea salt
Black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Four 6-ounce chicken sausages, sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 1/2-inch pieces
3 turnips, peeled and cut into 2 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 ounces rustic peasant bread, crusts removed, bread cut into 1/4-inch dice (2 cups)
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

  1. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, cook the bacon over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the fat is rendered. Add the onion, celery and diced carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning 
to soften, about 8 minutes.  Add the beans and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°. In a small skillet, toast the cumin, coriander and mustard seeds over moderate heat, shaking the pan, until fragrant and the mustard seeds begin to pop, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer 
to a spice grinder and let cool. Add the smoked paprika and crushed red pepper and grind the harissa blend into a powder.
  3. Wipe out the casserole and heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in it. Add the sausages and cook over moderate heat, until lightly browned all over, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Do not wipe out the casserole.
  4. Add the sweet potatoes, turnips and large carrots to the casserole. Season with salt and black pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, 5 minutes.  Add the harissa spice blend and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  5. Stir in the bean mixture and the chicken broth and bring just to a simmer.  Cover and bake the 
cassoulet for about 1 hour, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from the oven and uncover the cassoulet.  Mix in the sausages.
  6. Preheat the broiler. In a bowl, toss the bread, parsley, lemon zest and the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil; season with salt and black pepper. Sprinkle the bread over the cassoulet and broil until golden and crisp. Let the cassoulet stand for 10 minutes before serving.

 

 

 

 

Seared Sweet Potatoes with Merguez and Radicchio

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I turned 39 this week.  Hoo-boy.  I only have one year left in my thirties!  All of a sudden I feel an  anxious eagerness to pack in as many things as I can before turning 40.  I’m not sure why. There has never been a better time to be 40, really.  But for whatever reason, in my mind–and I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way–there is a dividing line between everything pre-40 and post-40.  40 means adulthood for real.   Like, if you don’t have your shit figured out by the time you hit 40, well, now you’re just that 40-year-old who never got their shit together.  Maybe I’m being too harsh on 40-year-olds?  Regardless, I feel pretty damn good about where I am in my life as a 39-year-old.  So I will try and focus on that in the coming year, and not dread the big 4-0 staring me down.
DSC_5803DSC_5806I innocently made this recipe a few weeks ago, and had no idea just how obsessed with it I would become over the course of several days.  I am a big fan of sweet potatoes and garlic, and you get a nice dose of both of them in this recipe.  But you also are treated to the deep flavor of merguez, bitter radicchio and sweet pecans, forming a sweet, sweet symphony in your mouth. You must make this recipe today.  I can’t image anyone not loving this dish.
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Seared Sweet Potatoes with Merguez and Radicchio
Adapted from Food & Wine

Sweet Potatoes and Nuts
1 garlic clove, finely grated
3 Tbsp. plus 1/2 tsp. olive oil
2 large or 4 small sweet potatoes, scrubbed
Sea salt
1/4 cup pecans, chopped

Sausage and Assembly
1 head radicchio, leaves separated and torn into pieces
2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. olive oil
8 oz. merguez sausage, casings removed
1/2 tsp. Aleppo pepper or 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses
1 tsp. Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
Sea salt
1/3 cup plain sheep’s-milk or Greek yogurt

Sweet Potatoes and Nuts
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Mix garlic and 3 Tbsp. oil in a small bowl.  Prick sweet potatoes all over with a fork and rub with half of garlic oil; set remaining garlic oil aside.
2.  Season with salt and roast on a rimmed baking sheet, turning once, until flesh is soft and yielding, 45-55 minutes.  Remove from oven; reduce heat to 350 degrees F.
3.  Toss pecans and remaining 1/2 tsp. oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt.  Toast, tossing once, until slightly darkened and fragrant, 8-10 minutes.
4.  Let sweet potatoes cool slightly, then cut in half lengthwise.  Brush cut sides with reserved garlic oil.  Heat a large heavy skillet over medium.
5.  Cook sweet potatoes, cut side down, pressing lightly with a spatula, until browned and charred in spots, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a plate and reserve skillet.

Sausage and Assembly
1.  Place radicchio in a large bowl.  Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in reserved skillet over medium-high.
2.  Cook sausage, breaking up with a spoon, until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Stir in Aleppo pepper.  Transfer meat to a plate with a slotted spoon and pour off all but 2 Tbsp. fat from skillet.
3.  Reduce heat to medium.  Combine pomegranate molasses, vinegar, and 1/4 cup water in skillet, stirring to combine and scraping pan to loosen browned bits.  Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often , until sauce is slightly thickened, about 3 minutes, then drizzle over radicchio.  Add reserved sausage and toss to coat; season with salt.
4.  Mix yogurt and remaining 1 tsp. oil in a small bowl, thinning with a little water to make pourable; season with salt.  Divide yogurt among plates and top with sweet potatoes.
5.  Arrange sausage mixture over, along with any pan juices.  Top with pecans.