Apple and Kale Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

20131010-083842.jpgNorth Carolina, where I live, is the king of sweet potatoes. While it is a challenge to find organic sweet potatoes, I’ve found several farmers who carry them. Potatoes are delicious and nutritious (especially sweet potatoes!), but farmers often use carcinogenic fungicides and sprout inhibitors that penetrate beyond the skin of the potato and into the flesh. So no amount of washing or peeling is going to eliminate them. These babies are definitely worth buying organic, if at all possible.

This sweet potato dish is one of my “go to” recipes for a busy fall weeknight. It has all the great hallmarks of fall–sweet potato, pumpkin pie spice, apples and maple syrup. This would make a great side dish or a light meal in itself. We have an abundance of sweet potatoes at our farmers markets and apples are back in full force, so this recipe takes advantage of all that is fresh and delicious.

Apple Stuffed Sweet Potatoes (makes 3 servings)

  • 3 medium-sized sweet potatoes
  • 2 medium apples like granny smith or galas
  • 1 small bunch of kale
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or more, if you like!)
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 3 tablespoons real maple syrup
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Poke sweet potatoes all over with a fork and roast in the oven until soft (about an hour depending on how large your potatoes are). Remove from oven and reduce heat to 350.
  3. While potatoes cool a bit, peel/core and chop the apples into 1/2″ chunks.
  4. Wash and trim the stems from the kale. Chop into bit sized pieces.
  5. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add butter and melt. Add apples. Cook apples for about 2 minutes.
  6. Add the kale and cook until wilted–about 4 minutes.
  7. Add spice to the apples and stir. Add more butter if you need it. Reduce heat to low and cook until apples are soft. Set aside.
  8. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut skins and scoop potato flesh into a medium-sized bowl. Add apple mixture and mix together until combined.
  9. Spoon mixture back into the potato skin shells. Top with chopped pecans, put on a baking sheet and bake for another 15 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven and drizzle with maple syrup.
  11. Serve!

NOTE: You will have extra filling left over. This makes a great leftover lunch the next day! Pair it with some cooked quinoa and you have a complete second meal.

Pesto Pasta e Fagioli e Patatina

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One of the most memorable meals I have ever had was in Corniglia, Italy, while Tom and I were hiking the Cinque Terre (if you haven’t done this, consider putting it on your bucket list). We had a simple lunch at a small restaurant operated by a woman in her 70s. She made everything herself and grew the vegetables in her garden. There was no menu, just a few daily specials that took advantage of what was in season.

A huge part of what made the experience so wonderful is that we ate on a patio outside looking out at the Mediterranean Sea. Far from the Olive Garden, billion calorie, sauce-laden pastas in America, the pasta we had was typical of the region–homemade pasta tossed with a light basil pesto and bits of potato and green beans. Delicious, satisfying and fresh. After hiking an hour and climbing almost 400 stairs to get to Corniglia, we were famished and ready to tuck in. When we finished our wonderful meal, we continued on our hike with renewed physical and emotional energy.

This recipe calls for all that is wonderful about summer–fresh potatoes, green beans, basil and (I veered from the traditional recipe) sun dried tomatoes. Yum!

Pesto Pasta e Fagioli e Patatina

  • 1 lb. fresh or dried capallini or fettucine pasta
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 c. basil pesto (see below)
  • 6-8 small red potatoes
  • 1 c. green beans, topped and tailed and cut in 1/2
  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Put a stock pot of water on the stove to boil.
  2. While water is heating, wash your potatoes and cut them into bite size pieces.
  3. When water comes to a boil, add salt and the potatoes. Boil potatoes for about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the green beans and pasta to the pot and continue to boil everything for 8-9 minutes.
  5. Reserve 1 c. of the pasta water and drain the pasta and vegetables.
  6. Pour the pasta and vegetable mixture into a large bowl. Add the pesto, parmesan cheese and sun dried tomato. Toss to combine, adding pasta water if needed to thicken the sauce.

Basil Pesto

  • 3 c. fresh basil
  • 1 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 c. pine nuts
  • 2/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 Tsp. lemon juice
  1. Put basil and about 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a blender or food processor. Blend into a paste.
  2. Add pine nuts, cheese, garlic and remaining oil. Blend until smooth.

Basil pesto should be made fresh and used the same day. Or, you can freeze pesto (this works very well if you buy a plastic ice cube tray and freeze the pesto in the trays–just pop out a cube and use in a sauce!).

Summer Vegetable Tian

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I first saw the idea for a vegetable tian in an issue of Martha Stewart magazine many years ago. It looked hard. And fussy. I didn’t have a food processor, but I did have a little baby, and the thought of slicing all those vegetables seemed out of the question–who had the time? But things change, right? A few weeks ago, I saw another recipe on Pinterest and thought I’d give it a try. I have a trusty food processor now, making all that slicing easy. And that little baby is 13, so I can use sharp cutting tools without too much worry. Perfect timing!

A vegetable tian is basically thinly sliced vegetables that are stacked, seasoned and roasted until tender. Then topped with some cheese and baked until melty. This is a reasonably healthy, tasty and pretty dish–perfect for a dinner party or holiday dinner since it looks so fancy. Although we had this as a side dish, it would make a terrific vegetarian entree if you subbed the Parmesan cheese for soy cheese!

For our tian, I used late summer vegetables that I had handy–zucchini, purple potatoes and Roma tomatoes. I would have used yellow squash, but we had eaten it all. Ditto for the eggplant. The next time I make this, I’ll probably add some yellow squash and onion slices for some added flavor. And I may leave out the tomatoes since I am the only tomato fanatic in the house. You could make this with any vegetables you have handy as long as they can be sliced thin (sorry, broccoli, you’re on the sidelines for this one).

Looking ahead (although I am still not finished with summer), a fall version with sweet potatoes and squash would be pretty phenomenal–maybe drizzled with maple syrup!

While my “little one” isn’t so little anymore, I wonder if smaller children would love to see the animated movie Ratatouille, followed by helping to make the vegetable stacks for the pan. Maybe that would increase interest in eating vegetables??? This is one dish that involves some fun and creativity in the prep work!

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Summer Vegetable Tian (makes 8 servings)

  • 2 zucchini, washed and trimmed
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, washed and trimmed
  • 1 quart purple potatoes, scrubbed and trimmed
  • Kosher or sea salt, to taste
  • Ground, black pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Coat a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray or oil.
  3. Slice all vegetables to equal thickness (ours were on the thinnest setting of the food processor).
  4. Arrange vegetables in stacks within the baking dish–I used a little pattern, but you could be random–whatever works for you.
  5. When all your vegetables are safely tucked in, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Cover and roast for about 30-40 minutes. Vegetables should be soft.
  6. Uncover, top with cheese and bake for another 15 minutes.
  7. Serve immediately.
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