crispy roasted potatoes


potato wedges

You know a side dish is good when your family asks you to make it with every meal.  We could be having spaghetti and they want these potato wedges.    It’s actually my husband who is doing most of the asking, but the kids certainly agree that these little guys are addictive.  I also like that it has basically replaced the bag of frozen fries.  Just like my rant earlier in the year about over-indulging in snack stand french fries during baseball season (bacon-wrapped potatoes), I was beginning to feel reluctant to buy those bags of steak fries at the store to accompany a meal.    We went through that stint of buying the sweet potato fries – trying to pass them off as healthier in our minds, but in the end it is still a bag of frozen fries.  These wedges are so much better for you and so easy to make.  I found the recipe in Cook’s Illustrated,  and I have learned that it is pretty hard to mess up.  So easy in fact, that my husband, not so innocently, said that I should make them for Thanksgiving this year.  Now, I know he loves them, but he was just conjuring up past Thanksgivings, and all of our mashed potato mishaps.  Cheap ricers gone wrong, burners not bringing the water to boil, vegetable peelers breaking, over salting, you name it.  But I had an industrial ricer sitting on top of my fridge, waiting to step in and save the day.  Plus, once I told my husband that he would have to share the wedges with 10 people instead of just three, he quickly changed his mind.  Mashed potatoes came back onto the Thanksgiving menu real fast.

golden potatoes

sliced potatoes

crispy roasted potatoes  (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)

3  TB canola oil
cooking spray
2  (24 oz) bags small golden potatoes, each potato sliced into four wedges
4  TB cornstarch
1 1/2  tsp garlic powder
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
pinch crushed red pepper flakes

seasoned potatoes

get started on the crispy roasted potatoes:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Slice the potatoes.  On a large baking sheet lined with foil, coat with cooking spray.  Add oil to baking sheet and place in oven.  While pan is heating up, place potatoes in a large bowl and toss with cornstarch and remaining ingredients.  Carefully remove preheated baking sheet from the oven, and tilt sheet to evenly coat with oil.  Place potatoes, mostly cut side down in a single layer, and roast until browned on all edges, turning halfway through, for about 30 minutes.  Add kosher salt and pepper to taste if needed.

roasted potatoes

note:  potatoes feed 6-8 hungry people.  We like to add grated cheese to them when they come out of the oven.  Feel free to adjust the seasoning or add other spices to the cornstarch.  It’s all good.

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ratatouille spirals


Ratatouille Spirals

In a weird way, I think this dish is representative of me.  It is a dish that tries to please everyone.  It looks complicated, but is really straight forward.  And you are committed to it, even though it is a bit of a pain in the ass to make.  I saw this recipe in a magazine and knew right away I needed to make it.  I haven’t mastered it yet, because I think the proportions are off a little with both the veggies and/or the size of the pan, but nevertheless, it is still a good dish.  The first time I made it, I followed the recipe and used the anchovies.  The dish got an F.  The kids were coughing and dry heaving, and then my husband, because he still is a child, did the same. So, obviously the anchovies didn’t dissolve, and ruined the dish (for us).  My suggestion to pick around the anchovies got tossed about as fast as the dish did.  How was I ever going to bring back my dish that I was in love with for the strangest reasons?  Thankfully, the opportunity came up when my cooking soul mate called, and we decided to make dinner reservations.  As the night out drew closer, we made the convenient excuse to just get together and cook a meal ourselves.  We met to go food shopping for a menu that was basically nonexistent, with the exception of the spirals I was making.  But at 5:30pm, in the cheese aisle, our menu took shape.  I think that if we didn’t have a clock or a liver, we could have cooked all night.  Ok, so maybe just not a clock…kidding.  So after the cooking marathon, the hour on the clock told us we were tired and the empty bottles of wine signaled the immediacy of going to bed.  However, we had successfully made stuffed jalapeños with Brie, caramelized onion and mushroom ravioli, and of course, I got to make my spirals again.  This time, I substituted fresh basil for the anchovies.  I still didn’t fill the pan with spirals, but what I could fill was my belly and my fridge full of left overs!

zucchini slices

ratatouille spirals  (adapted from Bon Appetit)

3  lbs beefsteak tomatoes, scored with an “X” on the bottoms
3  TB extra virgin olive oil
1  medium onion, diced
2  large garlic cloves, minced
1/2  tsp crushed red pepper
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2  cups cubed country bread
2 1/2  lbs medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/8 inch thick strips
2 1/2  lbs small japanese or italian eggplant, cut lengthwise into 1/8 inch thick strips
3  roasted bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch strips
20 – 24  fresh basil leaves
1  lb fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2 x 2 inch sticks
freshly grated parmesan cheese

get started on the spirals:

scored tomatoes

In a medium pot of boiling water, blanch the tomatoes for 30 seconds.  Drain them and then slip off the skins and halve the tomatoes crosswise.  Coarsely chop the tomatoes, keeping the juices and seeds.
Preheat the oven to 375.  In a large skillet, heat 2 TB of the oil.  Add the onion, garlic and crushed red pepper and cook over moderate heat for 3 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and juices and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Cook while stirring frequently, until the sauce has thickened, about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, on a baking sheet, toss the bread cubes with the remaining 1 TB of olive oil.  Toast for about 15 minutes, stirring once, until golden.
In a colander, toss the zucchini and eggplant with 2 TB of kosher salt (can be done in separate colanders), and let drain for 15 minutes.  Shake out the excess liquid and pat the slices dry.
Spoon the tomato sauce into a shallow 2 1/2 qt. baking dish and scatter the bread cubes on top.

bread in sauce

On a clean work surface, top each zucchini slice with a slice of eggplant.  Blot dry if necessary.  Place a strip of roasted red pepper and then top with a basil leaf.  Place a stick of mozzarella at one end.  Sprinkle each stack with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and roll up.  Stand the rolls in the baking dish and drizzle with oil.  Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.

assembly line

Cover with parchment paper or foil.  Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the vegetables are just tender and the ratatouille is bubbling.  Remove the parchment paper halfway through baking.  Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

rolls

note:  this dish serves 8 people

balsamic tomato salsa


balsamic tomato salsa

Stewed tomatoes.  I was cleaning out my pantry, and came across a can that I must have mistakenly bought.  I just stared at it.  Trying not to be wasteful, I stood there thinking of how I could use it but something in my genetic make up won’t allow it.  My mother, however, (insert the saying “bless her heart” HERE), seemed to think that they went with every skillet dinner we had growing up.  I just couldn’t get past the weirdly shaped, skinless, lifeless chunks.  They looked like someone beat the life out of them and then canned them up because no one else wanted them.  I love tomatoes any other way – sliced, diced, raw, sauced – oh wait, that’s me!  So anyway, they often got picked around at dinner.  Now, as an adult, I am laughing at myself because I still can’t open a can of stewed tomatoes.  I just can’t.  But who needs them?  Like I said, there are so many ways to eat tomatoes.  This recipe can go a few ways.  It can be a jalapeño type salsa made with lime juice or red wine vinegar, or turn it into a salad with feta and orzo.  But the number one tip is to us the best ingredients you can since everything is fresh.  I also  prefer to use grape tomatoes since they hold their shape better when mixing everything together, but use diced if you prefer.  This one was made to go with a swordfish dinner we were having.  It was so good, that I had to break it out again from the fridge a few days later, and have some as an appetizer.  Love you mom!

swordfish and tomato salsa

mixed salsa

balsamic tomato salsa

1/2  pint of organic red grape tomatoes, quartered
1/2  pint of organic golden grape tomatoes, quartered
1/2  pint of kalamata olives, sliced (or any combination of olives)
1/2  English cucumber, peeled and diced
6  scallions, sliced
2  Fresno chilis, sliced
10  basil leaves, julienned
3  TB Aged balsamic vinegar (not your run of the mill balsamic vinegar)
1  TB extra virgin olive oil
pinch crushed red pepper
kosher salt and ground black pepper

yellow grape tomatoes

diced cucumber

fresno chilis

ingredients

get started on the salsa:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Add the pinch of crushed red pepper.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Mix gently.  Serve at room temperature or chilled.

basil leaves

salsa