Monday, November 2, 2009

Sweet Potato and Cumin: nothin' mashed around here...

This blog post has been two weeks in the making...for some reason I haven't been able to locate that little kernel of inspiration needed to get beyond the first few sentences.

I was trying to figure out why such reluctance...the subject was interesting, the results worth eating, but there was just a little lack of spark. There was little I could do, however to avoid posting this post because cumin and sweet potato were destined to meet in October's food challenge and all I could do about it was cook, taste and write.

Though not as exotic a combination as past food challenge contestants, they proved a worthy pairing in the simple variety of dishes produced. I am always impressed at the sheer adventurousness that results from these food challenges. I always expect at least a few people to take the path of least resistance, in this instance perhaps a dish of mashed sweet potatoes or something like that. I am always pleasantly surprised that people take enjoyment out of the challenge and go well beyond the proverbial low hanging fruit.

On the table that evening was Chicken Tikka Masala, with sweet potatos, cumin-scented popovers, sweet potato pie with a marshmallow meringue top, several hummus concoctions and a sherphard's pie with sweet potato for the crust.

Though sweet potato and cumin are not the greatest of strangers, I was determined to make something that accentuated them both. I started off with sweet potato corn muffins - a small twist on the traditional that added both color and a depth of flavor. I added a pinch of cumin to these too which gave them a slightly Indian hint.

Because Thanksgiving is my favorite meal of the year and it's just around the corner, I also decided to make a stuffing using sweet potatos and cumin as well as sausage. This was good, and definitely Thanksgiving-y, but it was even better when reincarnated in a sort of frittata/strata dish.

We brought the leftover stuffing home and mixed it with some egg and cheese the next morning and baked it into a nice, fluffy breakfast treat. I'm not sure what to call it because it's part frittata - an omelet that has potato in it, and part strata - a sort of savory bread pudding where bread is soaked in egg and then baked. So I'm going with Fristrata!


Alelia's Harvest Fristrata 

*this dish takes a bit of time to make, but the best this about it is that it can be made one or two days in advance and only gets better with time...

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried sage (or 1 Tbsp fresh sage)
1 lb turkey sausage (uncased)
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

3 cups italian bread, cubed
1 cup chicken broth

6 eggs
1/2 cup of milk
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded (cheddar works too)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Boil water in a medium saucepan. Add the sweet potato and boil for about 5-7 minutes, until tender when poked with a knife, but not falling apart. Drain and set aside.

In a large stock pot or dutch oven heat the olive oil over med-high heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent (4 min). Add the sage and garlic and saute until fragrant (2 min).

Add the sausage and cook, breaking up large pieces with your spoon. Once the sausage is browned, add in the sweet potato, bread, and cider vinegar mix in well to coat the bread with the flavors. Pour in the chicken stock. Simmer for about 10 minutes until stock is thoroughly soaked up. Let cool about 20 minutes.

In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs and mix in the milk, salt and pepper. Pour over the stuffing mix and stir in well.

Pour the whole mixture into a greased baking dish. Cover with the cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the egg has puffed up around the stuffing.

Serve immediately with some salsa. Enjoy!

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