Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The sweet potato that wouldn't die...

The holidays have come and gone, and I think most of us are just fed up with trying to find ways to reinvent the leftovers. Sadly, that work is never done - for me, anyway... Every single day of the year, some food item is guaranteed to be staring back at me from the inside of my fridge, taunting me with the ever present threat of spoilage. Is today its last day before mouldy grossness takes it over the edge into the realm of the inedible? Aiiiiiiigh! The never ending danger of decay is enough to drive a person insane. I hate throwing out food.

I've been having this sort of crisis lately with a sweet potato that's been in my crisper for the past month and a half. Every day, I see it. And every day, something comes up and I can't use it (or don't feel inspired to). It's started to shrivel a bit, just to remind me that time is ticking, and that the money spent on a nice organic sweet potato is about to be wasted. When I picked it up on Monday, a shrivelled part of it had actually gone soft and my thumb kind of sunk into it a bit. Ew. That's when I knew it was now or never. 

Thankfully, I had five or six boiled potatoes left over from our New Years' eve party à deux. And what does one instantly think of when one has a load of cold boiled potatoes? Potato salad! Of course, none of my resolutions included being less lazy, so I didn't bother to boil the sweet potato (it would have had a weird shape anyway, once the soft gross bits had been cut out); I just grated that bad boy down to shreds. Well, part of him, anyway. Here's what happened.

Potato salad with grainy mustard vinaigrette, sweet potato shreds and chives (feeds two)

This is a recipe that's easy on the dishes. All you need is a salad bowl, a knife, a cutting board and, if you must, a garlic press.

In the salad bowl, whisk together :
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 generous tbsp grainy mustard
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • one minced clove of garlic 
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup of olive oil (or more, if you like)
  • salt and pepper.

To that dressing, add :
  • 5 or 6 cooked potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces 
  • 1 good bunch of asparagus (like the ones they sell tied together with a rubber band), cooked al-dente in a steamer and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • a few tbsp of finely chopped herbs such as chives, mint, parsley or dill (I had chives lying around from making mashed potatoes at Christmas, so I used chives)
  • 1 cup of grated sweet potato

Stir around delicately and voilà. Serve with a few pieces of cheese or a boiled egg on the side.

Of course, that recipe only used up a third of the dammed, rotting, cursed sweet potato. So tonight, I went ahead and made another salad with more stuff that was lying around the fridge. And this time, I dealt with another food straggler: old pita... Have you ever had this problem, where you buy pita for a hummus fix, but then the leftover bread just sits around your fridge for days on end, because it's become too old and tough to enjoy? Solution? Pita chips! They're super easy to make, and no matter who's around at mealtime, they'll be excited to eat them. If Marc could orbit the stove when I make these, I think he would; sadly, the wall behind the stove prevents full orbiting, so all he can do is stick his face in the oven window and keep repeating over and over "I think they're ready now. I think they're ready now. I think they're ready now." Gaaaah!

So here's the how-to for pita chips:

1. Cut the edge off your pitas by going around them with a knife or clean scissors. Eat the edges or give them to the dogs. Separate the two sides of the pita and lay them on a baking sheet with the inside surface facing up.

2. If you have a pastry brush, use it to give each pita circle a light brushing of olive oil. If you don't have a pastry brush, just pour a bit of olive oil (using a thin stream) all over the pitas and then smear it around with your hands.

3. Add whatever flavour you want. Dried herbs (oregano's nice), spices (smoked paprika anyone? curry?), salts (garlic salt, celery salt). Pepper's also highly recommended, and salt, if you're not using any of the garlic or onion variety. For this specific time, I used salt, pepper and sumac.

4. Pop the baking sheet on the middle rack of your the oven, which has been set to Broil. WATCH THEM CLOSELY. They burn in a heartbeat. Seriously. Heart... (still okay)... beat (crap! burnt!)

5. When they're nice and brown and crispy, take them out of the oven. Break them up if you wish. Enjoy.


Aaaah! Now that the pita chips are out of the way, back to the sweet potato from hell. Here's tonight's salad, with thanks to the larder, as usual, for the beans.

Curried creamy navy bean and shredded sweet potato salad with hard-boiled egg and pita chips (feeds two, with leftovers)

Boil up a few hard-boiled eggs (I made three for two people). While they cool, combine the following in a bowl :
  • 1 can of white navy beans or white kidney beans, rinsed
  • a few tbsp chopped fresh herbs like mint, dill or chives (I still had some damned chives, so I used chives)
  • 1 cup of grated sweet potato

In another bowl, combine : (I did it this way, but you can definitely make this part first in the big salad bowl and save yourself some dishes)
  • approx. 3/4 cup of plain yogourt (not low-fat)
  • 1 scant tsp of curry powder
  • 1 scant tsp of honey
  • juice of 1/4 lime (approx. 1 tbsp); add more if not tangy enough
  • salt

Serve the bean salad on a bed of baby greens with the sliced egg on top. Enjoy with your freshly baked pita chips.

Pfff. Only 1/3 of the sweet potato to go! It lives to die another day...

Until we meet again, Crisper squatter.

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