Tag Archives: easy vegetarian dinner

Date Night In: Sweet Potato, Blue Cheese and Tatsoi Pizza

12 Nov

It was Saturday night. We were hungry, having missed lunch, and in the mood for a special dinner. Monday through Friday mean pasta, salad, a quick stir-fry—the weekend calls for something a bit more, something that can take a little longer without resulting in a midnight dinner (great for vacation in Spain, not so great for the American workweek).

The meal had two stipulations: it had to be made at home, using primarily things we already had in the house, and it had to involve blue cheese. The first stipulation was a result of an overextended restaurant budget mainly but not entirely due to our recent trip to Charleston, and the second was a result of an impending expiration date. One should never let good cheese go to waste.

Our arsenal included the aforementioned blue cheese, a small bag of baby sweet potatoes and two bunches of tatsoi. All of them were at the “use it or lose it” stage.  I had first tried tatsoi, an Asian green similar to spinach, the week prior in Charleston. When I saw it at the farmers’ market two days after our return, the veggie nerd in me had to have it. The tatsoi’s original destination was a stir-fry, but somehow tatsoi and sweet potato stir-fry with a blue cheese sauce did not sound entirely appetizing, even if I could try to pass it off as French-Asian fusion.

Having finally purchased a pizza stone and realizing that yes, it really does make a better crust, we decided on pizza. We could slice the sweet potatoes paper thin using the mandolin we’ve been afraid to un-sheath, caramelize some onions, sauté the tatsoi and finish it all off with crumbled blue cheese. We bought a bag of whole wheat pizza dough from Trader Joe’s to save time and I grabbed some rosemary to round it out. Mission nearly accomplished. We had only two things standing in our way: 1) could we use the mandolin without a trip to the emergency room and 2) does tatsoi go with sweet potatoes and blue cheese? It seemed like it would but having only tried it once, I really had no idea.

The mandolin was a bit tricky with baby sweet potatoes but Ben managed it well with no blood and only a bit of cursing. I stood on the sidelines offering helpful hints gleaned from the instruction pamphlet and within a few minutes, our sweet potato slices were roasting in the oven with a bit of olive oil and fresh rosemary. As for the tatsoi, I decided to go with leaves only and saved the stems for a future stir-fry. I sautéed up some garlic chips first and after setting them aside, I added a bit more oil to the pan, toasted some chilli flakes and tossed in the tatsoi leaves for a brief wilt.   We started the pizza with just some olive oil, rosemary and sea salt to get a nice, crisp crust and then added the toppings for the second half of cooking. In addition to the greens, roasted sweet potatoes and cheese, we included caramelized red onions for additional sweetness and depth of flavor. This also helped to balance out the strong blue cheese.

In the end, the mission was accomplished. We wound up with a sweet, savory and incredibly flavorful pie—definitely worthy of a Saturday night.  Sweet potatoes, tatsoi and blue cheese do indeed go together and the mandolin was worth the effort. Keeping the slices super thin helped keep the pizza light and also cut down on roasting time. If you don’t have a mandolin, just slice the sweet potatoes as thinly as possible and keep them in the oven a bit longer if needed.  Can’t find tatsoi? Try another green like spinach, chard, or kale.  Hate blue cheese? Fontina would probably be great or just go with mozzarella. When it comes to a kitchen-sink pizza, the possibilities are endless.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag pre-made pizza dough (we used the whole wheat dough from Trader Joes—you could also make your own)
  • 4-5 baby sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced paper thin
  • Few sprigs rosemary, minced
  • Few cloves garlic, cut into thick slices
  • ½ large red onion, sliced into rings (you could also use yellow onion or shallots)
  • 2 bunches tatsoi, leaves only, roughly chopped (save the stems for something else)
  • Chili flakes
  •  ½ wedge blue cheese, crumbled (we used a Point Reyes blue)
  •  Olive oil
  •  Salt & pepper

Directions

  1. Toss the sweet potatoes with some olive oil and rosemary and roast at about 400 degrees until browned and cooked through, about 20 minutes. Pull out of the oven and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Set potatoes aside and turn heat up to 450. Put your pizza stone in to heat up.
  3. Saute the red onion in olive oil over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are completely soft and brown; set aside.
  4. Heat some olive oil on medium-high heat and briefly sauté the garlic chips until just lightly golden—do not let them brown past this point. Remove the garlic from the pan and set aside.
  5. Add a bit more oil to the pan and add chili flake to taste (I added a healthy sprinkle). Toast for about 30 seconds and add the tatsoi.
  6. Cook just long enough to let the tatsoi wilt—this will be less than a minute. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  7. Roll out your dough and place onto a pizza pan, sprinkled with a bit of cornmeal. Lightly coat the dough with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and rosemary.
  8. Cook the pizza about 10 minutes until it’s lightly golden and then pull out to add the toppings.
  9. Add the sweet potatoes, onions, tatsoi, garlic and blue cheese and put the pizza back in the oven for another seven minutes or so until the pizza is fully golden and the cheese has melted.

The Tale of Too Many Turnips

3 Jan

It’s the last night of our three-day New Year’s weekend and we decided earlier this afternoon that wanted to cook something fun–something that would allow us to hang around the kitchen, drinking wine (or even better yet, leftover champagne) and listening to Underground Garage on Sirius, all while purporting to be productive. The fridge was overflowing so I was sure there would be something exciting within. What I found was a lot of turnips. Three bunches to be exact–turnips that had survived our last CSA box and turnips that showed up in our latest shipment on Friday. The husband loves turnips and was excited by this turn of events. I don’t dislike turnips but I wasn’t nearly as intrigued as I would have been by a hidden stash of wild mushrooms or even a big bunch of kale (crazy, I know). We also had a bunch of potatoes (russet potatoes, small yellow-fleshed potatoes and red potatoes) courtesy of both our CSA box and overzealous Chanukah shopping, some giant leeks (CSA) and a plethora of yellow onions (again, Chanukah shopping). The answer to our turnip bounty or predicament, depending on who you asked, seemed to be soup. The onions would provide a good balance to the sweetness of the turnips and the potatoes, some heft and creaminess, helped along by some goat milk. The goat milk appeared as the result of a dinner party bread pudding and also needed a home. We would have way too much soup for two people but the leftovers could sustain us through a long week of being attached to our desks. And the best thing about soup is that it’s extremely conducive to drinking leftover champagne, half of bottle of which happened to be in the fridge, nestled alongside the turnips. Here’s what resulted from our holiday soup-venture:

Four Onion and Turnip Soup

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 cups mixed leeks, shallots and yellow onions, diced
  • 3 heaping cups peeled and cubed turnips
  • 3 heaping cups cubed yellow-fleshed potatoes (we didn’t peel ours but you may want to for a more appealing soup color)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (add more broth and/or water if needed)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup milk (I used goat)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 small bunches green onions, chopped
  • 1 handful of fennel fronds, chopped
  1. Heat the butter and oil in a soup pot over low to medium heat until the butter starts to foam
  2. Add the mixed onions, shallots and leeks and cook, stirring often, until the onion mix is softened but not browned
  3. Season the onion mix and then add the turnips and potatoes, stirring to coat them with the onions, olive oil and butter
  4. Cook the veggie mix for about 5 minutes and then add the broth and the wine
  5. Bring the soup to boil and then turn down to a simmer
  6. Cook the soup until the vegetables are soft and you can easily squish a potato on the side of the pot with your spoon (this will take about 30-45 minutes, depending on how young and tender your veggies are)
  7. Using a blender, puree the soup with the milk (if you have an immersion blender you can do this right in the pot–just be sure to take it off the heat first)
  8. Return the soup to the pot if you’ve used a blender and season to taste; reheat gently if necessary
  9. Heat the additional two teaspoons of olive oil (extra virgin is preferable) in a small saucepan
  10. Add the green onions and fennel fronds and saute just until they soften, then season to taste
  11. Serve the soup topped with the green onion/fennel garnish

p.s. If you’re feeling ambitious and/or too lazy to go to the store (as in my case), try making this easy oat and herb bread to go along with your soup. It comes from my first-ever and still-beloved vegetarian cookbook, Quick Vegetarian Pleasures by Jeanne Lemlin, and it’s yummy, healthy (especially if you sub in whole wheat pastry flour for the white flour) and pretty much impossible to screw up.

Herb Oat Bread from Quick Vegetarian Pleasures

  • 1 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup unbleached flour (I replaced this with whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour (I used 1/4 cup unbleached flour–you could probably use all whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/8 teaspoon crumbed dried rosemary
  • Note: I had various fresh herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme, basil) leftover from holiday cooking so I used about a handful of minced fresh herbs instead
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 1/4 cups plain low-fat yogurt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F; butter and flour a 9×5 inch loaf pan (I used parchment paper instead)
  2. Place the oats in a blender or food processor and grind until almost powdery; pour into a large bowl and mix in the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and herbs
  3. In a small saucepan, combine the oil and honey and heat until just blended; remove from the heat and stir in the yogurt and beaten eggs
  4. Pour in the flour mixture and stir until just evenly moistened (do not over-beat); scrape into the prepared pan
  5. Bake 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean (if the top of the bread begins to darken before it finishes cooking, lay a sheet of foil over the top of the pan and bake until done)
  6. Cool on a wire rack 10 minutes before removing from the pan; cool completely before slicing