Easy Sweet Potato Fries

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2 pounds orange-fleshed sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons canola oil or olive oil
1½ teaspoons kosher or fine sea salt *

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Peel the sweet potatoes, if desired, and cut them into slabs, batons, wedges, coins, half-moons, whatever your heart desires. They can be any size, really, as long as they are not less than ¼ inch and not more than 1 inch thick.

Place them in a large bowl and drizzle with the oil. Season with salt and your choice of spices *, if using, and toss to coat. (Use about 1½ teaspoons salt if you’re not using additional seasoning; adjust salt content depending on your preferred spice mix.)

Add the sweet potatoes onto the baking sheet, scraping out any seasoning or fat clinging to the bowl, and arrange them in a single layer.

Roast, turning once if their bottoms darken quickly, until tender and browned, 15 to 25 minutes, depending on size.

* Try adding a teaspoon or two of any of your favorite seasonings. Got some herbes de Provence? Toss it in there. Spanish paprika? Definitely. Za’atar, curry powder Cajun seasonings, Old Bay?  Why not.

 

Cold Cucumber-Buttermilk Soup

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4 large cucumbers
4 green onions
2½ cups buttermilk
¾ teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill

Optional: cherry tomatoes cut in half, edible flowers or even lump crab meat.

Equipment: Food Processor preferred or Blender

Peel the cucumbers, remove and discard the seeds, and cut them into chunks. Cut the green onions into chunks, using the green and white portions. Put the cucumbers and green onions into a food processor and process the vegetables to a coarse purée.

Add the buttermilk, salt, and dill. Process until the soup is smooth. Taste and add more salt, if needed.

Chill the soup for 3–4 hours. Serve cold in chilled bowls with optional ingredients if desired.

 

Salt Baked Shrimp

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3 pounds rock salt
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
4 bay leaves
10 sprigs fresh thyme
1 head garlic, cloves smashed and skin removed
1 jalapeño, sliced, with seeds
2 lemon wedges
2 pounds large head-on shrimp
Mississippi Comeback Sauce for dipping

Preheat the oven to 475˚F.

Combine the rock salt, coriander, peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme, garlic, jalapeño, and lemon wedges in a large bowl  and mix well.

Pour half of the salt-spice mixture into a large, oven-safe baking dish and place it in the oven to preheat for 10 to 12 minutes, until the salt becomes hot. Remove from the oven, lay the shrimp in the salt, and add the remaining salt to cover the shrimp.

Return the pan to the oven and bake for an additional 8 to 12 minutes, until the shrimp are just cooked through. Using tongs, remove the shrimp from the salt and transfer to a plate. Serve with a bowl of Comeback Sauce for dipping.

 

 

Maidstone Biscuits

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This is a very simple recipe for a crunchy almond flavored biscuit from the Middle Ages.

1/2 cup butter
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons chopped, blanched almonds
1 teaspoon rosewater (or substitute) *

Cream the sugar and butter together in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Stir in the rosewater and almonds. Fold in the flour to form a stiff dough. Form pieces of dough into balls about the size of a golf ball in your hands and flatten them onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees. When baked the biscuits should be golden brown in color.

* It was traditionally flavored with rosewater, which is still available in specialty food stores. If you can’t obtain rosewater, you can use vanilla or even orange extract instead.

 

Toasting Dry Spices

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Toasting Dry Spices

Spices are at their peak fragrance just after toasting.  Toast in small batches as needed. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spread the spice in an even layer on a sheet pan and toast until just fragrant, 7 to 10 minutes on average.

Alternatively, warm a dry pan over medium-high heat, add the spice to the pan, and toast, tossing occasionally as it heats, until just fragrant. Timing will depend on the spice, but should average 5 to 7 minutes. Allow to cool completely before grinding.

 

Chanko-Nabe: Pot Meal for Sumo Wrestlers

 

Chanko-nabe – Pot Meal for Sumo Wrestlers

Sumo wrestlers eat chanko-nabe every day to build up strength. Nabe means “Pot” (or a meal simmered in a pot); chanko is the meal eaten by sumo wrestlers. At the sumo stable—the place where wrestlers live and train—there is no hard-and-fast rule about what goes into the pot. Common ingredients are chicken, tofu, and vegetables like Welsh onions and Chinese cabbage, all cooked in a seasoned soup stock.

Japanese cuisine offers a variety of one-pot meals served with rice. Soup stock is heated in a pot at the dining table. Previously cut ingredients, generally vegetables, fish and/or meat, are simmered and eaten around the table. The Japanese enjoy the camaraderie that comes from gathering around a nabe with family members or good friends, especially when it is cold outside.

Sumo wrestlers start their day with a long training session. After grappling, colliding and throwing each other around, expending plenty of energy, they are ready for a hearty meal that is both breakfast and lunch. One job of a sumo wrestler is to eat a lot and gain extra strength. They eat lots of rice, and chanko-nabe, which has plenty of liquid, goes down well with the rice. The vegetables, fish and meat, plus the rice, offer a nutritional balance that is easy to digest. And the meal is easy to make and serve, because one big pot holds enough for the many wrestlers eating together. This explains how chanko-nabe became an essential part of the world of sumo…

#ChankoNabe #JapaneseCulture #CulinaryJapan