Tag Archives: lunch

Yucca Fries

I am one of those people who never intentionally order french fries in a restaurant but almost always grabs a couple off of my dining companion’s plate. That’s only if I’m dining with someone like my husband or mother. I don’t take fries from strangers or mere acquaintances. Are you a fry snatcher?

It’s not that I don’t love a good french fry. Who doesn’t? When they’re crisp but not dry and not too greasy with a little bit of salt and pepper….ah, yum. I hate to turn them down. Hand over the ketchup and nobody gets hurt. The problem with fries is that, in my experience, they are rarely the picture of perfection I just described. They’re soggy, greasey, overly salty, and cold. Presented with a mountain of such fries, will I still eat them? Yes. I’m afraid that if I order fries with my sandwich I’ll eat the whole pile whether or not they’re really good and feel horrible about it afterwards. That’s just what fries do to me.

So, I snatch a few off of Lee’s plates, sampling the goods. If they’re tasty, then I’m content with my nibble. If not, then I’m more than happy that I have salad next to my (veggie)burger rather than fried potatoes.

There does come a time when every girl needs a plate of french fries, or rather, french fry-shaped things that are in fact rather good for you and safe to consume by the plateful. Enter the yucca fry.

A balanced plate: fries+salad+tofu Lima bean sauce

Baked, not fried, these babies entered my dinner repertoire while we were sailing in the Bahamas. I think I ran across the idea of baking yucca (aka cassava) “fries” on Meals and Miles. The funky looking root was everywhere in the Bahamian markets and was undoubtedly the cheapest produce around. It’s naturally high in fiber and other good stuff like vitamin C.

While peeling and slicing yucca can be somewhat tricky (the outer skin has a waxy coating and the inside is alternately crumbly and hard), the result is worth it. Rather than becoming limp during baking, as baked potato “fries” sometimes do, yucca holds it’s shape well and gets crispy/chewy in the oven. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!

Yucca Fries

Ingredients

  • 2 medium-sized yucca/cassava roots (easier to handle than the big guys)
  • Olive oil
  • Seasonings (whatever you want! This time around I used a little chili powder and garlic powder)
  • Your favorite french fry dips and sauces

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Get out a large, rimmed baking sheet
  3. Peel the yucca using a paring knife or vegetable peeler
  4. Cut eat root in half and then slices the halves into sticks of about the same width (1/4-1/2 inch)
  5. Toss yucca into a plastic bag with the olive oil and spices.
  6. Shake and massage the bag until the fries are evenly coated.
  7. Arrange yucca in a single layer on the baking sheet.
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until fries are gold-brown. You can stir them around part way through but this isn't necessary.
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French toast with strawberries and goat cheese

This post covers a lot of things, all of which revolve around what I ate for lunch today.

First, why I love weekdays off:

  1. I get to take Doc (the dog) for walks up and around Potrero hill and see how happy he is to trot down the sidewalk beside me.
  2. Relaxed oatmeal breakfasts with coffee and the Chronicle on my Kindle
  3. Multitasking laundry with baking, blog-reading, house cleaning and daydreaming.
  4. It doesn’t matter when I forget to brush my teeth until half way through the day.
  5. I can eat French toast for lunch.

That last one is the kicker. There are several things that I can only make for lunch when I’m at home. Smoothies have been my specialty of late but there was a time when I made French toast for lunch all the time. Why did I ever stop? True, French toast is something normal people eat for breakfast on weekends and may seem too fancy, complicated, or rich for an every-day lunch. My counterargument goes something like this: bread+egg+milk=French toast.

I know, I know. I’m glossing over all kinds of key components like (for some) sugar, butter and rivers of syrup. There is a time and place for that breakfast. For me, a simpler version is a perfect vehicle for fresh fruit at lunch time.

This is where the strawberries come in. I’m kind of a strawberry snob. I don’t think I could have turned out any other way after growing up in Southern California where dreamily fresh, delicious strawberries grew right down the road. I remember early summer as a time for gorging on half flats of strawberries from roadside stands. My mom knew the best places to buy them. We would pick some up on the way home from somewhere, rush to the kitchen and plunge berries into cold water before devouring as many as it took to decide whether or not they were the best strawberries we’d ever tasted. Sometimes they weren’t that great. Often enough, they were spectacularly sweet and luscious: not too soft but never crunchy and always tasting like summer.

I don’t know how we ate as many berries as we did. I know they went on cereal, ice cream, waffles, and salads. I think my brother and I mostly ate them whole and unaccompanied off of moist paper towels by the sink. My dad dipped strawberries in sour cream and brown sugar for dessert.

Yesterday I brought home this week’s CSA box and immediately dug the little container of strawberries out from underneath the greens. I ran cold water over one, bit into it and closed my eyes. I must have done the same with two or three more. Yum. This is what a strawberry is supposed to taste like.

This morning I had strawberries on my oatmeal. They melted into the hot bowl while I read the paper and drank my coffee – my day-off morning ritual. Afterwards, while walking Doc up and around the hill, I thought of French toast and knew I had to have it for lunch. There was goat cheese in the fridge…and strawberries.

French toast with strawberries and goat cheese

Ingredients

  • 2 slices whole grain bread
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • Splash of vanilla extract
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 4 medium-sized strawberries, more or less
  • 1-2 oz. fresh chevre

Instructions

  1. Beat the egg and milk in a bowl.
  2. Add the nutmeg and vanilla, blending completely
  3. Pour the egg mixture into a flat pan or dish.
  4. Place both slices of bread in the dish, allowing one side of each slice absorb the liquid.
  5. Carefully flip bread slices after a few minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat. Spread a little oil or butter in the skillet.
  7. When the bread has absorbed most or all of the egg mixture, place it on the skillet and cook until browned to your liking, then flip and cook the other side. (I like to cover my toast while the first side is cooking. This helps the middle cook more fully.)
  8. While the toast cooks, wash your strawberries in cool water (Simply placing them in a bowl full of water is the gentlest way). Cut out the green tops and slice the berries.
  9. When the toast is done, place one slice on a plate, cover with sliced strawberries and a couple dabs of chevre. Layer the second slice of bread on top of the first (trust me, this helps melt the cheese and warm up the berries). Top this slice with the rest of the berries and a few more smears of chevre.
  10. Sit down with your meal and relax.
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Sweet Pumpkin Pickles

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Who cares about candy. I want pickles!

I am often guilty of foisting my tastes on other people. When it comes to gifts, I forget that I can only shop for my mom by picking out things that I like. With food, I rant and rave about ingredients I love before pausing to ask if my audience shares my enthusiasm for such things. What? You say you don’t like goat cheese? You can’t stand spicy food? You won’t touch oat bran with a ten-foot pole?
I’m afraid my food obsessions made their way into the birthday gift I gave my aunt this past weekend. I thought what what to get her all month, waffling between making something and buying something. Eventually I settled on homemade jams and jellies. I picked out a couple of jars that I already had but I wanted to make one more thing. A canning recipe had been high on my to-make list for weeks and this was the perfect time to try it. Who wouldn’t want pumpkin pickles for their birthday?

Ummm, probably a lot of people. I considered the possibility that my aunt might not share my love for unusual pickles and all things pumpkin. The recipe won, though. I had to make it and once I had, I had to share the delicious thing I’d discovered.

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I don’t really know what my aunt thought of the squat pint jar of deep-orange pumpkin cubes when she pulled it out of the gift bag. I think she guessed that it was cheese. She thanked me for the homemade jams and pickles and I do think they were the right gift. I can’t help but wonder when she will open the jar of pickles and breathe that sweet, spicy hit of vinegar.

I know when I opened one of my remaining jars, that sweet scent brought the sights, smells, and sounds of fall to mind. Cinnamon, allspice, and cloves tickled memories of Halloweens past when everything was orange, black, and ghostly white. I tasted gingerbread, felt the custard of pumpkin pie on my tongue, and saw my mom stirring spiced cider on the stove. I heard candy wrappers and crunchy leaves rustle.

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A few hunks of pickled pumpkin went into a green salad for my lunch today. Another went straight to my mouth or a taste test and I was blown away. The pickling process seemed too simple and quick to have produced something so delicious. If my first bite of pickle was an explosion of fall flavor, then every bite of salad was a complete fall extravaganza in my mouth. All I can say is make these pickles and then make some version of this salad – at least something including the pickles, pears, goat cheese, and pumpkin seeds. I don’t want to be the only one out here enjoying sweet pumpkin pickles this fall!

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Sweet Pumpkin Pickles
From Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
Makes about 6 pint (500 ml) jars

2 cinnamon sticks
12 whole allspice
10 whole cloves
1 lemon
6 cups (1.5 L) granulated sugar
4 cups (1 L) white vinegar
24 cups (6 L) seeded peeled pie pumpkin or butternut squash (3/4 in cubes)

  1. Prepare canner(large pot that will hold all your jars covered with water), jars, and lids. (heat the water and sanitize jars if you are reusing them. Then place jars in warm oven)

Place cinnamon sticks, allspice, and cloves in a small cheesecloth sack or tea ball
Zest lemon into a large saucepan that you will use to cook the pickles. Remove lemon segments from the white pith and surrounding membrane, discarding the membrane and pith (like you would grapefruit). Coarsely chop the remaining pulp. Add this and any juice from the lemon to the saucepan as well.
Add sugar, vinegar, and the spice bag to the lemon rind, pulp, and juice in the saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Cover, reduce heat, and boil gently for 10 minutes.
Add pumpkin cubes, return to a boil, and cook for 3 minutes (till heated through). Discard spice bag.
Pack hot pumpkin into hot jars with a generous 1/2 inch (1 cm) of headspace.
Ladle hot syrup into jar to cover pumpkin, maintaining 1/2 and inch of headspace.
Remove air bubbles if necessary.
Wipe jar rim, center lid on jar, and screw band on until resistance is met, then tighten to fingertip-tight.
Place jars in canner, making sure they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 20 minutes. Remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars.
Leave jars out to cool before storing. The center of each lid should be suctioned down so they don’t “pop” when you press on the lid.

For more information on canning, see the USDA Complete Guide to Home Preserving. The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving is also a great instructional and recipe resource.

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Filed under condiments, other goodies