Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Heat & Potatoes

Taste Bud Travels Emily Parrino
(Food column that ran today. Some of the recipes are repeats, sorry!)

A college friend of mine used to say that Taiwan winters send a chill to the bones. I always thought she was exaggerating until I lived there. After all, the dead of winter on a subtropical island is much like the rainy season of early autumn in Kentucky, except with palm fronds rustling in the breeze.

Yet three sultry seasons have convinced an entire nation to live without indoor heating and insulated walls. To escape ‘bone chill,’ I learned from the locals that layered clothing and plenty of warming foods are essential.

Rose Wong, a second grade teacher where my husband and I taught English, gave us a hands-on lesson in the art of cozy cooking and snacking. One nippy morning she entered the English office to offer us two handfuls of tiny sweet potatoes. Roasted to caramelized perfection, steam curled from the golden flesh as we tore off the thin skin.

Rose had been baking the potatoes for her students in a toaster oven – which I think was also serving as a space heater. True, there are easier ways to heat a room. But I thought her brilliant for warming her little ones inside and out with such a healthful, cheery treat.
As the temperatures drop, you might be tempted to snuggle up to a heaping helping of (insert unhealthy comfort food here). Autumn’s bounty and summer’s final fruits can be just as comforting and they’re full of nutrients. I also find the vibrant oranges and yellows of fall squash, pumpkins and root vegetables a good mood booster in the face of ashen skies ahead. So take the edge off your chilly parts and your hunger for comfort foods with some of these nutritious and ridiculously simple recipes.

EMILY PARRINO is a New Era copy editor. Her column runs once a month. She can be reached at 887-3298 or eparrino(at)

Sweet potato oven fries
Peeled and cut 2 large sweet potatoes into French fry-sized sticks. Slather them in olive oil and spread them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees until the edges brown. Sweet potato fries can be served with ketchup or honey mustard, or dusted in salt or cinnamon and sugar.

Eggplant rounds
Slice a medium eggplant in ½-inch rounds, drizzled with olive oil and Italian or balsamic vinaigrette. Roast in a single layer on a well-greased baking sheet for 30 minutes at 450 degrees. Bigger rounds can serve as veggie burgers.
Portabella mushroom caps
Slice three portabellas in ¼ inch thick pieces. Arrange them on a baking sheet and drizzle with your favorite salad dressing. Top with grated parmamsean or romano cheese and raw pinenuts. Bake until shrivelly, about 15-20 minutes at 350.

Roasted Veggie medley
Cover a thick cookie sheet with foil.
Toss the following in olive oil and lemon pepper or garlic salt.
Sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes. (Cooked until just tender in the microwave before baking)
Plus as much of any of the following as you can fit in your oven:
Zucchini in 1 ½ to 2 inch chunks
Medium onion, cut in half, then each half cut into about 8 wedges.
Canned whole tomatoes, drained and quartered
4-5 garlic cloves, quartered
Frozen broccoli florets
Frozen cauliflower florets
Frozen uncut greenbeans
Delicata squash stuffed with curried shrimp and vegetables
Cut the squash in half and remove seeds. Place the halves skin-side up on a baking sheet and broil for 45 minutes to an hour, until the skin is browned and blistered.
Meanwhile prepare the stuffing: Cook a half cup diced onion with 3 cloves of chopped garlic in a sautee pan with a little oil. When the onions become tender add a ½ cup each of pre-cooked frozen salad shrimp, frozen or canned corn and petite peas. Add a few shakes of curry powder and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until mixture is warmed.

Stuffed mushrooms
9oz package of white mushrooms, washed
1 slice of bread
¼ cup frozen broccoli
¼ cup finely chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon savory
¼ teaspoon thyme
pinch celery salt
1 egg
your favorite cheese
Toast the bread and let it sit out until all the moisture has evaporated. Gently remove the stems from the mushrooms, set caps aside. Finely chop the stems and add them to a frying pan with a little vegetable oil, the onion, garlic, thyme, savory and celery salt. Cook on medium heat until tender and fragrant then set aside in mixing bowl. Microwave or pan fry the broccoli until tender and then chop finely. Crumble the toast into fine crumbs. Add broccoli and crumbs to the mushroom mixture along with the egg. Blend with a fork until thoroughly mixed. Arrange the caps on a baking sheet and fill each cap as full as possible. Top each with a small piece of cheese and then bake at 450 for 45 minutes or until cheese is browned.

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