I’ve been on a roll in the kitchen lately, making new recipes with unfamiliar ingredients and savoring the results. Weeks 4 and 5 from my CSA brought the first pickings of summer squash. Beyond traditional supermarket green zucchini and yellow squash, these varieties have included Sunburst (flat, patty pan), Golden Glory (gold zucchini), Romanesco (striped zucchini looking squash), and Zephyr (bi-colored summer squash.) I made a Roasted Zucchini Pasta with the first crop of squash. The vegetables crisped wonderfully in the hot oven, and the sauce of grated Parmesan could not have been simpler. The other highlight was sugar snap peas. They were fantastic! I ate half raw and the other half sauteed in olive oil. Who knew pea pods could be so sweet and delicious?
My other discovery has been Yotam Ottolenghi, the Israeli-born chef, award-winning cookbook writer and London restaurant owner. I feel quite late to the Ottolenghi train. Smitten Kitchen gushes over his recipes and America’s Test Kitchen frequently mentions him in their podcasts, and yet I still hadn’t made any of his recipes. I can assure you this has changed. I am obsessed. My first foray, Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Fresh Figs, is a typical Ottolenghi combination of roasted vegetables and fresh fruit. I’m purchasing his cookbooks as we speak, so I apologize in advance for the future onslaught of his recipes. I’m already planning the Turkey and Zucchini burgers for this week’s crop of zucchini, cilantro, and green onions.
- 4 small sweet potatoes (about 2 1/4 lb in total)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- scant 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar (you can use a commercial rather than a premium aged grade)
- 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
- 12 green onions, halved lengthwise and cut into 1 1/2-in segments
- 6 ripe figs, quartered
- soft goat’s milk cheese and 1 red chile, thinly sliced (optional)
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 475F.
Wash the sweet potatoes, halve them lengthwise, and then cut each half again similarly into 3 long wedges. Mix with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt, and some black pepper. Spread the wedges out, skin side down, on a baking sheet and cook for about 25 minutes, until soft but not mushy. Remove from the oven and leave to cool down.
To make the balsamic reduction, place the balsamic vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then decrease the heat and simmer for 2 to 4 minutes, until it thickens. Be sure to remove the pan from the heat when the vinegar is still runnier than honey; it will continue to thicken as it cools. Stir in a drop of water before serving if it does become too thick to drizzle.
Arrange the sweet potatoes on a serving platter. Heat the remaining oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the green onions and optional chile. Fry for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring often to make sure not to burn the chile. Spoon the onions, and chile over the sweet potatoes. Dot the figs among the wedges and then drizzle over the balsamic reduction. Serve at room temperature. Crumble the cheese over the top, if using.
Adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook [I reduced the oil amounts and made the red chile optional.]