The Ultimate Vegetarian Topping for Sweet Potatoes

When there’s something already cooking in the oven, I usually pop two fork-stabbed and foil-wrapped sweet potatoes in to keep it company. Approximately 45 minutes (depending on sweet potato size and circumference) elapse, and presto change-o, you’ve got lunch or dinner for the next day.

If you’re heating up the oven just for the potatoes, try assembling a topping while they bake. I call this recipe the ultimate vegetarian topping, because in my world when you say “ultimate” next to “topping,” it usually indicates bacon and some form of heavy dairy product, maybe even crispy onions.  There is no meat in this topping, and I like to indicate that in the title so that I’m not playing a “horrible, nasty trick” on a certain someone who was “expecting pork sprinkles.”

Anyway, this topping is especially nice because it counters the sweetness of the potatoes, but still has a cheese indulgence.  There is far too much cheese consumption in this house to actually consider it an indulgence, but let’s not quibble over details.

The Ultimate Vegetarian Topping for Sweet Potatoes
(Inspired by a recipe I once read but can’t remember where, plus changes)

1 jalapeño, deseeded and finely minced (or half of the jalapeño, if you prefer less heat)
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
Extra virgin olive oil
Bunch of fresh cilantro, rinsed well and chopped
Lime juice (approx. 2 teaspoons, or whatever comes out of half of a lime)
Salt
Fresh mozzarella
Two baked sweet potatoes

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil and lime juice. Add the jalapeño, garlic, most of the cilantro, and salt to taste.  Whisk together, and then spoon a little bit over the baked sweet potatoes, which  should be split and warm. Shred some of the mozzarella over the top using your hands (I prefer the ovolini size that come packed in water), then spoon over more of the topping and the rest of the chopped cilantro as garnish.

*Notes: I used lemon instead of lime because that’s what I had.  It worked fine, but lime is a bit better. Some chopped spring onions provided a little extra garnish.  This is especially good with a side of steamed mustard greens or kale, black eyes peas, or salad.

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Baking Amnesia & Jalapeño Cornbread

This baking binge is a little frightening. Usually the mood to heat up the kitchen sets in during the crisper days of fall, yet somehow I’ve found myself at one moment reading a recipe, and at the next watching something delicious-smelling rising and developing a golden brown crust in the oven. Of course, the floury countertops and stubborn bits of dough clinging to bowls, whisks, and wooden spoons soon bring back all that happened in between.

The latest bout of baking amnesia happened when I was looking for a worthy companion to a big pot of pink beans (habichuelas rosadas) that I soaked overnight and then simmered with a bay leaf, onion, carrot, some vegetable stock, and a dusting of cumin, cayenne, chili powder, and coriander. Homemade tortillas came to mind, but that was idea was quickly scrapped when I spotted a recipe on the back of a bag of Arrowhead Mills Organic Yellow Corn Meal.

Forty minutes later – match made in heaven. This quick bread could stand on its own – one slice is a deeply satisfying snack, with its blend of heat from the jalapeños and saltiness from the sharp cheddar. But pair it with beans, chili, soup, an egg, really anything that could benefit from a bit of sopping, and you’ve got yourself a perfect fall meal. So what if it’s still 80 degrees outside?

Jalapeño Cornbread
(recipe from Arrowhead Mills Organic Yellow Corn Meal bag, with some adjustments)

1 cup onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow corn meal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil or butter
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2-3 jalapeño peppers, finely chopped (I used 2, but next time may use 3 to make it spicier)

Preheat oven to 400. Prepare an 8×8 pan (or cast iron skillet) using oil or cooking spray.  Saute the chopped onions in the olive oil until just limp, about five minutes.

Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl, blending well.

Separately beat together the eggs, milk, honey and oil (or butter).

Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Stir in the onions, 1 cup of the cheese, and the jalapeños.

Pour into the prepared pan/skillet and top with the remaining cheese. Bake 20-25 minutes or until crusty brown.