Savoring the sweet potato

Although I’ve always liked sweet potatoes, I’ve never really thought of them as anything but holiday food.   Once Christmas is past, they’re out of mind.

All that changed a couple of weeks ago when my  friend Susan Cohen took me to Poulet, a take-out/eat-in deli in Berkeley,  before her poetry reading.  There in the glass case among the salads was an intriguing dish pairing sweet potatoes and black beans.  It looked so appealing, I had to try it.

The first bite was amazing.  A spicy jolt of lime and chile dressing banished all the usual associations with brown sugar and cinnamon.  Suddenly, the familiar sweet potato was exotic and exciting.  Its earthy sweetness played the essential bass note in a jazzy riff of lively flavors. Continue reading Savoring the sweet potato

Pasta from the pantry

Even the most enthusiastic cooks face days when 5 p.m. rolls around and they still haven’t the faintest idea what they’re making for dinner.  The refrigerator is bare, there’s no time to go to the store and ordering take-out is not in the budget.

That’s when I turn to the pantry.  Mine always holds at least one package of spaghetti, a can of diced tomatoes and a can of clams (I like Geisha brand) for this simple but satisfying pasta.  Oh yes, there’s always a hunk of Parmigiano Reggiano in the fridge, too.  A head of garlic waits in a terra cotta jar on the counter and a big bottle of extra virgin olive oil stands in the cupboard.  If I’m lucky, there will be fresh Italian parsley in the crisper but it’s not absolutely essential. Continue reading Pasta from the pantry

Chocolate and peanut butter tarts

Chocolate cream pie was always the ultimate treat when I was a child.  No matter the occasion, my Dad asked for one of my Mom’s pies piled high with beautifully browned meringue in the place of a more conventional cake.

I have never been a big pie baker, however.  The crust intimidated me for years before I learned that a food processor would do a far better job of cutting butter into the flour than I ever could.  Even then, the dough had to be rolled out and mine always stuck to the pastry board until I realized that I actually was using too little flour on the board in my fear of using too much.  I won’t even talk about my failures with meringue. Continue reading Chocolate and peanut butter tarts