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My Recipes-of-the-Week are featured here on my Home page. You can find 1000+ of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch nearly 100 Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV segments using the TV Videos tab, join the discussion about all of my creations using the Facebook tab, or Email your questions and comments directly to me--none go unanswered. "We are all in this food world together." ~Melanie

11/15/2018

~ Slightly-Spicy and Creamy-Rich Sweet Potato Soup ~

IMG_5297As a gal who eats sweet potatoes all year long, I pay particular homage to them at Thanksgiving. Sometimes I present them as a cup of sweet potato soup as the starter to the meal, sometimes they arrive in the form of a side-dish sweet potato and caramelized apple casserole, other times they're the sweet potato, apple and sausage stuffing/dressing side-kick to my turkey, and, always but always, my traditional Turkey Day feast includes a sweet potato pie.

Sweet potato soup is a savory starter.  Season it accordingly.

When it comes to sweet potato soup, think "savory soup" not "sweet dessert" and season accordingly.  Sweet potato soup does not need sugar, brown sugar or honey added to it -- sweet potatoes are full of flavor, texture and they're naturally sweet.  When served as a savory starter to a meal it's my opinion they shouldn't contain commonly used pie spices -- no cinnamon or nutmeg please.  Herbes de Provence, cracked black pepper and a kiss of fresh rosemary do it for me.

An inconvenient truth:  A sweet potato is not a yam.

IMG_8026A bit about sweet potatoes:  Sweet potatoes were first introduced to North America when Columbus brought them over from the island of St. Thomas, where this large edible root (which belongs to the morning-glory family) is native to the tropical regions of the Americas.  There are many varieties of sweet potato, but the two most widely grown commercially are a pale sweet potato and a dark-skinned variety Americans erroneously call "yam" (the true yam is not even related to the sweet potato).  The pale potato has a thin, light yellow skin and pale yellow flesh. Its flavor is not sweet, and, after being cooked, the pale sweet potato is dry and crumbly, similar to that of a Russet potato. The darker variety (pictured above) has a thicker, dark-orange skin and vivid-orange, sweet flesh.  When cooked it has a very sweet flavor and a creamy texture. The dark-skinned, orange-colored variety is the only kind I use in my recipes.

IMG_5635When buying sweet potatoes, choose plump, firm even-sized ones with no cracks. Like regular potatoes they should never be stored in the refrigerator, but do need to be stored in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place. If the temperature is above 60 degrees, they'll begin to sprout, get woody and/or shriveled.  Cooked sweet potatoes, if stored in the refrigerator, last about a week.  Like regular potatoes, sweet potates are always eaten cooked, never raw.

My silky-smooth, creamy-rich herbes de Provence, cracked black pepper & rosemary-kissed sweet potato soup:

IMG_52583  cups smashed sweet potatoes, removed from 3 pounds sweet potatoes after baking or microwave-baking the potatoes

1 1/2  cups diced yellow or sweet onion (8 ounces)

1  cup diced celery (4 ounces)

2  tablespoons butter

1 1/2  teaspoons herbes de Provence (a blend of dried rosemary, marjoram, thyme and savory)

2  teaspoons sea salt

1 1/2  teaspoons coarse-grind black pepper

2 1/2  cups high-quality, unsalted vegetable stock

1/2  cup heavy or whipping cream 

3-4  3"-4"-long fresh rosemary sprigs 

crème fraîche (sour cream or Greek-style yogurt may be substituted), for garnish 

small fresh rosemary sprigs, for garnish

IMG_5257Step 1.  Using the tip of a sharp paring knife, pierce tops of sweet potatoes in 4-5 spots.  Microwave-bake them until soft -- in my microwave this takes about 18 minutes.  Set aside until cool enough to comfortably handle with your hands, 15-20 minutes.  Using the paring knife and an ordinary tablespoon slice the potatoes in half, scoop out the soft centers, transfer them to a medium bowl and smash them with a fork.  Set aside.  This task can be done several hours or a day or two in advance.

IMG_5260 IMG_5260 IMG_5260 IMG_5260 IMG_5260~Step 2.  In a 3 1/2-quart wide-bottomed chef's pan melt the butter over low heat.  Add the diced onion and celery to the pan.  Season the vegetables with the herbes de Provence, salt and coarse-grind black pepper.  Adjust heat to medium-high and sauté, stirring frequently, until onion is softening and celery is crunch tender, 5-6 minutes.

IMG_5273 IMG_5274 IMG_5279 IMG_5279 IMG_5279 IMG_5279 IMG_5279~Step 3.  Add the sweet potatoes and stir them into the vegetables.  Add the vegetable stock and bring to a simmer.  Add and stir in the cream.  Place the rosemary sprigs on the surface of the soup and reduce heat to simmer gently, about 5-6 minutes.  Remove from heat, remove and discard the rosemary sprigs and serve immediately, garnishing each portion with a dollop of crème fraîche and a rosemary sprig.

Serve garnished w/crème fraîche & a sprig of rosemary:

IMG_5290Can be made 3-5 days ahead -- reheat gently to steaming:

IMG_5308Silky-Smooth and Creamy-Rich Sweet Potato Soup:  Recipe yields 2 quarts/8 cups/8 servings. Can be made 3-5 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.  Does not freeze well.

Special Equipment List:  paring knife; spoon; fork; cutting board; chef's knife; 3 1/2-quart wide-bottomed chef's pan; large spoon; soup ladle

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8b25c14970bCook's Note:  While butternut squash and sweet potatoes are not directly related to each other, culinarily, almost anything you can do with any Winter squash you can do with a sweet potato (and vice versa).  One more point: when it comes to the butternut squash, I prefer it to its blander cousin, the pumpkin.   That said, if you're a person who prefers the butternut squash to the sweet potato, try my ~ Easy Rosemary-Kissed Butternut Squash Bisque ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photographs courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

11/13/2018

~ Stranger Things: Revisit Retro French Bread Pizza ~

IMG_5235Binge-watching Stranger Things on Netflix started conjuring up fond food memories from the 1980's.  OMG -- the many scenes with the Eggos, not to mention the perfectly-timed Jiffy-Pop explosion, the  invitation to the KFC dinner, and, the Reese's pieces conversation in the shrinks office.  They all left my mind wondering about what's to eat in Season three.  Stouffer's French bread pizza was the first thing that popped into my head -- with frozen yogurt coming in second.

IMG_5115I know everything there is to know about French bread pizza, as back in the '80's, even I dove into the frozen food section of my grocery store once a week to pick up a box -- it was one of my "busy mom late-night snack-attack solutions" -- I usually ate it whenever my husband was on a business trip, sitting with my feet up watching movies in the family room, while my kids slept upstairs (cognizant that Domino's ringing the doorbell would turn my quiet time into a kids party.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb088cbd77970dAs an accomplished cook, I've posted all sorts of scratch-made 'za: thin-crust St. Louis-style, deep-dish Chicago-style, Detroit-Style Brick Cheese & Pepperoni Pizza, Philadelphia-Style Cheesesteak PizzaPizza all Puttanesca, French-Style Caramelized-Onion & Gruyère Cheese PizzaThai-Style Grilled Chicken Pizza, a Blast from My Husband's Past Pioneer-Club Pizza, a Nobody's Pizza for the Somebody in All of Us, a holiday Pizza Wreath, plus, the family recipes for Preschutti Pizza Crust, My Guy's Italian-American Sicilian-Style Pie, and, My All-Purpose Time-Saving Bread Machine Pizza Dough, not to mention a host of recipes for making snack pizza using flatbreads like pita, naan, tortillas and boboli as foils.  

IMG_5198French bread pizza of the semi-homemade-type is one of my favorite "what to cook for me" meals or late-night snacks.

IMG_51372  8-ounce, 10"-11"-long French batards, preferably fresh, but, if it has been tightly-wrapped in plastic, 1-2 days old is just fine

4-6  tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature, very soft

1 1/2-2  cups pizza sauce, high-quality store-bought, or, my recipe for Preschutti Pizza Sauce, which is full of fresh basil, onion, garlic, and, is basically a concentrated (reduced) version of  My Fresh & Spicy Tomato-Basil Sauce (Marinara)

1  pound deli-style brick mozzarella, hand shredded

2  teaspoons minced fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil

a light sprinkling of dried red pepper flakes

my favorite add-on topping suggestions:  crisply-fried sweet sausage crumbles, sautéed mushrooms, and/or thinly-sliced red onion pieces

IMG_5141 IMG_5141 IMG_5146~ Step 1.  Slice each batard in half horizontally, to form four pieces, then slice each half into four quarters to form 16 pieces. Arrange on a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan lined with parchment paper.  Place a second baking pan over the top and press down, to remove about 2/3 of the volume from the bread.

IMG_5147 IMG_5147 IMG_5147~ Step 2.  Lightly slather each piece with about 1-1 1/2 teaspoons of the butter, then place pan 5 1/2"-6" under preheated broiler until bubbly and slightly browned around edges, about 2 minutes.  Remove from oven.

IMG_5168 IMG_5168 IMG_5168~ Step 3.  Evenly top each lightly-toasted piece with a generous tablespoon of pizza sauce, followed by a generous 2-3 tablespoons of shredded mozzarella and a sprinkling of basil and red pepper flakes.  Add your favorite toppings (or none) and bake on center rack of 375º oven until cheese is melted, 8-10 minutes.

Serve ASAP & grab one fast before they're...

IMG_5214... going, going, gone (into the Upside Down*)!

(*In the Netflix series, Stranger Things, the Upside Down is an alternative dimension in the universe that runs parallel to the human world.)

IMG_5250Stranger Things:  Revisit Retro French Bread Pizza:  Recipe yields 4 French bread pizza loaves/16 pieces/6-8 servings at 2-3 pieces per person.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; hand-held box grater; skillet (optional); 2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper

6a0120a8551282970b01bb07e6f222970dCook's Note:  French bread pizza is one of the newest oldest tricks in the KISS Book of Entertaining (Keep It Simple Stupid). Making pizza on French bread was made famous in the 1960's by Bob Petrillose, the founder of the legendary Hot Truck on the campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. His experiment not only spread like wildfire, it was eventually licensed to Stouffer's. After that, it quickly made its way into home kitchens nationwide -- mine being one of them.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

11/10/2018

~ Side-by-Side: Texican Chili & Mexican Rice Bowls ~

IMG_5085Side by side.  Arm in arm.  Hand in hand.  The combination of steaming-hot Tex-Mex-style chili and Mexican-style rice teamed up in the same bowl is a hearty, satisfying, yummalicious meal.  I was, however, taken aback to learn, that, unlike spaghetti and meatballs for example, it's not a duo that most folks pair together right "off the top of their head".  When my neighbor dropped by yesterday to borrow some herbs de Provence from my spice rack, she found me eating a chili-rice bowl for lunch.  With a look of wonderment, she said, "why didn't I think of that?"  She went home with a new serving idea for chili, I finished my lunch, and you all are getting a blog post.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad39ae65a200dWhile chili taste great just as it it is, whether it's chili con carne or chunky steak chili, there are lots of ways to jazz up its service (or stretch leftovers).  Some folks put chili over spaghetti and others make chili mac and cheese.  Some folks ladle it over French fries or cheese fries and kids love it on twice baked potatoes of the taco 'tater type -- it's common to ladle it over nachos or wrap it in tortillas to make chili tacos too.  When I have leftover chili in the refrigerator or freezer, we've always enjoyed it with rice -- specifically Mexican-style adobo rice, which contains sweet corn and fire-roasted tomatoes.

6a0120a8551282970b0223c849deb2200cThe difference between Mexican and Spanish rice is akin to the difference between a side-salad and a chef's salad.  Both contain similar ingredients, but, the first is a side-dish and the latter a main course. While both are Spanish, when I think "Mexican rice", I think "tawny-red-tinged, onion-and-garlic laced, side-dish riddled with bits of vegetables (beans, corn and/or tomatoes, or peas and carrots)".  When I think "Spanish rice", I think "protein-packed main-dish-rice chocked full of meat, poultry or shellfish".

Got chili?  Make rice. Try a chili-rice bowl. 

IMG_5096"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen 2018)