Wednesday, September 26, 2012

recipe: mashed sweet potatoes with goat cheese

It’s funny how our taste buds change over the years. I was definitely a picky eater as a kid – I wouldn’t eat fish, shellfish, “weird” sauces like mayonnaise, most vegetables, olives, strong cheeses, among other items I’m sure...
It took until my late teens for me to become more adventurous and open to different foods and cuisines. Now, I couldn’t imagine not enjoying things like caramelized onions, sundried tomatoes or salmon. But I’m guessing that to the taste buds of many youngsters, some flavours are just too strong to be enjoyed (at least the first or second sampling).
As a kid, I clearly remember feeling annoyed that good food was “ruined” by strong or strange ingredients – why, why, why did Mom have to add booze to perfectly good custard, pound cake and fruit? This recipe for mashed sweet potatoes with goat cheese is a perfect example of something that I would have loathed as a kid but absolutely love now.
This would be a great side dish to your upcoming Thanksgiving turkey dinner – don’t forget the brandied orange cranberry sauce! (recipe available at and of course a separate side bowl of , plain Yukon gold mashed potatoes for the kids.
mashed sweet potatoes with goat cheese
  • 6 (six) pounds sweet potatoes
  • 6 (six) tablespoons butter, melted
  • ½ (one-half) cup heavy cream or milk
  • ½ (one-half) cup goat cheese (plain) or try “woolwich dairy” cranberry cinnamon goat cheese for a twist
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  2. Prick each sweet potato with a fork a few times. Wrap each potato in tin foil and place on a foil lined baking sheet.
  3. Bake until tender, about 1 – 1 ¼ hours.
  4. Remove sweet potatoes from oven and let cool slightly. Halve sweet potatoes and scoop out flesh into a large bowl. Add melted butter, cream, crumbled goat cheese and salt. Mash until smooth and season to taste with pepper.
  5. note: if you’re a goat cheese lover like me, try crumbling additional goat cheese on top of the mashed sweet potatoes before serving.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

recipe: the best sweet pickled peppers

These are the best sweet red peppers I have ever had the pleasure of eating. The recipe comes from David’s cousin, Gabriella Sacchetti, the daughter of his Zia (Aunt) Maria, both of whom are wonderful cooks. I have written about both of them before – Zia has the vegetable garden of my dreams, as well as a coldroom filled to the brim with preserved fruits and vegetables, sauces, prosciutto and of course, plenty of homemade wine.
Whenever we head up to Thunder Bay, Zia always prepares for us something special to take back home. David and our son John were up there in August for a quick three day trip. They returned with a huge box of her amazing biscotti – made the day after he arrived so that they would be as fresh as possible. Although it was painful, we felt duty-bound to share them with my family here in Waterloo.
Over the years, Gabe and Zia Maria have both shared various cooking memories with me – one being their annual “red pepper day”, where a handful of ladies would gather to pickle and preserve bushels of red peppers on a late summer day.
Gabe sent us a care package when we were first married and also after our first son, John was born. These peppers were the most coveted item in the box. I hope that you enjoy these peppers as much as we do – on pizza, pasta, in salads, in sandwiches, alone on fresh or toasted bread, or straight out of the jar.
gabe’s pickled sweet red peppers
yields: approx. 34 (thirty-four), 250 (two hundred fifty) mL jars
ingredients peppers
  • 25 (twenty-five) lbs. sweet red peppers, sliced into ¼ (one-quarter) inch strips
  • pickling salt (coarse salt)
ingredients pickling liquid
  • 8 (eight) cups water
  • 4 (four) cups white vinegar
  • 4 (four) cups brown sugar
  • 3 (three) cups vegetable oil
  • 2-3 (two to three) hot Serrano peppers (optional)
ingredients seasoning
  • 12 (twelve) large garlic cloves, peel and minced (about 8 (eight) tbsp)
  • 1 (one) cup flat leaf Italian parsley, fresh and minced finely
  1. Prepare the Peppers the Day Before Canning. Wash, core and slice peppers into thin strips. In a large stainless steel bowl, layer sliced peppers alternating with pickling salt sprinkled over each layer. Place a new plastic bag over top of the peppers, then a large round pot lid, and weigh it down with books. Let this sit overnight. Don’t be surprised how much they reduce in volume.
  2. Prepare the Pickling Liquid. Combine water, vinegar, brown sugar, oil, and hot peppers in a large pot. Bring to a boil to dissolve sugar.
  3. Pickle the Peppers. Remove peppers from salt bowl. Drain peppers but do not rinse. Add drained peppers to pickling liquid in batches (so that juice covers peppers). Four batches should just about do it for this recipe. Bring each batch back to a boil and remove from pickling liquid using a slotted spoon/scoop. Place in a large stainless steel bowl.
  4. Season the Pickled Peppers (optional). Add garlic and parsley to the peppers. Quantities are approximate, so season to your own taste. Gently toss with a silicone spatula to avoid damaging the peppers.
  5. Fill & Process the Preserve Jars. Use your own method.

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