Provence 2016

Posted by on Jan 6, 2016 in Musings | 0 comments

It’s raining, and it’s wonderful. There are puddles in my yard and sandbags at the top of the driveway to divert the river of water that flows down from the hills in my neighborhood toward my front door. I’m grateful to need those sandbags this year and to hear the sound of raindrops on the roof.

But my mind is drifting toward summer and sun and France. Janet Valette and I will be offering our second annual Flavors of Provence: A Gourmet Getaway this June 20-26 at Bramefam, a 300-year old farm nestled between the woods and vineyards in northern Provence.

We invite you to join us for an intimate, week-long food and wine extravaganza of market, winery and artisanal food producer visits, hands-on cooking classes and the opportunity to immerse yourself in the relaxed, lavender-scented lifestyle of Provence in summer. Each evening will end with an aperitif followed by an al fresco dinner on the terrace.

For details visit the website:Flavors of Provence: A Gourmet Getaway

Vegetable Supper

Posted by on Jun 13, 2015 in Musings | 15 comments

I knew summer had come when we packed our green Mercury station wagon and headed out of Atlanta for Montreat, North Carolina, the mountain retreat for Southern Presbyterians nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains just west of Asheville. Nothing said freedom like rolling down the windows, hanging my head out to feel the warm, humid air blowing through my hair as we headed north on I-85. No more homework. No more early bedtimes. Just wide open days to explore, swim in icy cold Lake Susan and read for hours in the Pawley’s Island Hammock on the porch.

The drive took four hours, mostly on highways and then on the windy roads through North Georgia and into North Carolina. The distance between the town of Black Mountain and Montreat was two miles and by the time we got onto this road, I was ticking off the familiar houses and landmarks, looking for one in particular.

Max Tweetys’s Produce Stand.

It was an old brown wooden building with a corrugated metal roof. It was open on three sides and the tables of produce were out front, shaded by the roof. Pyramids of cantaloupes and honeydew melons. Bins of deep red tomatoes. Tangled piles of blackeyed peas and lima beans in their shells. Stacks of yellow-tassled corn. Okra. Onions. Pole Beans. Fuzzy crimson peaches. All ripe and warm in the heat of the late afternoon, the smell of musky sweetness, dust and husks.

Max sat in the back of the stand, under a slow-moving ceiling fan that barely moved the warm June air. You had to look hard to see him in his low chair.

We would get the food we needed for the first few days at the cottage. Biltmore Farms milk, eggs, cheese and ice cream. A loaf of Sunbeam Bread. A jar of Hellman’s mayonnaise. He had these basics along with Double Bubble bubble gum, Atomic Fireballs and a metal cooler full of ice cold bottled Cokes.

While my parents filled the brown paper bags with produce, I dreamed of tomato sandwiches dripping with mayonnaise. Slow cooked black eyed peas and pole beans perfumed with fat back and sweet onions. Creamed corn cooked in bacon fat. Slippery okra with butter and salt. Summer food. Vegetable Suppers.

It’s still my favorite way to eat in the summer. Living in California, though, I’ve made some adjustments. I’m likely to have avocado and maybe a disc of goat cheese on my plate and dress the vegetables with a vinaigrette of shallots, red wine vinegar, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Some torn basil leaves. Things Max Tweety wouldn’t have sold in his roadside stand. I still cook my beans and peas with salt pork and saute corn and sweet onions in bacon fat. And nothing can beat a drippy, mayonnaisey tomato sandwich eaten over the sink. No ma’am.

Summer Retreat in Provence

Posted by on Mar 7, 2015 in Musings | 1 comment

Imagine yourself sitting on a private terrace, a glass of Côtes du Rhône in your hand, watching the sunset over vineyards and fields of lavender in the south of France. You and your friends have prepared a delicious meal from local products you bought in the farmer’s market. Your day tomorrow may start with group meditation and yoga. Or maybe you’ll just sleep in and wake up when you want to, hearing only the sound of birdsong.

Come rediscover what makes you happiest in life by unwinding and tapping into your purest joys. Fill yourself with deep rest, beauty, excellent food & wine, connection to culture, nature and amazing friends. You will have the chance to recalibrate, to find balance and harmony by shifting from the chaos of daily life into that peaceful place, which is your true center. You will deeply nourish your soul on so many levels and it will thank you!

For more information and details click here:

Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale Salad

Posted by on Jan 20, 2015 in Musings, Recipes | 0 comments

Happy New Year!

It’s that time of year when the memories of those bountiful Christmas meals past are fading and the reality of tight clothing is upon us. Or maybe it’s just me. Whatever the inspiration, I am eating a lot of salads these days and trying to pack flavor and nutrition into one big happy meal.

This salad is a meal in itself if you are feeling virtuous, but also a delicious side for pork chops, roast chicken or seared salmon. Already cubed squash is available in many produce departments now as is already cleaned kale. The baby kale mixes are a great substitute, tender and sweet. Pine nuts, almonds or hazelnuts can be substituted for the pistachios.

Be gentle in the tossing of this salad to keep the components intact. It gets better with time and will keep up to a week in the fridge.

Here’s to a healthy, delicious and svelte 2015!

Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale Salad
(makes approximately 1 ½ quarts)

6 cups cubed butternut squash (2 pounds)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon 5-spice powder
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon finely minced shallots
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cups curly kale leaves, de-stemmed, washed and dried
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese (about ½ cup)
2 tablespoons toasted, coarsely chopped pistachios
Zest of one lemon, finely chopped
3 tablespoons finely slivered mint

Preheat the oven to 400°.
Position a rack in the center of the oven.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, toss the butternut squash cubes with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, ½ teaspoon of salt, ¼ teaspoon of pepper, the 5-spice powder and the balsamic vinegar. Spread out on the prepared baking sheet. Roast for 30-35 minutes or until the squash cubes are tender and starting to brown and caramelized. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool to room temperature.

While the squash is roasting, combine the shallots, red wine vinegar and lemon juice in a small bowl and macerate for at least 15 minutes.

Return the cooled squash to the large bowl. Cut the kale leaves into ¼” slivers and add to the squash. Add the feta, the pistachios, lemon zest and mint and gently stir together. Add the shallot mixture, the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper and stir together, again gently, to make sure all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Taste and add more salt, lemon juice or red wine vinegar to taste.

Veal and Porcini Meatballs with Parmesan Cream

Posted by on Mar 18, 2014 in Musings, Recipes | 0 comments

This photo is so deceptive.

There is no way I or anyone else gets away with eating just two of these Veal and Porcini Meatballs. The recipe for these may be my Most Requested Recipe, or at least a close second.

And, so I am choosing to kick off my new, and probably sporadic, series here of Most Requested Recipes. I will periodically post recipes that people ask for all the time which will force me to measure, weigh and write them out legibly.

Many of these recipes are on odd bits of notebook paper, napkins or torn off pieces of parchment paper. They are hastily scribbled as I throw them together or try to remember what I did that turned out to be so delicious.

These meatballs are a favorite hors d’oeuvres and are equally delicious with sparkling wine, red or white wine. If all the meatballs get eaten, which is highly likely, you will be left with some very tasty cream which can then be used as a pasta sauce or sauce for chicken breasts or pork chops. Some people have been known to just dunk bread in it.

Veal and Porcini Meatballs with Parmesan Cream
(makes approximately 5 dozen)

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed
3 ½ cups cream
5 cloves garlic
3 sprigs thyme
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely minced onion (1 small onion)
2 slices brioche or egg bread, crusts removed
2 pounds ground veal
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon porcini powder
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a large saucepan with 3 cups of the cream. Smash 2 cloves of the garlic and add them to the cream along with the thyme sprigs. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, then turn down and simmer for 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and let sit for 30 minutes.
Strain through a fine-meshed strainer into a bowl. Save the porcinis and discard the thyme sprigs and garlic.
Finely mince the porcinis and set them aside.
Reserve the cream for later.

Place the olive oil in a medium saute′ pan over medium high heat. Add the onions. Finely mince the remaining 3 cloves of garlic and add them to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions and garlic are just starting to brown, about 1 – 2 minutes, then turn down the heat to low and continue cooking until they are soft and translucent. Cool to room temperature.

Crumble the brioche into a medium bowl and add the remaining ½ cup of cream. Push the bead into the cream and let it sit for 15 minute, or until it has completely absorbed the cream.

Place the ground veal in a large bowl. Add the chopped porcini mushrooms, the onions and garlic, the brioche and the eggs. Add in the porcini powder, 1 tablespoon of salt, ¼ teaspoon of pepper and the lemon juice and mix together very well. The mixture will be moist. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.

To serve:
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Position a rack in the center of the oven.

Shape the mixture into 1” balls using a small scoop or your hands. Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until cooked through.
While the meatballs are cooking, place the reserved cream in a medium saucepan. Add the remaining teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper. Stir in ¼ cup of the grated parmesan cheese. Heat over medium heat until simmering.

When the meatballs are cooked, place them in the warmed cream, stirring gently to coat them.
Using wooden skewers or small forks, skewer the meatballs and place them on a platter. Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan cheese and serve.
Or eat them right out of the pot.

Duck Fat Potatoes with Preserved Lemon

Posted by on Jan 23, 2014 in Dinner, Musings, Quick Meals, Recipes | 0 comments

I had the best duck fat cooked potatoes of my life around this time last year, in an out of the way café tucked into the side of the Atlas Mountains, a few hours outside of Marrakesh.

After days of eating richly spiced tagines, feather light couscous and a myriad of vegetables salads, I was surprised to find duck confit and Pommes Sarladaises on the menu of this high desert restaurant, surrounded by date palms, fruiting prickly pear cactus and massive agave plants. It was the special of the day.

I ordered it, ready for something simple and familiar after the exotic, palate-awakening flavors of Morocco. When the plate arrived, it was just that – a mahogany brown duck leg sitting on top of a heap of crisp, thinly sliced, pan-fried potatoes, flecked with emerald green slivers of parsley. No sauce. No garnish. No spices.

I cut into the duck with my knife and fork. The skin shattered perfectly with the first cut and underneath was a thin layer of fat, then the dark, moist duck meat. Three textures in one bite. Perfection.

Then, the potatoes. Crisped dark brown edges. Soft, golden brown centers. Garlicky. Crunchy bits of sea salt in each bite. Rich and sweet from the flavor of the duck fat. I ate quickly and hungrily, gnawing on the duck leg bones to get every last morsel of meat, eating every potato slice and parlsey fleck on the plate. It was the perfect interlude before my Warqa and Bastila class the next day.

I have since cooked these potatoes a million times. They are delicious with roast chicken, grilled steaks, pan-fried sausages and fried eggs. Or even as a meal on their own. I have added slivers of preserved lemon in this version, my nod to Morocco, and find that the bits of salty, lemony rind add a bright burst of flavor and zing.

(serves 4-6)

1 ½ pounds small Yukon Gold potatoes, washed, halved, cut into ¼” slices
¼ cup duck fat
kosher salt
4 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
½ of a preserved lemon, pith removed, cut into thin slivers
1 tablespoon Italian parsley, thinly slivered
Fleur de sel

Pat the potatoes very dry in a towel.
Heat the duck fat in a large, heavy saute pan (preferably cast iron) over medium high heat.
Add the potatoes, spreading them out to cover the bottom of the pan. Cook, without stirring for 6-8 minutes. Using a spatula, turn the potatoes gently so you don’t break them and cook another 6-8 minutes without stirring. Repeat the process until the potatoes are tender and a rich golden brown, for a total cooking time of 25 – 30 minutes.
Add the garlic near the end of cooking and sprinkle with the kosher salt and pepper to taste.
Just before serving, scatter the preserved lemon rind and slivered parsley over the top of the potatoes and sprinkle with some fleur de sel.

Grilled Rib-Eye Steak with Red Wine and Thyme Caramelized Onions

Posted by on Jul 8, 2013 in Musings, Recipes | 1 comment

My friend Dan accuses me of writing a vegetarian blog.

“Where’s the meat?” he demands. “There’s none in your recipes.”

Being a diehard meat eater, I found that hard to believe. But, when I went back and looked in the archives, I had to admit he was right. Sheepishly.

So, in a round about manner, this is my first Meat Post. Because the recipe is really for these all-purpose Red Wine and Thyme Caramelized Onions which I happen to love piled on top of a grilled rib-eye, finished with a generous sprinkle of fleur de sel. (Even better, top the warm rib-eye with a pat of butter before piling on the onions and let it melt underneath, making for a juicy, sweet mouthful.)

And sweet is the key word here. Caramelizing onions, slow cooking them down to their essence brings out their natural candy-like sweetness and richness. Their umami-ness. For balance, and to round out the flavors, the addition of lemon juice makes them wine-friendly and the fresh thyme gives a nice herbal note.

These caramelized onions can be made ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. They just get better. Try them tucked into a grilled cheese sandwich, stirred into sautéed romano beans or summer squash, warmed over grilled chicken or pork or even served room-temp along side a sharp, aged cheddar.

Red Wine and Thyme Caramelized Onions
(approximately 1 cup)

1 ½ pounds yellow onions (3 medium)
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ cup red wine
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

Peel the onions and cut in half lengthwise. Cut into 1/8-inch slices, also lengthwise.

Place the olive oil in a large saute¢ pan over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the sliced onions, the salt and the pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions just start to brown. Turn the heat down to medium and cook until they are tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Give them a stir every now and then to prevent sticking.

Stir in the red wine and turn the heat back up to high. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring continuously, then reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 more minutes or until the wine has evaporated. Cover the onions and continue cooking until very tender and starting to get a little brown around the edges, another 8-10 minutes.

Stir in the lemon juice and thyme and taste for seasoning, adding more salt and/or pepper if desired.

*(It’s important to keep an eye on these onions, as they can burn easily, if not watched and stirred. You may have to raise or lower the heat if they are either cooking too slowly or quickly – how’s that for accuracy?? )

Grilled Rib-Eye Steak

Select nice thick, well-aged rib-eye steaks from your butcher or meat counter. (the ones I prefer are about 16-ounces each, 1 ½” thick)

Season the steaks with salt and pepper and refrigerate them, loosely covered, on a baking sheet, overnight. Remove them from the refrigerator at least one hour or up to 1 ½ hours before cooking to come to room temperature.

Prepare a grill to medium high heat.

Grill the rib eyes for 7-8 minutes per side for medium rare. Remove them from the grill and let them rest for at least 5-8 minutes before serving. Top them with some soft butter, then the warmed onions and finish with a generous sprinkle of fleur de sel.

Chunky Fava Bean, Parmesan and Preserved Lemon Crostini

Posted by on Apr 7, 2013 in Musings, Recipes | 2 comments

Some of my chef friends are Hors D’oeuvres Aficionados. They love nothing better than dreaming up gorgeous little masterpieces of multi-layered chips, tuiles, shmears, tartares, phyllo’d, puff pastry’d creations, garnished with micro-sprouts, micro-herbs and dots of pureed you-name-it. On forks. In spoons. Skewered and impaled on toothpicks, rosemary stems or whittled lemongrass.

And these hors d’oeuvres are beautiful. Gorgeous. Hours of work, usually accomplished with tweezers in hand and a steady eye. I have made many of these myself, in search of that perfect morsel to start the evening with or as part of a grander cocktail party spread.

But, I often find myself returning to tried and true favorites: Warm Gougeres; Creamy Chicken Liver Mousse; Smoked Salmon Croque Monsieur. The things that people love and devour and never mind eating over and over again. Comfort hors d’oeuvres. Veal and Porcini Meatballs. Seared Tuna. Crostini.

Crostini are a humble hors d’oeuvres. Simple. Satisfying. The blank slate of a perfectly toasted baguette slice opens up a world of possibilities and each season brings new flavors and ingredients to play with.

These crostini were inspired by 3 things: The arrival of the first fava beans of Spring; my 5 jars of preserved Meyer lemons from last winter’s harvest and my current addiction to labneh.

In past years, I have pureed the fava beans, making a luxurious creamy spread for the crostini. But at this time of year the fava beans are small and tender, so I left them whole and tossed them with tiny cubes of parmesan cheese and diced preserved lemon peel for a nice chunky texture. The labneh provides the creamy layer between and the result is a satisfying, crunchy Spring-green, lemon-umami bite.

Chunky Fava Bean, Parmesan and Preserved Lemon Crostini
(makes 16 crostini)

1 pound fava beans
1 ½ ounce chunk of Parmesan cheese
2 quarters of a preserved lemon
1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic
1/3 cup yogurt cheese (labneh), Greek yogurt or ricotta
fresh ground pepper
16 crostini

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil while you shuck the fava beans. Have a small bowl of ice water nearby.

Blanche the shucked favas beans in the boiling water for 2 – 2 ½ minutes, depending on their size. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon or spider and plunge immediately into the ice water. Drain and pat them dry.

Peel the favas by pinching a small hole in the outer shell and gently squeezing the beans out. Place them in a bowl.

Dice the parmesan cheese into ¼” cubes and add to the fava beans.

Using a sharp knife, trim the preserved lemon quarters down to the yellow rind, discarding the soft insides and most of the pith. Finely dice one of the quarters and add to the fava bean and parmesan mixture. Thinly sliver the other one to use as garnish. Set aside.

Add the extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, ¼ teaspoon salt and 4-5 grinds of fresh pepper into the fava bean mixture and stir together. Taste for seasoning, adding more lemon juice and/or salt if desired.

Finely chop the garlic clove with ¼ teaspoon salt to a liquidy paste. Place the yogurt cheese or ricotta in a small bowl. Stir in the garlic and salt, and 4-5 grinds of fresh pepper. Mix together well.

To serve: Spread each crostini with some of the yogurt cheese, then top with a spoonful of the fava beans mixture. Top with a sliver or two of the preserved lemon rind.

Eye of the Goat Beans with Salsa Verde and Feta

Posted by on Jan 23, 2013 in Musings, Recipes | 2 comments

It’s hard to believe something as simple as a dried bean can make you swoon with pleasure. But that’s just what happens to me when I cook up yet another variety of Steve Sando’s Rancho Gordo beans. Pre-Steve, beans were beans. They took hours to cook, even after soaking. More often than not, many of them floated to the surface, wrinkled and sad, never cooking at all. Who knows how long those beans had been sitting on the shelf, much less how long it had been since they were harvested and dried? It could have been years….

So, what a revelation to cook and eat dried beans that are “fresh”. This year’s crop – harvested, dried and packed with no time to languish in a dusty warehouse. And how to you begin to choose among varieties such as Good Mother Stallard, Mayacoba, Black Valentine, Sangre de Toro and Christmas Limas, not to mention favorites like Flageolet, Runner Cannellini and Borlotti beans?

So, the last time I was in the store, I asked Steve to pick out one of his favorites for me. He looked pained at the prospect. “These beans are like my children. I can’t pick a favorite!” I didn’t let up and he finally went over and picked up a bag of Eye of the Goat, or Ojo de Cabra beans. “Okay, I’ll admit it. I cook these on a regular basis. Just cook them with some onions and garlic. That’s all they need.”

He was right. The beans cooked up plump, meaty and creamy with a hint of chocolate and spice. The cooking broth was rich and sweet and delicious enough to be savored on its own. If it had been summer, I would have made a simple, fresh tomato salsa to go with the beans for a tangy contrast. But, with tomatoes a long way off, I made a Salsa Verde instead, with lots of fresh cilantro, mint and parsley and vinegary shallots. A crumble of feta cheese on top made this into a satisfying supper. And, I could see serving these beans alongside any grilled meat, fish or chicken.

When I am in a hurry, I cook my beans in a pressure cooker. Steve prefers cooking them in a clay pot because the flavor of the cooking broth has more time to develop and concentrate. It’s true. So when I want to give my pressure-cooked beans more oomph, I saute some onions and garlic in a pot, add the cooked beans and a couple of cups of their cooking liquid, then simmer together for a while to reduce and intensify the flavors, about 10-15 minutes. It’s a close second, but it works.

Eye of the Goat Beans with Salsa Verde and Feta
(serves 6-8)

For the beans:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound Eye of the Goat Beans, cooked ( in pressure cooker or on stove top)
1 cup reserved bean cooking liquid
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Heat the oil in a large, wide saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and stir to coat evenly with the olive oil. Turn the heat down to low and continue cooking until they are soft and translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent the garlic from burning. Add the beans along with the cooking liquid, the salt and pepper.

Turn the heat back up to medium high and bring the beans to a gentle boil. Then turn it back down to low and simmer until half the liquid has evaporated, another 8-10 minutes. Cover and hold in a warm place.

For the Salsa Verde and Feta:
2 tablespoons finely minced shallots (1 large or 2 medium)
2 tablespoons good quality red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
½ cup Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped
½ cup mint leaves, finely chopped
¼ cup finely minced chives (1 bunch)
Zest of 1 lemon, finely chopped
2 anchovies, finely minced
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
6 ounces feta cheese

In a small bowl, combine the shallots, red wine vinegar, lemon juice and the salt. Stir together and make sure the shallots are submerged in the liquid. Set aside for 15 minutes to macerate.

In a medium bowl, combine the chopped cilantro, parsley, mint, chives and lemon zest. Stir together. Add the anchovies to the shallot-vinegar mixture, then stir this into the chopped herbs. Stir in the olive oil and taste for seasoning. Adjust with more lemon juice and/or salt, if desired.

To serve:
Drizzle the Salsa Verde over the warm beans and crumble the feta over the top. Eat warm or at room temperature.

Garnet Yam Salad with Pumpkin Seeds, Cilantro and Lime

Posted by on Oct 8, 2012 in Musings, Recipes | 3 comments

My relationship with yams has matured through the years.

As a child growing up in the 60s, I ate yams once a year, at Thanksgiving. They showed up, fresh from the can, as a casserole layered with margarine, brown sugar and pecans, topped with the obligatory marshmallows. I loved that this was considered a vegetable and wished I could eat more of them slathered in sugar and melted marshmallows.

When I moved to California, I had my first fresh yam. The first time, it was baked, split and served with a large melting pat of sweet butter and a sprinkle of sea salt. Whoa. I had had no idea what a yam really tasted like and this was a revelation. Just sweet enough, nutty, earthy, deep orange and delicious. Even the brick-red skin was tender and I left nothing on my plate.

The next time they showed up at a potluck Thanksgiving gathering as simply mashed yams with a hint of nutmeg, cream and lemon juice. Whatever nostalgia I had been nursing for those gooey sweet candied yams of my childhood vanished in that moment.

This time of year, this kind of transitional season, when it’s still hot enough to wear sandals by day, but cool enough to wrap up in a sweater by night, I find myself making this yam salad. It satisfies that craving for autumn flavors, but is still cool and refreshing for those lingering hot days. The mellow sweetness of the yams with a touch of honey is balanced with tangy crème fraiche and lime juice. The nutty pumpkins seeds, cilantro and mint make this a versatile nice side for anything from fried or roast chicken to slow-roasted pork shoulder, grilled salmon or baked ham.

While I usually use Garnet yams, you could make this with sweet potatoes or any other variety of yam. I like steaming the potatoes because it keeps them moist and easy to peel when they cool off. But baking will work just fine. And pine nuts would be a great substitute for the pumpkin seeds.

Garnet Yam Salad with Pumpkin Seeds, Cilantro and Lime
(makes 1 quart)

1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
2 pounds garnet yams (about 4 medium)
2 large shallots, finely minced (about ¼ cup)
1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar, plus more, if needed
2 limes
½ cup crème fraiche
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
¼ cup mint leaves

Preheat the oven to 350°.
Position a rack in the center of the oven.
Toast the pumpkin seeds for 6-7 minutes or until fragrant and just starting to brown. Cool, then chop coarsely and set aside.

Roast or steam the whole, unpeeled garnet yams until tender. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

While they are cooling, combine the shallots and the rice vinegar in a small bowl. Zest the limes, reserving the zest. Juice the limes and measure the juice. You should have about 3 tablespoons. If you are short, make up the difference with additional rice vinegar. Add the juice to the shallots and vinegar.

When the yams are cool enough to handle, peel them, cut into ½ “ cubes and place in a large mixing bowl. Finely chop the lime zest and add it to the yams. Add the shallot mixture. Combine the crème fraiche and honey in a small bowl and mix together. Pour over the yams. Add the salt and pepper and the chopped cilantro. Finely sliver the mint leaves and add the to the bowl then gently combine all the ingredients with a large spoon, being careful not to over mix. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, lime juice or honey, if desired.