Man, it’s hot. I know we New Englanders pride ourselves on withstanding all manner of brutal weather, but these 5-day arcs of 90-degree days packed with humidity are unpleasant. We do have a window air conditioner…but it’s still sitting on the bedroom floor from when we moved in a month ago. It seems like when we get home from work we just want to put on the ceiling fans and collapse onto the couch with a cold drink until the heat and talking heads on CNN make us too drowsy to do anything but head to bed. Even Bones is too hot to chew on the corners of all my books.
Unless you’re talking about pizza or an enormous bowl of pasta (and aren’t all bowls of pasta enormous?), I don’t think one item covers it as a complete meal.
It’s like in sugar cereal commercials where at the end of the spot you see a brief flash of the cereal bowl alongside a pitcher of milk, toast, a glass of juice, and some fruit while a rushed voice says “part of this complete breakfast”.
Of course, in that example the extra things are there for “complete nutrition” purposes, but it’s a concept I am on board with. A sandwich can’t be a meal unless it has something on the side to round it out. A handful of baked chips, cut up fruit, or three-bean salad works well for me. So do these baked sweet potato fries.
Hot, salty, and full of flavor – they partner with the sandwich to convince me that yes, I have a complete meal in front of me, and I shouldn’t let my mind wander to the possibility of a “second supper” a few hours later.
I let it wander to dessert instead.
Baked Sweet Potato Fries
Adapted from Simply Recipes
2 sweet potatoes, average size
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. seasoning of your choice (I used cumin and smoked chipotle powder)
1 Tbsp. sugar (optional)
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil. Put the baking sheet into the oven to heat up while you get the sweet potatoes ready.
- Peel and cut sweet potatoes into wedges or sticks. Try to keep the shapes relatively the same size so they will cook evenly.
- Place sweet potatoes in shallow bowl (or if you’re like me, in a skillet) and add olive oil, seasoning, and a few dashes of sea salt. Toss to coat, making sure all of the pieces are seasoned. If you add sugar, it should help the fries get extra brown and crisp when they are in the oven.
- Carefully remove the hot baking sheet from the oven and arrange the potatoes on it in an even layer, leaving space between each piece.
- Return the baking sheet to the oven and cook for 10 minutes.
- Flip all of the pieces and return to the oven for another few minutes until they are lovely and browned.
Makes 2 side servings.
No picnic table is complete without a colorful, filling, refreshing pasta salad. My favorites are the ones without mayo, not just because glops of mayonnaise makes my stomach shudder, but also because it’s safer to pack up a pasta salad tossed in olive oil and vinegar and take it on the MBTA (for twenty minutes or two hours – you never know) to your picnic destination.
Fresh, local cherry tomatoes got my shopping list started.
Alongside gazpacho, baked zucchini sticks with sweet onion dipping sauce, fresh zucchini tart…
…and fresh tomato sandwiches made with a hint of Jen’s homemade mayo (which, despite my aversion to straight up mayo, were delicious).
Southwestern Pasta Salad
Adapted from Cinnamon Girl
8-12 ounces pasta
1/3 cup olive oil
2-3 Tbsps. fresh lime juice
2 tsps. honey
2 tsp. Chile powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne/red pepper (or more)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro or parsley leaves, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. fresh black pepper
1 small red onion, thinly sliced into half moons
1 can (14 ounce) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 1/2 cups corn kernels, lightly steamed (optional)
- Cook the pasta according to package directions to al dente.
- While the pasta cooks, make the dressing by combining the olive oil, lime juice, honey, Chile powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, and cilantro. Whisk together and store in the fridge if not using immediately.
- Drain pasta and toss with a tablespoon of olive oil to keep it from sticking. Once cooled, transfer to a large bowl and add beans, onion, tomatoes, and corn.
- Add dressing and mix together. Adjust seasonings as necessary, then store in the fridge. Toss before serving.
During my time in Edinburgh I learned about many new-to-me foods. The cafe I worked at got in a fair amount of them, like Irn-Bru, florentines, flapjacks, the ploughman’s sandwich, and three bean salad.
It was also where I saw my first carrot and raisin salad, but you will never see me revisiting that particular dish. I truly don’t think anything tastes as bad as raw carrots. Especially when they are shredded and mixed with mayonnaise and raisins.
The three bean salad was one of my favorites. The cafe version was probably just a mixture of black, kidney, and garbanzo (chickpeas) beans tossed in a vinaigrette with diced peppers and red onions, but it was a cold, crunchy companion to my cheese toastie at lunch, and I loved it.