Especially for Hanukkah and Thanksgiving
Adapted from "the surreal gourmet entertains" by Bob Blumer. This garnish is fun to prepare with youngsters. It was originally suggested for Thanksgiving, but this year we can use Hanukkah cut-outs along with turkeys and pumpkins! My preferred yam is the Garnet variety; it is delicious, sweet and colorful. This process can also be applied to slices of prepared polenta that comes in logs. This is kosher and parve! Combining the yellow polenta and the orange sweet potato makes for a very colorful and seasonally appropriate decoration—not to mention a very tasty one. For nice big cutouts, slice the top part of butternut squash and roast for 15 minutes on each side with same treatment as below. Delicious and appropriately colored for the season!
You will need cookie cutters with holiday designs, small enough to fit the slices of the sweet potatoes you are preparing. (Or cut a pattern from a plastic lid, such as one from a coffee can.)
Choose large sweet potatoes or yams with large diameters. (Peel them only if you plan to use the "scraps" left after making the cutouts.) The cut pieces can be stored in a bowl of water in the fridge for up to a day ahead.
Preheat oven to 425° (400° convection.)
Cut the potatoes crosswise into slices ½" thick.
Grease the bottom of a shallow baking dish with olive oil or line with foil. Brush both sides of the slices (and scraps) with olive oil and place in the pan and sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and fresh or dried rosemary. Place in oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and use cookie cutters or a knife with the plastic pattern to cut shapes from the potato slices. The scraps remaining may be baked in the same way as the shapes--a good nibble for the hard-working cooks! (Or, save the scraps and later microwave them for making mashed sweet potatoes.) Bake for another 5 or more minutes or until slices are cooked through.
Serve immediately or cool, cover and store in a covered container in the fridge until turkey time. The baked shapes can be reheated in the oven or microwave before serving. Reheat while turkey is being carved. Use the shapes to decorate individual dinner plates or as garnishes on platters of other food.
Dukkah and Olive Oil
A great choice for a Hanukkah/Thanksgiving hors d’oeuvre is dukkah, a nut and seed mixture that originated in Egypt and is now found in many versions around the globe. Guests dip hunks of crusty bread into olive oil and then into the dukkah. Ana Sortun, the chef/owner of Oleana, a marvelous Mediterranean restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts, originated this recipe. (A Google search will yield many other uses for this mixture—just in case your guests don’t consume it all.)
½ C blanched almonds (can use roasted blanched slivered almonds)
3 TBSP coriander seeds
2 TBSP cumin seeds
2 TBSP sesame seeds
¼ C unsweetened dried shredded coconut (available in natural foods
departments of supermarkets and at the Co-op)
½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1. If using untoasted almonds, toast them in a medium skillet over medium heat until golden, about 4 minutes. Transfer to cutting board to cool. Finely chop the toasted nuts and place in a medium bowl.
2. In a medium skillet toast the coriander and cumin seeds, stirring until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove the seeds to a spice grinder and cool them completely before coarsely grinding. Add to the bowl of almonds.
3. Toast the sesame seeds in the skillet over medium heat, stirring until golden, about 2 minutes. Remove to the spice grinder.
5. Toast the coconut in the skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly until golden, about 2 minutes. Add the coconut to the sesame in the grinder and let it cool completely. Grind this mixture to a coarse powder.
6. Combine coconut and almond mixtures and season with salt and pepper. Store in a tightly covered container in a dark, dry place or in the freezer.
Serving suggestion: Dunk chunks of baguette or other bread in olive oil, dredge in the dukkah and enjoy!
Note: A tasty version of prepared dukkah is available at Trader Joe’s in the seasonings section.