real life test kitchen: nigella’s amazing sweet potato supper

I have been on a roasting kick all winter and it led me to discover a new favorite go-to weekday dinner dish. I found it in one of my often overlooked cookbooks, Nigella Kitchen by Nigella Lawson. Perhaps because the book is not organized in a traditional manner (for example, sweets are scattered throughout rather than in one lump towards the end), I don’t use it nearly as often as I should. But the recipe for Sweet Potato Supper on page 340 jumped out recently. It’s insanely easy and crazy delicious. Basically you just roast sweet potatoes with asparagus, garlic, fresh thyme and bacon (that’s key, isn’t it?) and then serve it up on top of greens with Asian chili sauce dashed on top. The hot sauce with sweet potatoes and cool greens is a heavenly combo. Want to try it? Here’s my take on Nigella’s dish.

Sweet Potato Supper

What You Need:

2 sweet potatoes or yams, not peeled, and cut into think wedges
6 ozs of bacon, sliced into little squares (Nigella’s calls for more but I think this is enough)
half a bundle of asparagus, hard ends removed and cut in half
6 to 8 gloves of garlic, skin on
5 fresh springs of thyme
3 tablespoons of canola or olive oil
salt and pepper
mixed salad greens
chili sauce

How To Make:
1. Preheat oven to 425 and grab a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet.
2. Arrange sweet potato slices and bacon on the pan. Toss on asparagus, garlic and thyme.
3. Drizzle on the oil and toss it all up with a pair of tongs.
4. Bake for about 20 minutes. Stir, turning over potatoes.
5. Bake another 20 minutes or so, until potatoes are browned and squishy and everything else is nice and crisp.
6. Plate up a handful of mixed greens, and put the roasted wonders on top of them.
7. Drizzle with chili sauce and then sit back and enjoy.

From our partners

would you try it? recycled denim insulation

We’ve been thinking about upping the insulation in our nearly 100-year old house. It’s not as drafty as you imagine, but in recent days if you mistakenly touch one of front bedroom walls, or step barefoot too close to the edge of the floor, you’re in for a shock. Burrrr. That baby is cold.

We hear a lot about spray foam insulation, and indeed have used it in our attic, but what about this? Recycled denim insulation! We heard about it via Uncrate and it has us investigating. Our green-focused neighbors recently had an energy audit done on their house. Would you get extra points for using recycled denim in your walls? Supposedly it features a natural fire retardant that also helps prevent mold and mildew. Called UltraTouch, it claims to be easy to use and install — no dangerous fibers here! It almost sounds sexy. I wonder if we could donate the skinny the jeans that no longer fit? For more information, visit Bonded Logic, and tell us: Would use recycled denim insulation in your house?

From our partners

real life test kitchen: korean soy bean paste stew

The other weekend, our friends Steve and Elizabeth took us on a culinary adventure to Edgewater, NJ, where a thriving Korean community lives. After stuffing ourselves with Bi Bim Bop and barbeque, we hit a large supermarket. It was filled with things I didn’t know how to use in my kitchen, but Steve persuaded me to buy a tube of Doenjang, or soybean paste. If you’ve ever had Korean barbeque, you’d recognize its flavor as that delicious stuff you spread on lettuce leaves that wrap around your seared meat. It is also the base for one of the most comforting, warming stews I’ve ever had, Doenjang Jjigae. I may not know how to pronounce it properly, but that didn’t stop me from trying to figure out how to make it in my own home. Turns out it’s not so difficult. In fact, this bowl of love takes about 20 minutes to whip up — about as long as it takes to make the rice that goes with. I adapted this recipe from BeyondKimchee.com. I didn’t have all the authentic ingredients, so I had to improvise a bit. For example, the broth is supposed to be made using dried anchovies, but I couldn’t find them locally. I just left them out and added a pinch of salt. Heresy? Probably, but to this non-traditionalist, the results were delicious. I may even make it for Steve the next time he visits us.


Almost Korean Doenjang Jjigae

What You Need:
2 cups of starchy rice water — see step 1 below. This is optional, but was easy to do.
2 pieces (3″ each) dried sea kelp (I used the kind you make sushi with.)
2 generous Tbsp Doenjang (soybean paste)
1/2 package (4 oz) extra firm tofu, cut into 1″ cubes
1/2 onion diced
1/2 zucchini diced
1 tsp red chili flakes (I didn’t have Korean so used what we had)
1 garlic clove chopped
1 green or red chili sliced (I used half of long frying chili pepper)
1/2 package mushrooms (I used shiitaki)
1 green onion sliced

How to Make
1. Make some rice starch water by rinsing a cup of rice once with water and drain. Add a 1/2 cup of water again, toss and swirl around the rice for 30 seconds. The water will get a little milky. Add 2 cups of water and swirl. Drain and save water in a bowl.
2. Cook the rice as usual.
3. Heat a heavy bottom pot over medium-high heat. Pour in the rice starch water and add the sea kelp. Bring to a boil and simmer and for 5 minutes. Remove kelp with a small strainer. It’s okay if some gets left behind.
4. Push the Doenjang paste through a strainer into the pot. Stir well. Add onion, zucchini, chili flakes and let them boil. Add tofu, garlic, chili and cook for 2 minutes.
5. Lastly add mushrooms and green onion. Simmer on low heat until the rice is done.
6. Remove the pot from heat and serve rice and hot sauce (optional).

From our partners

we tried it: the verdict on the “paw wash”


The Claim:
Self proclaimed the most “ingenious dog washer” in the world, the Paw Wash ($29) is meant to be an easy to way to clean your dog’s muddy feet. The instructions say you fill the wash up with soapy water, dip your dog’s feet in, and then voila! No more muddy prints. The wash also comes with a hand mitt to wipe off “any excess water.”

The Situation: This has been a muddy, slushy winter! Cupcake goes in and out of our back yard constantly, and he hates getting his paws wiped. It’s a toss up: Wrestle with a 20-lb labradoodle while crouching by the back door, or let him run in, leave paw prints everywhere and clean up after him. Perhaps the Paw Washer would solve our constant conumdrum?

The Verdict: Here’s what the Paw Wash is: An hourglass shaped plastic vase, with a rubber “washer” lid at one end. It’s kinda like the car wash, in theory. Dip the paw into the water, and the rubber top squeezies it out. What actually happens is that you dip your dog’s leg in, and you pull out a drippy, wet, soapy dog leg. Yes, you can use the mitt to dry it a bit more by hand, but it is really wet. Front legs are easier than back legs, especially if your dog is a squirmer like ours. I suppose it would be a good thing if you had a really really muddy-legged dog and the only other option was a full-body bath. Sadly, the Paw Wash didn’t save us time or struggle. I’m gonna stick with our damp towel wipe down for now.

Still Curious: Visit the pawwash.com for more information.

From our partners

need it now: influenza sorbet


You may have noticed that we lost a few days here last week. Blame it on the germs that seem to be ravaging the eastern seaboard. As soon as we kick one bug out of the house, another comes along. We try all the usual suspects to fend things off — EmergenceC, lots of garlic, ginger tea. Next remedy on our list: Influenza sorbet. While it’s hard to imagine actually wanting to swallow something frozen when you have the aches and chills, this treat could be just the ticket the next time our throats feel scratchy. Made with Cayenne pepper ginger, Maker’s Mark bourbon, honey, and citrus juices, it’s bound to taste good. The folks over at Jenis claim that it clears nasal passages, eases a sore throat and soothes the body. At $12 a pint, the cost is nothing to sneeze at, but we’re gonna hunt some down and give it a try. Click here to find out where to buy near you or order online (minimum order four pints).

From our partners