The last few weeks have been pretty incredible for me. I've been interning in the cafe kitchen at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, donning my pudgy blue clogs at 7am to chop buckets of onions, clean gallons of squid, and learn from one of the most iconic farm-to-table restaurants in the country. The hours are long and the the work can be tedious, but the people are cool, and hell, it's Chez Panisse!
The daily produce deliveries are enough to get me into those clogs every day. How are there so many types of peppers? Who else can claim its very own tomato cabinet, or a prosciutto shed? And where else can you get the minute details of where your veggies were grown, by whom, and how the season is looking this year?
The problem with all this bounty is when I return home, hands blistered, back aching, exhausted, and ravenous. I've just spent ten hours chopping. I don't wanna chop any more.
But inspirations from the daily-changing menu shoot uninvited through my mind. Lessons about the best way to roast, to confit, to layer flavors, to blanche. Visions of roasted potatoes, peeled tomatoes, and vibrant greens. The tang of syrupy balsamic vinegar and sweet linger of roasted garlic. I'm hungry, and I'm spoiled for great food.
So I break out my trusty knife, and get back to work.
Sweet Potato, Spinach and Tomato Toss
Yield: Serves 4-6
Prep Time: 15 min Cook Time: 30 min Total Time: 45 min
3 medium sweet potatoes, cut into wedges
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
3 Tbs olive oil, divided
pinch cayenne pepper
3 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 Tbs sugar
1 pint cherry tomatoes
salt and freshly ground pepper
5 oz / 140 g baby spinach
Preheat oven to 450F / 230C.
Toss sweet potatoes and garlic with 2 Tbs olive oil, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and season with salt and pepper. Spread out, skin sides down, on a large baking tray linked with parchment paper. Roast for about 25 minutes, til sweet potato skin is browned and garlic is soft.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan combine balsamic vinegar and sugar. Cook over medium heat til reduced by half. Pour off into a bowl and rinse saucepan.
Fill saucepan 2/3 with water and bring to a boil. Cut a small "x" in the skins of the cherry tomatoes. Boil for about a minute, then drain and let cool slightly. Peel off the skins and season with a touch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil.
Once potatoes are out of the oven, remove garlic cloves. Put spinach leaves and roasted garlic cloves in a large bowl. Dress with 1 Tbs olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss through, lightly crushing garlic cloves to flavor the dressing. Then gently add in sweet potatoes and toss, so spinach wilts slightly. Last, add cherry tomatoes and very carefully toss again.
Transfer to a serving platter. Drizzle balsamic syrup over the salad, and serve slightly warm.