This Sweet Potato Hash is a perfect side dish with chicken or pork, but I enjoy it most with a fried or poached egg for Sunday brunch. The sweet potatoes can be boiled, peeled and diced the night before. It then takes only minutes to finish it off in the morning.
1¾ pounds sweet potatoes (3 medium)
4 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 ounces pancetta, diced
1½ teaspoons fresh thyme leaves chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 scallions, chopped
Scrub sweet potatoes and place them in a large pot. Add water to cover by 2 inches. Boil until sweet potatoes are tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and let cool. When cool enough to handle, peel and dice.
Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet. Add onion and cook until tender. Add pancetta and thyme. Cook until pancetta is golden. Add remaining 1 tablespoon butter and the sweet potatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sauté, stirring frequently, until potatoes are heated through and lightly browned. Add parsley and cook 2 minutes more. Serve hot sprinkled with chopped scallions.
Bette - This pan looks like a simple skillet, but we actually planned the whole shoot around it. It is a worn cast iron pan with great patina and a great handle that I found while I was propping in Texas. We thought the egg was beautiful on the surface of this pan.
Beth – When I first started out in my career, I had the luck to work with Elizabeth Alston, Food Editor at Redbook Magazine. She taught me a lot about photographing food both in the studio and on location. It was from her that I learned the technique of shooting food close-up when it was not particularly interesting or appetizing. From afar, these sweet potato cubes were not very interesting but up close, utilizing the shallow depth of field of the lens, they take on a totally different and interesting dynamic.
Bette – This bowl is a Christiane Perrochon bowl. Every tabletop stylist uses her beautiful and very special pieces. I love this one because of the subtleties in the glaze, as one sees in most of her work. It’s always very delicate and very beautiful but never too precious.
I used the antique homespun cloth in beautiful condition and juxtaposed it with the brand new pale wood board. The textures and color, the new and the old, work to maintain that the “hero” of the shot is always the food, in this case the beautiful colored root vegetable soup.
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat butter and olive oil in a medium-sized pot. Add leeks and sage and cook until leeks are limp. Add carrots, turnip, potato, rutabaga and broth. Bring to a boil and simmer 25 – 30 minutes or until vegetables are very tender. Remove sage sprig. Let soup cool for 15 minutes, then puree in a blender until smooth. Return soup to pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste and simmer 5 minutes more.
Beth – I have a particular affinity to the roots and tubers from plants. Whether they are craggily and dirty or smooth and curvy, for me, I find them so expressive and interesting. These two images represent different ways of exploring them. One in a botanical way from above, the other up close so that you can see the thin paper of the shallot.
A.J. – Did you realize we are merely days away from the official end of winter? We, therefore, wanted to offer you one more comforting winter dessert before our food thoughts lean towards the bright, herbal and grassy flavor notes of spring. This recipe embodies many of my favorite winter flavors and fragrances…….roasted butternut squash, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, warm rum and toasted walnuts.…..pure comfort. Why not light one last fire and enjoy this buttery pound cake with a hot mug of coffee.
I always buy Grade B maple syrup. I love its’ concentrated maple flavor and it’s thickness and dark rich color. Grade B is most often used for cooking and baking, but I prefer it for all my maple syrup needs. I’ve added some maple sugar to the pound cake batter, just another way of sneaking in more maple goodness. If you’ve never used maple sugar, this is a great place to start. Maple sugar is made by cooking down maple sap until no moisture remains. It results in solid crystallized sugar blocks. The blocks are then ground into a granular product. I like to sprinkle maple sugar over scones just before baking and often use it as a topping for my oatmeal. I always buy locally produced maple products at my farmer’s market or at local farm stands.
Winter Squash Poundcake with Toasted Walnuts and a Warm Maple Glaze
Recipe type: Dessert
One large butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon sea salt
8 tablespoons butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup maple sugar
2 large eggs
½ vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise
⅓ cup walnuts
¾ cup maple syrup
¼ cup dark rum
The squash must be roasted and drained the day before you plan to bake the cake. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place squash in a roasting pan cut side up. Add ¼-inch of water to bottom of pan. Place a piece of parchment paper over squash. Tightly cover roasting pan with aluminum foil. Bake in preheated oven 45 minutes – 1 hour, or until squash is tender. Let cool, then scoop flesh into a bowl and discard the skin. Mash squash using a fork or potato masher; transfer to a strainer resting over a bowl. Allow squash to drain overnight in the refrigerator.
The next day preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9” x 5” loaf pan with parchment paper or coat with butter and flour. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl. Stir with a whisk until blended. Combine butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat until mixture is light and fluffy. Add light brown sugar and maple sugar; beat until blended. Add 1 cup of mashed squash and blend (remaining squash can be set aside for another use). Switch to the whisk attachment of the electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time while beating on medium speed. (The mixture may look curdled but will come together as you continue.) Scrape seeds from the vanilla pod and beat into mixture. Lower speed to medium-low and add flour mixture. Beat until fully blended. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven 70-80 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into the center of cake comes out clean.
While cake is baking, toast walnuts in a small skillet over medium heat until lightly browned. Let cool, then coarsely chop. Combine maple syrup and dark rum in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat just until warm.
Cool cake on a cooling rack 10 – 15 minutes. Unmold cake. Place a shallow pan or plate under cooling rack and return cake to rack. Use a wooden pick to poke holes into top of cake. Slowly drizzle half of the maple glaze over the cake allowing it to be absorbed. Combine remaining glaze with the toasted walnuts.
Serve each slice of pound cake with a spoonful of maple glaze and walnuts.
Beth - Sometimes when shooting simple elements such as these, I find that getting close to the subject makes the photo more interesting. I wanted to show the texture and curls of the cinnamon as well as the crystals of sugar. Using my Canon 5D with a close up lens helped me accomplished this idea. It was the same with the eggs- I loved the subtle texture on the top of the center egg as well as the cropped shape of the bowl and paper. I felt it made it a stronger image compositionally cropped. Showing the maple sugar powder with the jar of syrup was the most challenging because of the height difference of these objects. The texture of the powder held my interest the most so I decided to focus on that and make the syrup an afterthought showing the base of the jar with the drips scattered on the paper.
Bette – This amazing plate and bowl were both made by my talented friend Michele Michael, at Elephant Ceramics. She makes pottery and sells it through her website http://www.elephantceramics.com/
I used these gorgeous pieces in this shot because their tone, texture and feel lent themselves to what I wanted to create; a winter ingredient shot that highlighted the natural color and ingredients that AJ chose when putting together this recipe. It was important to me to be able to write on this platter, eliminating any additional elements to detract from the props, food and lighting.
I am always searching for new ceramics and porcelain to use both in my styling work, home, and this blog. It inspires me to create beautiful images.