Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Ricotta Bruschetta and Caramelized Onions

Little bites of fall heaven
Creating recipes is tough, yall. This dish was inspired by a need to use up some food in my kitchen. It was a very make it up as I go type dinner that happened to work out well. Score, there is usually about a 50/50 shot of that. I knew I needed to use a half empty container of ricotta and already had flagged a recipe for ricotta bruschetta in one of Barefoot Contessa's cookbooks. The recipe called for the cheese mixture to be served on toasted bread, but I wanted to healthy that up a bit. That began the elaborate process of looking around my kitchen to see what else I could use. My eyes surveyed the bowl of local vegetables on the counter and honed in on some boring looking sweet potatoes. Of course we all know how far from boring sweet potatoes taste, but they are not lookers. Yellow onions hid underneath the sweet potatoes, just hoping to get thrown in the mix. My college roommate and I used to make these baked sweet potatoes that were so (oooooooo) good, and since I had local sweet potatoes I figured might as well combine two awesome recipes to see what would happen.

Success! Baked Sweet Potatoes topped with an herby ricotta mixture finished with sweet caramelized onions were in fact little bites of savory goodness. Baking the sweet potatoes gave them a lovely soft texture while the breadcrumbs added a needed crunch. The ricotta bruschetta was light and full of all the right herbs, while caramelized onions finished it off with a hit of sweetness. I'm sure I could improve on this recipe, and will certainly try, but for now it's pretty freaking good. It is a good main course, served with a side of green vegetables, but would also make a great appetizer. As an appetizer I would try to get small thin sweet potatoes as to make them bite sized. I used large sweet potatoes, which required a plate and a fork if you consider yourself fancy.
Sliced avocado was what I wanted to top these with first, but they were all rock hard and expensive at the grocery store. The onions were delicious, but I bet you could top this with fresh tomatoes, avocado, perhaps evenly lightly sautéed mushrooms. All the vegetables used in this (except the herbs) are seasonal, and the greens, browns, and orange are perfect fall colors to decorate your dinner plate.

Ricotta Bruschetta with Baked Sweet Potatoes
Adapted from my brain, with help from the Barefoot Contessa.

The Goods: Serves 4-6 as main course
2-3 large sweet potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch
2 cups breadcrumbs ( I prefer panko, just read the ingredients before you buy them)
4 tablespoons (more or less) of butter, melted plus 2 tablespoons for the onions
2 cups ricotta
3 tablespoons scallions white and green parts, minced
2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced
1 tablespoon fresh chives, minced
1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced in 1/8 inch slices
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

The Deal:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease 2 large cookie sheets. First caramelize your onions: In a large saute pan on medium high heat melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add onions and saute until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Stir frequently. Reduce heat to medium (or medium low depending on your burner) and cook onions until soft and browned, about 40 minutes. Only stir occasionally, but watch for burning. If they begin to burn reduce heat.

2. Set up your breading station. Place melted butter in a shallow bowl. Then place breadcrumbs and a good dash of salt and pepper in second bowl. Coat sweet potato in butter, letting excess butter drip off, then dredge in the breadcrumbs being sure it is evenly coated. Place on the greased cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining sweet potatoes. Bake until lightly browned and soft, about 20-25 minutes.

3. While sweet potatoes are cooking, make your ricotta bruschetta. Combine the ricotta, scallions, dill, chives, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl.

4. Once your sweet potatoes and caramelized onions are ready, assemble your dish. Place 1 breaded sweet potato on the plate, followed by a heaping tablespoon of ricotta mixture, and finish with a a good dash of onions. Serve immediately.

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