Summer is upon us, Washington. The day is clocking in at 90 degrees, and I may or may not have sweat my face off on my ten-minute walk to the metro stop this morning. And then, I checked into the Department, to find out that we would be having a fire drill, and needed to go back outside to locate our emergency meeting spot. On the way past the hideous Soviet-style fountain next to our main entrance, I had the temptation of jumping in. But I had work to do. Oh well. For setting government labor standards, my office should really work on better ventilation.
Since moving to a region that experiences seasons (e.g., not southern California), I have found myself constantly wondering how I will handle the second winter of my life. With normal, not humid, weather, I rediscovered comfort and happiness — I now realize how miserable I really was amidst all the snowstorms and heavy coats, as fashionably attractive as they are. Was I depressed? I don’t believe so. But saying goodbye to beautiful summer weather like this seems unbearable.
On that note, have I mentioned how much more I enjoy serving dinner on my balcony? Sans mosquitoes, of course. Note to self: purchase citronella candles and itch relief. Last night, I served an amazing chicken penne dish with a very garlic-y, spicy chili tomato sauce. It’s nice having someone to go home with after work (Rachel), and a neighbor to meet you there for dinner (Silje). We convene at my house, play good music, chat, and I boss them around in the kitchen. For a snack, we made this dish — unfortunately, it took longer than the pasta itself, but there were leftovers that I was able to photograph in the morning, when daylight permitted. Needless to say, they made a nice savory dessert to the main course.
WHAT YOU NEED:
for the fries:
2 to 3 medium-sized sweet potatoes, cut into fries
~ 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Garlic salt (or minced garlic and salt)
for the aioli:
1/3 to 1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 to 4 tablespoons of your favorite tomato sauce (I used a roasted garlic tomato sauce from Whole Foods)
1 to 2 teaspoons red chili flakes
2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced
WHAT TO DO:
I like to give the tomato sauce a day or so to steep with the chili flakes, so perhaps make this ahead of time. Otherwise, no big deal. So first, combine the tomato sauce and the chili flakes. After letting it steep, go ahead and stir in the remaining ingredients to taste. That is so important — you should always taste as you go. And add spices in gradually; once they’re in, they don’t come out.
Peel your sweet potatoes and then chop them into french fry shapes — I prefer thinner, shoe-stringy type french fries, especially since these will be baked and not actually fried. Heat your oven to 375 degrees as you cut the potatoes. Then, toss the fries in olive oil, garlic salt, and black pepper. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper, and then lay out the fries. I like making them even and aligned, which isn’t surprising if you know me. Sprinkle with paprika and cumin and then bake for about 25 minutes, until the edges of the fries are browning. Then flip them over, and bake for another 20 minutes.