We are at Week 50 of Gourmet's List of Female Game Changers in Food and Julie Powell is our parting game-changer. Love her or hate her (she does evoke controversy in the blogging and food world), Powell seemed to blast open the food blogging world with her mission to do every one of Julia Child's recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year - in a tiny Queens kitchen. From that effort she spawned a book (Julie and Julia) and a movie. For those unfamiliar with her, her biography is here. Her current blog can be found here (although it is woefully out of date).
I came upon Julie Powell via her book - which was remaindered at Barnes and Noble years ago. Intrigued by the combination of the tiny Queens kitchen (grew up in Queens) and Julia Child, I had to give it a go. I am addicted to "remaindered" books - they're like flea markets. Somewhere in the pile of "stuff," there is a chance at an unpolished gem. I bought the book and devoured it one summer evening. I liked her challenge. There was no movie deal yet and the huge buzz that would come had not happened.
Interestingly that when I went to her blog (now a new blog, the year of Julia Child was over), I did not linger. But while her blog did not engage me, her year with Julia Child did. Powell is a writer - not a chef. She found her voice that year - and it's a voice that not every ones loves - but it is her distinctive voice. Powell's second book Cleaving - about the art of butchering and her extra-marital affair did not quite capture the public's imagination the way Julie and Julia did. It will be interesting to see Part Three in her journey.
Powell is a Texas gal and I chose these sweet potato tacos as the last game-changing recipe. It's not her recipe - she wrote the narrative describing her perfect easy taco-entertaining party. Deborah Schneider provided the recipes. Find the original article here.
I was drawn to these because they are fresh - there is no gloppy sauce as is the case of most Mexican food in Minnesota. Also - they are vegetarian and can be vegan - giving me an alternative when I have guests who now all have more dietary restrictions than there are lakes in Minnesota. In true Powell style, I did some substituting. I have a limit of going to the grocery store twice in a day. If I still have forgotten an ingredient - I make do!
Roasted Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos (Serves 6 - makes 12 tacos)
1-1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 white onion - diced (I used 1/2 large red onions)
1 poblano pepper or green bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into `1./2 inch dice (I used a large)
1 cup black beans - drained and rinsed (I was stuck with kidney beans)
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
12 corn tortillas
6 ounces Oaxaca or Monterey-Jack cheese (omit if going vegan)
Chipotle sauce (I omitted but when I do it again will do)
pico de gallo (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Heavy a heavy ovenproof skillet over medium high-heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to pan and then add onion and pepper. Cook, stirring until lightly caramelized. (about 10 minutes). Stir in garlic and 1 teaspoon of salt. In another bowl, toss sweet potato with 1/2 tablespoon oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Add to skillet and cook, stirring for about 1 minute. Place pan in oven and roast for 15 minutes.
Heat a frying pan over medium high heat. Brush 1 side of tortilla with oil and place it side down in pan. Scatter a generous amount of cheese over center of tortilla and cook until cheese is melted and tortilla is golden but still flexible. Place on cookie sheet and repeat with remaining tortillas and cheese. Cover to keep warm. (I did not do this, I simply warmed the tortillas in the oven.)
Remove skillet from oven and stir in black beans and black pepper. Top each tortilla with sweet potato mixture, a drizzle of the chipotle sauce and a spoonful of pico de gallo (if using.)
I simply served it with sour cream and pico de gallo. If going vegan, of course omit the sour cream. In retrospect - it didn't need it. I loved it sauceless. The varied colors and crunchy, creamy textures told me that my suspicion was correct and I have a lot to learn about Mexican cooking - even Tex-Mex.
I should apply my Italian cooking mantra to Mexican cooking - when it's in season and bursting with flavor - don't dress the dish too much - give your ingredients room to have their say.
As the 50th week draws to a close, I want to thank Mary from One Perfect Bite for including me on this journey. I came halfway into the project and was still able to experiment and shake up my kitchen with recipes that are out of my tidy, Italian comfortable world.
If you're curious about who Gourmet chose as their female game-changers in food, find the list here. It proved to controversial. ("Too many food bloggers!," "Where's Marion Cunningham, Lynn Rossetto-Kasper?" "What's Rachel Ray doing there?" etc.) Some of the bloggers are going on to Week 51 - chronicling their favorite female game-changer left off the list. If I was going for one more week, I'd probably be covering Ruth Reichl. I devour her words.
I also want to thank my fellow-bloggers who welcomed me late into the group and have been cheerleaders for everyone involved. This is the first "blogging group" I have ever joined and it has proven to be a haven of creativity. I wonder if any other "group" will ever match your generosity of spirit, information and taste sensations.Thank-you, all! See you in cybersphere.
Valerie from More than Burnt Toast took on the Herculean task of chronicling the fifty weeks and everyone's recipe choice. Find it here. The scope will amaze you - you can eat (and eat well) from that page alone for a year! I hope you all take a look at it (and hope Gourmet Live does also). It's an amazing journey into the female game-changers.
Be sure to stop by and see what other bloggers in the group are doing for Julie Powell!
Kathleen - Gonna Want Seconds,
Linda A - There and Back Again,