It’s rainy today.
Living in the Bay Area, we rarely experience extreme weather. Our winters are never TOO cold, our summers never too hot. We don’t have snow, we don’t have (real) hurricanes, we don’t have blistering, 105+ degree heat (though we’ve gotten close this summer). So what happens is we become complete wimps to any thing aside from mild, pleasant weather. The first sign of drizzle, and we act like it’s the end of the world. We forget how to drive, we forget how to walk, we are in an absolute panic about this strange occurrence. There is water falling from the sky! Whatever shall we do! We do this every year, every time rain starts up. The first sign of unpleasant conditions, and act like chickens with their heads cut off.
It’s rainy today. So I’m staying in. A mug of steaming hot apple cider, a couple of pecan shortbreads, the new Bon Appétit and How to Make an American Quilt on television. There is absolutely no reason for me to leave this house.
This time of year, this type of weather, the body wants comfort foods. Creamy soups, thick stews, warm breads, cookies hot out of the oven. Rich, earthy flavors. Beef and lamb. Squash. Cinnamon and cardamom. Root vegetables. Ginger. Apples, pomegranates, persimmons. And sweet potatoes. So, so many sweet potatoes.
I currently have 4 sweet potato recipes lined up to post here. A couple sweet, a couple savory. All completely delicious. Fall doesn’t even seem like fall without sweet potatoes. Pies, soups, puddings. Roasted, steamed, stewed, baked. There are so wonderfully versatile and flavorful. Starchy but not too heavy. Sweet but earthy. Completely wonderful by themselves with just a little butter.
This week, I made sweet potato crab cakes. I love crab cakes. The crispy and fried on the outside, soft and airy on the inside, with a light crunch courtesy of some diced celery. A little lemon for tartness, chili seasoning for a kick, and of course the sweet potatoes to lend a rich, creaminess to the cakes. Almost buttery. I topped them with a roasted red pepper aioli. Roasted peppers, garlic and lemon juice. Absolute heaven. And such a great partner to the savory, spicy crab cakes. I paired these delightful little cakes and aioli with Joy the Baker’s Wild Rice Salad with Yogurt Vinaigrette.
The woman is a genius. It’s such a wonderful blend of grainy rice, velvety garbanzo beans, crunchy veggies, the sourness of the yogurt and the fragrant, earthiness of the herbs. It was even better the next day for lunch, after the rice and veggies had been allowed to marinate in the yogurt overnight. Creamy and rich and puckeringly tart from the vinegar and yogurt combination. I used cucumbers, celery and artichoke hearts in it, no leafy greens, no blueberries (though I will once back in season) and no potatoes. Just a simple, light salad to go with the hearty and filling crab cakes.
Perfect autumn meal in this cold, rainy weather. What’s your favorite dinner to make in the fall? THG
Sweet Potato Crab Cakes with Red Pepper Aioli
Red pepper aioli:
2 whole red bell peppers
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2/3 cup mayonnaise
juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh sage, minced
1/2 cup cooked sweet potatoes, mashed
juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
2 tsp. Creole seasoning
2 tsp. ground mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cans lump crab meat, drained
1/4 cup canola oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 dash of red pepper flakes
Place the red peppers directly on the grate over the burner. Turn the heat to high. Using tongs, carefully turn the pepper until all sides are blackened. Immediately place in a large bowl with a cover and leave, without uncovering, for 15-20 minutes (the steam will help the skins peel off easier). After 20 minutes, cut the top off around the stem and remove the seeds. Cut a slit down the side of the pepper to “butterfly” it open. Peel off the skin until just the flesh remains. Give the flesh of the pepper a rough chop.
Add the peppers, garlic, mayonnaise and lemon juice into a food processor. Process until smooth. While the food processor is still running, add the olive oil and continue to run until incorporated and creamy. Add salt and pepper and mix. Refrigerate until ready for use.
In a large bowl, combine the bread crumbs, cornmeal, eggs, celery, herbs, sweet potatoes, mayonnaise, lemon juice, spices and salt. When all combined, fold in the crab meat until just incorporated. Form into 16 small patties.
In a large skillet, heat the canola oil, garlic clove and red pepper flakes over medium-high heat until garlic has turned golden brown and oil is almost smoking. Remove garlic clove. Add crab cakes a few at a time to the skillet. Heat for 3-4 minutes on each side until crispy and golden brown. Drain on a paper towel. Serve immediately with aioli.