Paige’s Banana Bread

There is not one unusual or special ingredient in this banana bread – which was created by Paige Retus, Olives’ former pastry chef ¬ – but it is, hands down, the absolute best. In fact, Todd English and I were so inspired when we tasted this bread that we decided to write The Olives Dessert Table with Paige. We figured if she could work this kind of magic with banana bread, she could do anything. And she can.

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Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Crunchy Pecan Topping

Sweet potatoes are one of my most beloved vegetables, and it practically makes me delirious that they are so good for you too. Rich in fiber and beta-carotene, sweet potatoes are high in both calcium and potassium.

The sweet potatoes can be prepared up to two days ahead, but don’t add the topping and bake them until prior to serving.

Serves 8 to 12.

8 sweet potatoes, cut in large dice
1⅓ cups pecans, finely chopped
1 cup light brown sugar, spread out on a plate and left overnight to dry
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ to 1 teaspoon black pepper

1. Place the sweet potatoes in a large pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the potatoes are tender and all but 1 inch of the water has evaporated, about 20 minutes.

2. While the sweet potatoes are cooking, place the pecans and brown sugar in a small bowl and mix until well combined. Set aside.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.Transfer the sweet potatoes and remaining water to a food processor fitted with a steel blade, and process until smooth. Add the butter, maple syrup, salt, and pepper, and mix until combined. Transfer to a 9 x 12-inch baking pan, and top with the pecan and brown sugar mixture. Place in the oven and bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

From Warehouse to Your House: More than 250 Simple, Spectacular Recipes to Cook, Store, and Share When You Buy in Quantity (Simon & Schuster, 2006)

Cornbread Stuffing

Stuffing for your Thanksgiving Turkey.

Yield: about 10 cups.

2 leeks
2 teaspoons olive or unsalted butter
4 celery stalks, diced
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, if desired, and diced
7 to 8 cups crumbled day-old corn bread, store-bought, or homemade
1 cup chopped walnuts, pecans, or hazlenuts
3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves
3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves or 1 tablespoon dried sage
3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves or 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup dry vermouth
2 large eggs
½ to 1 cup chicken stock

1. Trim the roots off the leeks and remove all but 2 inches of the green part. Dice the remaining portion and wash in several changes of hot water, being sure to get rid of any sand; drain well in a colander.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 9 x 13-inch pan.

3. Place a large skillet over low heat and when it is hot, add the oil. Add the leeks, celery, and apples, and cook until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

4. Add all the remaining ingredients and toss to mix. Place the stuffing in the prepared pan and transfer it to the oven. Cook until golden brown, about 35 minutes.

From Warehouse to Your House: More than 250 Simple, Spectacular Recipes to Cook, Store, and Share When You Buy in Quantity (Simon & Schuster, 2006)

Portobello Mushroom Pizza

This isn’t really side dish but rather a light summer supper or a lunch. My daughter, Lauren, loves these; she often takes them to school and reheats them in the microwave. These “pizzas” can be endlessly varied by adding cooked vegetables, pepperoni, roasted garlic, caramelized onions, or basically whatever you’d like on a pizza. Serve with a tossed salad.

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Roasted Potatoes

This classic steakhouse side is a healthy alternative to French fries and a great breakfast accompaniment (without the garlic if you choose). You can substitute 1½ to 2 pounds sweet potatoes or yams for the new potatoes, or better yet, cook half each.

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Chocolate Bread Pudding Drizzled with Heavy Cream

I never tasted bread pudding until I made this one, which tastes like a very rich, very decadent brownie. Even if you don’t usually serve heavy cream, don’t omit it here: the pudding is at its best with something that contrasts with the chocolate intensity. You could also serve vanilla or cinnamon ice cream or whipped cream instead of the heavy cream.

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