People often ask me for recipes. Because I think that everyone should love cooking; some recipes I gladly share. However, there are some that I do not share and for various reasons. Sometimes the recipes are too complicated for the average home cook to attempt and I just rather not deal with a call from the frustrated and disappointed cook. Sometimes, as I start listing the ingredients; and their eyes glaze over, I realize that what they should have asked was “Can you make this dish for me and bring it to my home, family dinner, potluck, or wherever?” Then there are the times when I take a different flavor approach to a food that they just cannot wrap their taste sensory around without actually tasting the finished product. One such food is the sweet potato.
I really love sweet potatoes… baked in the oven, split open, and devoured with little more than a sprinkle of salt and, for a dash of the extraordinaire, some cinnamon and fresh cracked black pepper. I love them as chips; mashed with a little orange zest and butter; roasted with herbs and garlic; mashed and gently folded into biscuit dough; and tempura battered and fried. Fiery chili-spiked roasted sweet potato salad or in a light coconut-curry broth, sweet potatoes are near and dear to my heart – stomach and taste buds for that matter.
As for candied sweet potatoes, sweet potato pie, and sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows and/or pecan streusel topping – I am just not a fan… and never have been. I have tried several versions by many different people – all promising to make me a convert. To no avail, my taste buds recoil at the sugary sweetness that buries the earthy natural sweetness of the sweet potato. For me, sweet potatoes are plenty sweet on their own and all that sweetness needs is a little something to play against their sweetness to bring complexity to the tuber. Sugar, especially too much of it, only amplifies the sweetness which, in my opinion, is like a loud errant chord in the middle of a luscious melody.
These are two of my favorite ways to prepare sweet potatoes, after the aforementioned simple bake. The first, Rosemary Brown Sugar Sweet Potatoes, is my ode to the traditional candied sweet potato – a lost less “candied” but with a lot, more flavor. For an elegant take, I buy sweet potatoes that are close in size and shape, slice them thin, and put them in a swirl pattern in the casserole dish before baking. You can use a mandolin or a sharp chef’s knife to slice the potatoes. Alternately, you can cut the sweet potatoes in medium chunks and proceed.
The second recipe, Roasted Sweet Potato Salad, usually gets questioning looks when I describe it; however, those same faces smile approvingly after asking for a second helping. Any chili pepper will work for this second recipe and you can adjust it to your taste. I like it spicy. This recipe is actually Terra Spiced Sweet Potato Chips in salad form – as I got the idea for it while eating a bag of chips. It is a regular on my Autumn catering menu and a recipe that I get asked for a lot.
My Recipe: ROSEMARY BROWN SUGAR SWEET POTATOES serves 4 – 6
4 medium unpeeled sweet potatoes
¼ c light brown sugar
¼ c wildflower or orange blossom honey
1 t fresh ground nutmeg, optional
1 – 2 T fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
2 T chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 t kosher salt
½ t cracked black pepper
non-stick cooking spray
Preheat oven to 350 degrees; spray the bottom of the casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray
Thoroughly wash the sweet potatoes, do not peel them; thinly slice each sweet potato without taking the slices out of order; carefully fan out the slices and place them into the casserole dish in a swirl pattern
Combine the brown sugar, kosher salt, cracked black pepper, nutmeg, and chopped rosemary; sprinkle over the sweet potatoes
Drizzle the honey over the sweet potatoes; dot the top with the chilled butter; cover with foil and baked for 35 minutes; remove foil and bake for another 10 – 15 minutes until lightly browned on top
My Recipe: ROASTED SWEET POTATO SALAD serves 6 – 8
6 large sweet potatoes, cut into 1” chunks
1 – 2 jalapeno, serrano, Thai chile pepper, seeds removed and finely minced
1 large sweet red bell pepper, seeds removed and quartered
¾ c olive oil or canola oil
¼ c apple cider or red wine vinegar
1 T ground cumin
1 garlic clove
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced, about ¾ c
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped, about ¾ c
kosher salt, to taste
cracked black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees; toss sweet potato chunks in ¼ oil; season with kosher salt and cracked black pepper; spread in a single layer on a roasting pan; roast for 35 – 40 minutes until potatoes are crispy on the outside and tender inside
Combine sweet red bell pepper, red wine vinegar, cumin, and garlic clove in a food processor; process on high until smooth; turn processer to low, and drizzle in the remaining the oil into the food processor; set aside
Toss warm sweet potatoes in large bowl; add finely minced chile, green onions, and cilantro; pour dressing over everything and toss gently until well combine; season with kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste
Serve the salad at room temperature for best flavor
I usually serve this salad as is, but you can also mix in dried raisins, dried cranberries, and/or fresh-diced pineapple, or top with chopped toasted walnuts, pecans, or cashews for more texture.
always in good T.A.S.T.E – cause you gottatastethis!