Friday, 13 December 2013

3 Ways to Play with Sweet Potatoes

My goal each week is to bring you recipes that are first and foremost, easy to make, and second, that use meat & produce that are in season (and during market season, that are available at our market). In that vein, I just can't possibly be done with sweet potatoes.... 

As we learned last week, sweet potatoes are a fantastic vegetable. Remember, a general rule when considering nutrition science in your home kitchen is that the more vibrantly coloured a fruit or vegetable is, the more packed it is with nutrients and antioxidants. That holds very true for the humble sweet potato. High in fibre (especially if you eat the skin), potassium, antioxidants, betacarotene and vitamins E, A & C, sweet potatoes help to arm you against heart disease & cancer and delay the effects of aging on the brain. And because sweet potatoes have so much fibre, they are a far better choice for diabetics than white potatoes because the fibre helps to keep blood glucose levels from spiking. So even though they have a far sweeter mouth taste, they have a lower glycemic index and are a far better choice.

Sweet potatoes are a wonderfully versatile vegetable... and this week we explore that versatility with a few simple recipes. Sweet potatoes can become delicious oven-baked fries, they can add thickness and be the sweet basis of delicious creamed soups (like last weeks sweet potato ginger soup), they can add flavour and colour and creamy texture to slow-cooked stews, they can be mashed and accompany roast chicken or turkey or ham, and they can even form the basis of pancakes or waffles! Yup, sweet potatoes are a great ingredient in your kitchen arsenal.

oven roasted sweet potato fries
Who does't love fast food french fries? It's too bad that they're so bad for you! Oven roasted fries are a great compromise as they're far better for you than the ones served up at the heart-attack-on-a-plate fast food joints. And they are very, very simple to do.

Roasting brings out the inherent sweetness in this wonderful veggie. I never peel my potatoes, whether they be sweet potatoes or regular potatoes, as the peels are good for you and have a terrific amount of fibre in them. Simply scrub your potatoes, cut out any blemishes (dark spots, digging scrapes & scars), then cut them in half, then into wedges. Depending on the size of the potato you are working with, you might need to still slice the wedges again... what you are going for here are a series of potato slices or wedges that are all approximately of uniform thickness. If you don't have to watch your salt intake, sprinkle on pickling or coarse sea salt instead of the regular grained salt called for below. Personally, I love the crunch that the big crystals give the roasted fries.

3-4 sweet potatoes (to make enough wedges to cover your cookie sheet)
1-2 T. olive oil
1-2 t. salt
1-2 t. pepper
2-3 t. rosemary or other favourite herb (optional)

Then, toss in a bowl with a tablespoon or two of olive oil, a teaspoon or so of sea salt and a generous pinch or two (or three or four) of your favourite herbs (I love rosemary & black pepper, freshly muddled together in a mortar & pestle). Bake on a parchment paper lined cookie tray for about 15-20 minutes at 400F, or until slightly starting to crisp & char on the outside. The length of time will depend on the thickness of your potato wedges... less time for thin; more time for thick.

maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes
3-4 sweet potatoes
1-2 T. butter
1-2 T. maple syrup
salt to taste

Simply boil up a batch of sweet potato cubes until soft (about 10 minutes... way faster than regular white potatoes), then drain and mash them with a pat of butter and a tablespoon or two of maple syrup. The maple flavour brings out the inherent sweetness in the potato leaving you with something that melts in your mouth! And the texture of the sweet potato mash is so soft & light that the end result is something divine! If you want your mash to have a smooth texture, peel them first. If you want a more rustic hash, leave the skins on.

The Moosewood Restaurant's New Classics cookbook invites playing with sweet mashed potatoes... if you feel like experimenting, try adding one of the following combinations to your mash:
  • maple syrup & ground cardamomom
  • bourbon, pears, pecans & brown sugar
  • coconut milk, thyme, and ground allspice or ground nutmeg
  • grated fresh ginger root and ground cinnamon
  • horseradish or wasabi
sweet potato pancakes 
Think sweet potatoes don't have a place at your breakfast table? Think again! Delightfully delicate and permeated with the enticing aroma of lemon, these deep golden-brown pancakes are moist inside with crisp edges. No one will ever know that there's veggies in them!

For breakfast, serve them plain or with butter or maple syrup. For lunch or supper, top them with sour cream and put a chunky salsa on the side. For dessert, serve at room temperature, drizzled with equal parts lemon juice & honey stirred together & top with whipped cream. For another simple lemon syrup, stir together 2 T. of fresh lemon juice with 1/2 cup of pure maple syrup.

For ease of cooking, combine the wet ingredients in a 1-quart measuring cup with a pouring lip, stir in the dry ingredients, and then pour the batter directly onto a hot skillet.

Serves 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 3 minutes per batch
Total Time: about 35 minutes

1 cup peeled & grated raw sweet potato (grate finely... or grate in a food processor, then switch the blade to chop it into a thick paste)
1/2 t. freshly grated lemon peel
1 large egg or 2 medium eggs
1 cup milk
2 T. oil or melted butter
1 c. unbleached white flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2 T. sugar

In a bowl, combine the grated sweet potatoes, lemon peel, egg, milk & oil or butter. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt & sugar. Gently stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just enough to combine. Do not beat or over stir. Set aside to rest for 5-10 minutes.

Warm a lightly oiled skillet on medium-high heat. When a drop of water bounces on the skillet, and before the oil smokes, pour on a scant 1/4 cup of batter to form each round pancake. After about 2 minutes, when the pancakes are evenly dotted with bubbles and about half the bubbles have broken, flip the pancakes. Cook the second side until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Continue to cook batches of pancakes until all of the batter is used.

Serve right away or keep warm in a 250F oven. If you plan to serve at room temperature or reheat later, cool the pancakes in a single layer on a flat surface and then stack for storage. If storing for more than a few hours, refrigerate.

These make really great, easily portable snacks, quick to grab on the go. Call them "Lemon Pancakes" (that's the predominant flavour anyway) and your kids will never know that they're about half veggie!

For inspiration: Moosewood Restaurant's New Classics, p. 129
Sweet Potato Pancake Recipe: Moosewood Restaurant's New Classics, p. 47
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Contributed by Sheri Hendsbee

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