The sweet potato grows up
By Katie Scarvey
North Carolina is known for its sweet potatoes. In 2008, North Carolina produced 45 percent of the sweet potatoes grown in this country ó close to 700 million pounds. And in 1995, the sweet potato was designated as the official state vegetable in North Carolina.
What a great product for a state to be known for. The sweet potato packs a nutritional wallop and is much more versatile than many realize.
Some people never give sweet potatoes any thought until Thanksgiving or Christmas, and even then, they don’t usually think beyond creating a dish topped off by gooey gobs of marshmallows.
There’s nothing wrong with sweet potatoes done that way once in a while, but there’s so much more you can do with this amazing tuber, and cooks serious about getting real nutritional bang for their buck are realizing that more and more.
Sweet potatoes are a versatile complex carbohydrate, a good source of vitamins A and C, and they’re also a great source of fiber. They’re one of the few good fat-free sources of vitamin E.
They’re fairly low in calories, with a medium potato containing just 188 calores.
For an easy, healthy side dish, not much beats roasted sweet potatoes. You can get as fancy as you want, but if you have good- quality oil (canola or olive oil are good choices) and salt, you’re in business. These oven fries make a wonderfully easy and nutritious side dish. The adventurous can experiment with adding spices or herbs, such as cumin, red pepper or rosemary.
Here’s a recipe that’s a little bit fancy because of the addition of toasted pine nuts.
Rosemary Roasted Sweet Potatoes
2 pounds sweet potatoes, roughly cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 C. toasted pine nuts
2 Tbsp. chipped parsley
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
In a roasting pan, combine sweet potatoes, garlic, rosemary and oil. Toss to blend well. Roast at 375 degrees for about 50 minutes, turning sweet potatoes occasionally. Just before serving, season with pine nuts, parsley, salt and pepper.
In looking for some different sweet potato recipe ideas, I found this prize-winning recipe ó also featuring rosemary ó by Michelle Noyola and, with some hestitation, tried it.
Sweet potato pizza? I wasn’t so sure about that, but my daughter loved it, and I had to agree with her ó it’s unexpectedly tasty ó a nice change of pace.
I made my own fresh pizza dough with a bread machine, which I’d recommend, but you can use frozen dough that has been thawed out.
Sweet Potato and Rosemary Pizza
Dough for 12-inch pizza
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
8 ounces sliced provolone cheese
1 medium North Carolina sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
salt and ground black pepper.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. On oiled pizza pan, pat out dough to make a 12-inch circle; brush with 1 Tbsp. of the oil. Top with provolone, sweet potatoes, parmesan, rosemary, nutmeg; sprinkle salt and pepper to taste; drizzle with remaining 1 Tbsp. oil. Bake until crust is browned and sweet potatoes are tender, about 10-12 minutes.
(Note: I didn’t need nearly all of my medium sweet potato; I would recommend very thin slices if you want them to fully cook in only 12 minutes. I ended up baking mine for slightly longer than the 12 minutes the recipe suggests.)
The following recipe from the N.C. Sweet Potato Commission for a sweet potato frittata comes originally from Chef David Roland of the Grove Park Inn Resort.
Sweet Potato Frittata
1 medium sweet potato
1 sweet mild onion
1 green bell pepper
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3/4 C. sliced, julienned country ham
1 Tbsp. butter
salt and pepper to taste.
Peel sweet potato; cut into 1/4 inch cubes. Blanch cubes in boiling, salted water until tender, about eight minutes; drain and set aside. Chop onion and green pepper. Heat oil in omelet pan; saute onion and bell papper until tender, about two minutes. Stir in cooked sweet potatoes and ham. Saute one minute. Add butter to omelet pan. Beat eggs and sesason with salt and pepper. Pour eggs into omelet pan and stir with a fork. Cover pan and cook about three minutes to set egg. Uncover and place pan under hot broiler until to of frittata is firm, about 1 minut. Loosen with rubber spatula and slide into serving plate. Serve hot or at room temperature.
(Note: I used a cast-iron skillet for this frittata, which worked very well.)
This Moosewood Cookbook recipe for sweet potato and black bean burritos is a classic. I was introduced to some version of this when I visited a vegetarian restaurant in Boone some years ago.
I don’t know what it is about the combination of black beans and sweet potato, but after eating it you’ll feel like you can go paint your whole house ó and then run a marathon. It’s like rocket fuel for the body.
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burrito
5 cups peeled cubed sweet potatoes
1/2 tsp. salt
2 teaspoons canola or other vegetable oil
3 1/2 C. diced onions
4 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 Tbsp. minced fresh green chile
4 tsp. ground cumin
4 tsp. ground coriander
4-1/2 C. cooked black beans (three 15-ounce cans, drained)
2/3 C. lightly packed cilantro leaves
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
8 eight-inch flour tortillas
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the sweet potatoes in a medium saucepan with the salt and water to cover. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside. While the sweet potatoes are cooking, warm the oil in a medium skillet or saucepan and add the onions, garlic, and chile. Cover and cook on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender, about 7 minutes. Add the cumin and coriander and cook for 2 to 3 minutes longer, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and set aside.
In a food processor, combine the black beans, cilantro, lemon juice, salt, and cooked sweet potatoes and puree until smooth. (If you don’t have a food processor, you can also mash the ingredients in a large bowl by hand using a potato masher. The result will be a less smooth but still quite nice.) Transfer the sweet potato mixture to a large mixing bowl and mix in the cooked onions and spices.
Lightly oil a large baking dish. Spoon about 2/3 to 3/4 cup of the filling in the center of each tortilla, roll it up, and place it, seam side down, in the baking dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake for about 30 minutes, until piping hot. Serve topped with salsa.
óFrom “The Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites,” Clarkson Potter Publishers
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