It's fitting that my final From the Farm column this season should center on what is perhaps the simplest local food of them all, and the easiest to enjoy. Sweet potatoes are superb in a variety of recipes, but they're also a nourishing meal or snack all by themselves. Here are some ideas, from fuss-free to elaborate:
Low Effort, High Flavor:
- Roasted: This is absolutely the simplest thing you can do. Don't peel, since most of the nutrients are in the layer just under the skin; simply cube into 1-inch chunks, toss with a little oil, and bake. I like to sprinkle with sea salt, too, as it brings out the natural sweetness of this dense tuber, but it's up to you. If you really want to get decadent, use coconut oil; it will add a tropically lush flavor that just might make the pieces disappear before the rest of dinner can make it to the table. If you do have any leftovers, though, save them for a quick and healthful breakfast!
- Mashed: Prepare exactly as with white potatoes -- peel, chunk, boil, mash with butter and cream to taste. You may want to add a drizzle of molasses or maple syrup and some fall spices, like cinnamon or nutmeg.
- Tipsy: This is our Thanksgiving standby. Peel, chunk and boil, but then layer in a casserole dish with melted butter, spices and a healthy splash of bourbon. Top with a crumb mixture of butter, flour and brown sugar and sprinkle with chopped pecans. You'll have to take a break before the pie this year.
Have Time, Will Experiment:
- Salad: I pointed you to a wonderful Southwestern salad in my a few months ago. Since then, I've made two additions that I think are crucial: a pinch of chipotle powder and a cubed avocado or two. This can make a wonderful light meal or side dish for roasted pork.
- Pie: Into a several cups of mashed sweet potatoes, stir three or four beaten eggs and an additional cup or so of liquid (cream, melted butter or a mixture.) Pour into a pie crust; top with pecans, if desired.
- Soup: Start with peeled, cubed chunks again, but cook with a few other vegetables -- onions, carrot, celery -- in the stock of your choice, along with whatever seasonings sound good to you. If I sound vague, it's because you really can't go wrong here. I like to add something creamy -- dairy or coconut milk -- and puree the final product, but Atwater's leaves theirs in chunks with a clear broth, and it's wonderful. Garnish with something crunchy -- nuts, flaxseeds or croutons.
What Else You Got?
- Souffle: The alchemy of this dish is tricky, so I will point you to this recipe for specifics. It's worth some careful measuring, though!
- Latkes: The complex part of this dish is ensuring your potatoes are very dry, so grate them the day before if possible and store in a towel in the fridge; you may want to use some white potatoes as well. Combine with chopped onion, beaten eggs, salt and a dusting of flour; fry in hot peanut oil and serve with sour cream.
- Potato Skins: Like their less-sophisticated bar food cousins, these can be as complex as your palate. You can go sweet (maple syrup and bacon) or spicy (peppers and paprika); either way, simply bake the potatoes, scoop out most of the flesh and pile on toppings (including a sprinkling of cheese) before returning to the oven to crisp them up.