Sunday, November 28, 2010

Spicy Sweet Potatoes

My ingredient obsessions come from a variety of sources. It could be a droolworthy photo in a magazine that gets my wheels spinning, a particularly tempting selection at my local market, or in this case, a stunning side dish at the otherwise so-so Brown Sugar Cafe in Oakland. They serve a slightly spicy sweet potato puree that probably contains as much butter as it does vegetable, a bit of brown sugar, and just enough heat to keep the sweetness from becoming cloying. Ever since I had that meal, I've been grabbing a sweet potato or two at the market and seeing what happens. I'll toss a few chunks into a soup, serve them mashed with milk, sea salt, and a faint dusting of chipotle and cinnamon, but most often I'll make them in the manner described below, which is a wonderful change from the typical marshmallow-topped casserole that finds its way onto most holiday tables.

Sweet potatoes are packed with vitamin C and fiber, making them much healthier than the starchy white potato. I used them in place of potatoes in a recipe from Nigella's latest cookbook, not for health reasons, but because I think sweetness adds an extra element of interest in the spicy/sour balance of this Indian-inspired recipe. For a straight-up potato variation, you could try these spicy Indian fingerlings.

Spicy Sweet Potatoes
(adapted from Nigella Kitchen)
2-3 sweet potatoes (any variety), peeled and cut into small, evenly-sized chunks (about 1 inch cubes)
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2½ tablespoons cayenne pepper (Caution: very spicy!)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon nigella seeds
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
½ red onion, finely diced
1 lime
Salt to taste
Chopped cilantro (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Place the diced onion and juice from the lime in a small bowl to steep. Set aside for 30 minutes to an hour.

3. Mix all the spices and a few pinches of salt together with the oil in a large mixing bowl. Toss the cubed sweet potato into the spiced oil and mix well until pieces are completely coated.

4. Arrange the sweet potatoes in a large baking pan (large enough to hold all the potatoes in a single layer). Don't crowd them too much, or they will come out soggy instead of crisp.

5. Bake for 25-30 minutes. You can broil them for the last minute or so if you would like your sweet potatoes extra crispy.

6. Transfer the potatoes to a serving dish and scatter the lime-soaked onions over. You could also use some chopped cilantro here.

1 comment:

  1. I love sweet potatoes too, especially in spicy dishes. I am a big fan of throwing them into spy stir fries or hot and sweet salads. They also work really well with smoke flavor. I made a casserole last Fall with Sweet Potatoes and Smoked Paprika. Delicious!

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