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
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.