3 lbs 1 oz!
Autumn is really here! Three cheers! Another three! Who else is with me?
We’re a bit crazy about fall vegetables, and what better way to begin talking about that than with this beautiful monster of a sweet potato? Perhaps Deborah Madison says it best in her inimitable, indispensable Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone*: “Nearly every time I bite into a roasted sweet potato, I ask myself if anything can be more delicious.”
Sweet potatoes have a lot going on nutritionally: they’re chock full of Vitamin A in the form of beta carotene (which means they’re a great immune system boost, and help you see better too!), are a very good source of Vitamin C, and also contain a significant amount of fiber, iron, and potassium. Lots of their nutritional value is found just under the skin, so consider leaving the skin on when you cook or bake with sweet potatoes. We don’t use any pesticides, so you can be sure the skins are safe to eat! And remember, carotenes are fat-soluble. This means it’s important to eat carotene-heavy foods with some fat, to fully digest and absorb all the good stuff. So butter those sweet potatoes!
Storing sweet potatoes
We dug the sweet potatoes going into this week’s shares last week, and so they’re only partially cured. You can eat them right away and they’ll be delicious, but their sweetness will intensify if you cure them a few more days at home. Just leave them in a box, covered with paper or heavy cloth, in the warmest place in your house, for up to a week. After that, we suggest keeping them in a cool, dark location, ideally not the fridge. Try wrapping them in some newspaper and putting them in a reasonably well ventilated cabinet or pantry closet. They should last several weeks, but do be gentle with them. Despite their tough-looking skin, they’re not as rugged as regular potatoes.
Some of our sweet potatoes this year are pretty enormous! Don’t be afraid of them. If you slice off as much as you need, you’ll see a milky white fluid begin to appear. This is naturally occurring latex! It will form a film over the exposed flesh, and will preserve the sweet potato for another couple days at least. Generally raw sweet potatoes shouldn’t be stored in the refrigerator, but we sometimes do put them there after we’ve sliced off a piece, and we make a point to use the remaining sweet potato fairly quickly so it isn’t damaged by the dry cold.
Sweet potatoes come in all shapes and sizes — just like people!
Eating sweet potatoes
I grew up eating sweet potatoes smothered in marshmallows at the Thanksgiving table … and that was about it. While I’ll gladly eat them that way even now, golly, I was missing out on so much! Sweet potatoes are delicious just about any way you cook them: roasted, grilled, braised, steamed; whole, sliced, cubed, mashed, puréed.
Our favorite way to eat sweet potatoes is to slice them into thin rounds, toss with a few good glugs of olive oil, salt, and a few cloves of minced garlic, and arrange in a single layer or so on a cookie sheet. Bake at 400°F for about 15 minutes on one side, and then flip them and cook another 5 or 10 minutes, until they to start to caramelize at the edges. So good! We eat them this way a couple times a week but never time the cooking exactly, so do cook them a bit longer if they’re not caramelized yet.
Green things like kale and collards are a happy complement to the sweetness of sweet potatoes. Recently we’ve been eating these roasted sweet potato rounds, or baked sweet potatoes with butter, alongside a raw massaged kale salad (more on that soon in a few days!) and salmon fillets seared in our trusty cast iron pans.
They make wonderful casseroles, of course (savory and sweet), and are also great roasted right alongside chicken, pork, or beef. They’re fantastic in stews — try a stew of sweet potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and beans, seasoned with peanut butter, garlic, ginger, and cayenne, and served over rice or quinoa. Puréed, they make an easy early baby food (puréed sweet potato freezes great) and a wonderful soup. They’re also wonderful cubed and then steamed or roasted, and added to burritos or tacos with black beans and cilantro.
They’re a great addition to breads too! We make a seriously good braided Hawaiian Sweet Potato Bread from a delightful little cookbook called Goddess in the Kitchen (we thought it was out of print, but it seems it’s just been repackaged as Romancing the Stove: Celebrated Recipes and Delicious Fun for Every Kitchen Goddess). Last Thanksgiving we made these yeasted sweet potato rolls from James Beard via Joe Yonan at the Washington Post: heavenly. We haven’t tried these sweet potato biscuits, but they look darned delicious as well.
Have you tried mashed or puréed sweet potatoes in pancake or waffle batter yet? So good. And sweet potato pound cake is out of this world.
Other things I’m itching to try: sweet potato gnocchi, a sweet potato soufflé with a bit of cayenne and some crumbled fried sage leaves on top, bread pudding with cubed sweet potatoes. Ohhh, and how about a sweet potato milkshake with a bit of maple syrup?? Ahem.
One more cooking tip: try substituting sweet potatoes in any recipe that calls for other orange foods like carrots, pumpkin, or winter squash. It almost always works!
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(Sweet potato pound cake recipe below!)
Sweet Potato Pound Cake
adapted from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott
We started making this pound cake in February 2009, right around the time I found out I was pregnant with our own little sweet potato. Perhaps that explains why I ate that first one for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert till it was gone. Perhaps not. This recipe makes a big cake. You stand forewarned.
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large sweet potatoes, baked until soft, peeled and mashed (you want 2 cups — eat the rest!)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a Bundt pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt, and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the milk and vanilla, and set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until they’re light and fluffy, and then add the eggs one at a time, blending well after each egg. Add the mashed sweet potatoes and mix on low for about a minute. Add half the flour mixture and mix on low or with a wooden spoon until it’s just incorporated into the batter. Now add half of milk, continuing to mix gently, then the rest of the flour, mixing gently again, and finally the rest of the milk, mixing gently until the batter is smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 60-75 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. If you can bear it, let it cool in the pan on a rack for about 20 minutes before gently flipping it out of the pan and onto the rack. Our friend Shari, who told us about this recipe, warned that it makes your kitchen smell like heaven. Make some coffee while you wait. Have your first cup while browsing the archives of this joy+ride, the lovely site co-curated by Shari. When the cake has cooled just a bit, slice yourself a piece and take it, and the coffee, out to the porch. Exhale. Also makes a great breakfast toasted.
1) If you prefer, you can peel, cube, and steam the sweet potatoes, instead of baking them, before mashing them. We prefer the sweetness that baking them brings, but either method makes a delicious cake. We don’t recommend boiling sweet potatoes because they can become a bit waterlogged and also lose some of their nutrients. (And we know you’re eating this cake for its nutrients.)
2) You can use two 8″x4″ loaf pans instead of a bundt pan. The baking time will probably be shorter — keep an eye on the loaves and check with a tester.