The sweet potato has been getting a lot of good press lately as a healthier alternative to the potato. I’m a big fan of the potato, but the sweet potato has its own charms, including a deep, sweet flavor and dense nutritional value. Actually, according to a study done by the Center for Science in the Public Interest in 1992, the sweet potato has the highest nutritional value of any vegetable when fiber content, complex carbohydrates, protein, antioxident vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium are taken into account. Not too shabby for such a “sweet” vegetable.
Speaking of sweet, although sweet potatoes score high on the glycemic index, preliminary studies indicate that the sweet potato may actually help stabilize blood sugar levels and lower insulin resistance. (Source: Wikipedia)
*Note, I am not a medical specialist and cannot provide medical advice- if diabetic, please consult your doctor before experimenting with sweet potatoes. ;)
The Whole Foods web site has some great information about the sweet potato, including tips on how to differentiate between a yam and sweet potato. Why are these two root vegetables so often confused? According to the site,
“The moist-fleshed, orange-colored root vegetable that is often thought of as a “yam” is actually a sweet potato. It was given this name after this variety of sweet potato was introduced into the United States in the mid-20th century in order to distinguish it from the white-fleshed sweet potato to which most people were accustomed. The name “yam” was adopted from “nyami”, the African word for the root of the Dioscoreae genus of plants that are considered true yams. While there are attempts to distinguish between the two, such as the mandatory labeling by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that the moist-fleshed, orange-colored sweet potatoes that are labeled as “yams” also be accompanied by the label “sweet potato,” when most people hear the term “yam” they usually think of the orange-colored sweet potato as opposed to the true yam, the traditional Dioscoreae family root vegetable.” (source: Whole Foods)
I’ve been a fan of this vegetable since I first tried sweet potato fries, but I realize this is not the healthiest way to enjoy the sweet potato, so I’ve been experimenting with one of my favorite cooking techniques, roasting, to come up with a way to get the same crispy thrill with less calorific penalties. I’ve made roasted sweet potatoes countless times, but have sometimes had trouble getting them to crisp evenly. So, this time I decided to try cubing the sweet potatoes before roasting them, hoping for even crisping. To my pleasure, they turned out beautifully, and worked as nicely in the night’s vegan artichoke pasta recipe, adding sweet complex flavors to the dish, as they performed as a breakfast alternative to home fries.
Although the pasta dish took time, given the various ingredients and preparation methods, it was very satisfying and nutritious and was just what I wanted. I like the tart, refreshing flavor of capers, but if you want less bite, reduce the amount of capers and/or rinse them to lessen the tart vinegar note they bring to the dish. The artichoke hearts are absolutely essential, and provide the rich base of the dish, along with the caramelized onions. You can saute the cooked pasta in the cast iron pan with the sauce for optimal flavor and texture. The nutritional yeast at the end adds a salty, cheesy element, but isn’t necessary.
With this dinner, I experimented with some old favorites- sweet potato, pasta, and artichoke hearts- and jazzed them up with fresh herbs and new preparation methods. The next time you think about having a plain old baked potato, why not try a roasted sweet potato dish instead? It seems that sweet potatoes are as good for you as they are good tasting. All I know is that when I have sweet potatoes, I feel good, and my taste buds are just as happy as my body.
How do you like your sweet potato? Please share your favorite ways to enjoy sweet potatoes in the comments!
In love with the sweet potato?
Try my Yummy Recipe for Sweet Potato Peanut Soup
Or read about my Sweet Potato Croquette Recipe using leftovers of sweet potato mash.
Roasted Rosemary Cubed Sweet Potato Recipe
Assortment of sweet potatoes and yams, with orange and white flesh, peeled and cut into cubes
Fresh Thyme (optional)
Kosher or Black Salt
1/2 to 1 diced onion
Heat oven to 375. Prepare your sweet potatoes and place the cubes on a dark baking tin. Sprinkle with olive oil and mix thoroughly with hands so oil is evenly distributed. Season with paprika (to taste), sage, fresh rosemary and thyme, and salt. Put in oven and bake for 20 minutes. Take out, toss potatoes to turn, and add your diced onion to the baking tin. Put back in oven for another 20 minutes or until cubes have reached desirable crispiness. Add a little more fresh herbs and salt closer to serving time if you like. Enjoy!
Vegan Artichoke Heart Pasta Recipe with Broccoli
1 head broccoli, cut into long, thin spears
1 cup artichoke hearts (at least a few in oil)
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 tbsp capers, chopped
1 carton crimini mushrooms (or less), sliced
1 can stewed, seasoned tomatoes, drained
1 portion of roasted sweet potato cubes (half or 1/2 of recipe, depending on quantity you made)*see following Book of Yum recipe
pine nuts for garnish (optional but oh so good)
freshly ground pepper
8 oz gf pasta, prior to boiling (we used Mrs. Leepers Corn pasta, but rice pasta would work nicely as well)
completely optional: dash of flax seed oil and nutritional yeast for final flavoring, post cooking
Bring medium pot of salted water to boil and blanch broccoli spears, removing and soaking in cold water as soon as they turn bright green. Drain when cool and reserve, mixed with one or two artichoke hearts in oil, cut into squares and dispersed throughout the pile of broccoli.
Heat boiling water and pour over most of your artichoke hearts (the oil variety), skimming off oil and draining them to the best of your ability.
Heat olive oil in cast iron pan (1 tbsp or less) and add your chopped onion, letting it become translucent before adding capers and sliced mushrooms. You may want to give the mushrooms their own spot directly on the surface of the cast iron pan by moving the onion to the edge of the pan. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper, and turn when brown. Mix everything together again and add the rest of your drained, chopped artichoke hearts. Let onions caramelize more and then add your drained, chopped tomatoes and combine thoroughly. Add fresh herbs, seasonings, and sweet potato cubes and any additional seasonings, including pine nuts. (Let the pine nuts brown on the surface of the pan if possible).
Prepare your gluten-free pasta, and when just about al dente, rinse, drain, and reserve.
When cast iron ingredients look beautifully savory, add your broccoli and remove from heat, mixing thoroughly so that flavors have a chance to merge with the broccoli. After a few minutes serve mixed completely with pasta in dish.
If you like and want the extra nutrition, add a drizzle of flax oil to the pasta, stir in, and sprinkle entire plate with nutritional yeast.