Susan S. Yeske: Dining In - Recipe of the Week

Sweet potatoes are loaded with powerhouse nutrients



Freshly dug sweet potatoes were among the many vegetables found at the Doylestown Farmers Market this past week.

I walked past the Trauger’s farm stand at the Doylestown Farmers Market and was attracted to a pile of sweet potatoes.

This is the time of year for freshly dug sweet potatoes, which are not to be called yams, no matter what your family told you when you were growing up.

A sweet potato is not a yam and a yam is not a sweet potato. They are completely different tubers which come from different families of plants.

A true yam is a starchy edible root generally imported to America from the Caribbean and not readily found in supermarkets or at farm stands. It is rough and scaly and very low in beta carotene.

Sweet potatoes vary in color from white to orange to purple, have moist flesh and are high in beta carotene, plus many other powerhouse nutrients. They are grown in the United States and can be found in grocery stores year round because they store easily and keep well in cool, dry conditions.

The name confusion likely originated when producers and shippers wanted to distinguish sweet potatoes from white potatoes, and chose to call them by the English form of the African word “nyami,” which is yam.

When I spied the sweet potatoes at the market, I immediately thought of baked or microwaved whole potatoes, split in two and topped with butter, salt and pepper. You don’t have to feel guilty about the butter; nutritionists say that beta carotene is better absorbed when the meal includes some kind of fat.

Sweet potatoes are versatile, from mashing to making into fries to roasting them, making salads and adding them to casseroles. Naturally sweet, I don’t believe they need brown sugar or marshmallows to make them tasty, but many autumn and winter favorite dishes include dressing them up with more sweetness.

Among them is this recipe from “Hay Day Country Market Cookbook” by Kim Rizk, co-owner of Jammin’ Crepes restaurant in Princeton, N.J. Rizk uses a hint of maple syrup to increase the sweetness in this dish, which a perfect side dish for the holidays or any time.

Maple-Roasted Sweet Potato Spears
3 large orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, about 13 ounces each, scrubbed and patted dry
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or ½ teaspoon dried

1. Preheat oven to 425°F.

2. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise, and then slice each half into four spears ¾ to 1 inch wide.

3. Line a large jelly roll pan or baking sheet with parchment paper or oil lightly. Toss the potato spears with 1 teaspoon olive oil and the salt in a large bowl. Scatter the sweet potatoes on the prepared pan in a single layer and place in the oven. Roast, turning once, until fork-tender and lightly browned, about 25 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, whisk together the maple syrup, vinegar and remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Brush this glaze lightly over the roasted potato spears (you may not need it all). Return them to the oven and continue roasting until they are caramelized, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the thyme, and serve.

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