Home & Garden
From pie to soup, sweet potatoes are traditional and diverse.
By Virginia Manuel
In most households, sweet potatoes are an integral part of holiday dinners, but they really should be served year-round because they pack a huge nutritional punch. They are a rich source of beta carotene, which is believed to be effective in preventing certain forms of cancer. In addition, they provide healthy doses of vitamins A and C. On top of all that, their mild, earthy flavor appeals to most palates, and they’re delightfully versatile.
One thing they are not – potatoes! The sweet potato is actually a member of the morning glory family, which was first cultivated in pre-Columbian Central and South America by both the Mayans and the Incas. In colonial times, it was a dietary staple, which is why we include it in Thanksgiving menus.
Another misconception is that sweet potatoes and yams are the same. The true yam is a West Indian vegetable, but you still frequently see both fresh and canned sweet potatoes labeled as yams in local markets. Whatever you call them, the skins can be either yellow-red or yellow-brown, and the flesh varies from yellow to bright orange. Store in a cool place, and use soon after buying as they are more perishable than potatoes.
Here are some easy recipes to help you to savor this remarkable tuber at Thanksgiving and beyond.
Old Fashioned Sweet Potato Pie
Pumpkin pie has become so ubiquitous at Thanksgiving that we often forget that sweet potato pie is traditionally the holiday pie of choice in most southern households. Our version yields a subtly flavored dessert that is richer than pumpkin pie.
¼ cup butter, softened
⅓ cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons grated orange zest
2 cups mashed, cooked sweet potatoes
1 ¼ cups half-and-half or light cream
1 10-inch deep dish pastry shell, unbaked
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and place a foil-lined cookie sheet on the middle rack. In a medium bowl, with mixer on medium, cream the butter with both sugars. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the next 6 ingredients. With mixer on low, add the sweet potatoes and cream. Pour into the prepared pastry shell. Place the pie pan on the heated cookie sheet (to catch any spills) and bake for 45 minutes, or until the filling is set. Cool on a wire rack. Serve chilled, garnished with whipped cream. Serves 8.
Note: If you prefer to use a regular-size 9-inch pastry shell, use 3 eggs and decrease sweet potatoes to 1 ¾ cups and half-and-half or cream to 1 cup. Serves 6.
Fusion-Spiced Sweet Potato Soup
You probably won’t have room for soup at the holiday table, but this recipe serves as a reminder that sweet potatoes aren’t only for casseroles and pies. They can be enjoyed in a variety of ways as this low-fat soup deliciously demonstrates. To make the soup vegan-friendly, substitute olive oil for the butter, use vegetable broth in place of chicken broth and forgo the sour cream garnish.
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon curry powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
3 to 4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
6 cups fat-free chicken broth
½ teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream, garnish
Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the next 3 ingredients. Cook over medium-low heat 5 to 7 minutes, or until softened. Add the spices and let them cook for a minute until fragrant. Add the next 5 ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 25 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are tender. Remove from the heat and puree the mixture in batches in a blender or food processor. Garnish each serving with a dollop of sour cream. Serves 6 to 8.
Mom’s Sweet Potato Casserole
I don’t know whose mom originally devised this luscious treatment, but I know this mom gets requests for it every Thanksgiving. It can easily be doubled for larger gatherings. Since most people don’t have two ovens, I recommend assembling the casserole in advance and placing it in the oven as soon as you remove the turkey. Cover the turkey with foil and let it rest while the sweet potatoes bake.
3 cups mashed, cooked sweet potatoes
(about 2 ½ pounds)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup melted butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup brown sugar
⅓ cup flour
1 cup chopped pecans
¼ cup melted butter
In a large bowl, combine the sweet potatoes with the next 4 ingredients until smooth. Spoon into a spray-coated 1 ½-quart casserole dish. In a small bowl, with a fork, combine the topping ingredients; the mixture will be quite thick. Spoon the topping evenly over the sweet potatoes. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the topping is golden and quite crisp. Serves 6 to 8.