Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sweet Potato

Excellent Ingredient of the Week
Sweet potatoes are a delicious item when prepared right. For me, that means in baked in the oven, then split in half and eaten with a chunk of butter while watching the 4:00 movie which hopefully is an Elvis beach extravaganza. That’s the way me and my mom used to roll when I came home from school as a teenager. As an adult (and I use that term loosely), I like to make baked sweet potato planks and dip them in chipolte ketchup. I think they should never meet marshmallows under any circumstance. But what else do we know about the sweet potato? Let's use the google...

The sweet potato is a tuberous root vegetable belonging to the same family of plants as the morning glory. It's a particularly popular food crop in the south, and you'll find it in markets all over the US. Sweet potatoes are native to Central America. They are considered a staple in many countries and have been cultivated in Southern states since the 16th century. Nutritionally, sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A and a good source of potassium and vitamin C, B6, riboflavin, copper, pantothetic acid and folic acid.

Sweet potatoes come in two main varieties here in the States. One has a golden skin with creamy white flesh and a crumbly texture. The other has a copper skin with an orange flesh that is sweet and soft. Americans have been calling the orange-fleshed variety of sweet potatoes "yams" since colonial times when Africans saw familiarities in them to the tuberous variety. The USDA decided to label them as "yams" to differentiate the two varieties. Both varieties of sweet potato, including "yams" can be widely found in supermarket.

Yams are native to Africa and Asia and other tropical regions. Yams are starchy tubers that have an almost black bark-like skin and white, purple or reddish flesh and come in many varieties. The tubers can be as small as regular potatoes or grow upwards of five feet long.The word yam comes from an African word, which means "to eat." The yam holds great importance as a foodstuff because it keeps for a long time in storage. Real Yams can be found in international markets, such as those that specialize in Caribbean foods.

Here is a great unusual sweet potato recipe.

Sautéed Sweet Potatoes and Spinach

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large sweet potatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup red onion
1 1/2 pounds spinach
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Coarse salt and ground pepper

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cut sweet potatoes into cubes; cook, stirring, until starting to soften, 8 to 10 minutes. Add curry powder. Cook 1 minute. Add water and chopped red onion. Cook, stirring, until water evaporates and potatoes are tender and browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. In the same skillet, cook spinach in two batches, adding second batch when first wilts, 2 minutes. Drain; add to potatoes.Stir in balsamic vinegar; season with coarse salt and ground pepper.