Variations on a sweet potato: New twists on an old favorite

Adrienne Freeman Published November 14, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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Adrienne Freeman

Warm sweet potatoes, mixed with skin-on red potatoes dressed in balsamic vinaigrette and topped with red and green onions with savory crisp bacon, create a new spin on traditional potato salad.

Until low-carb diets came into vogue about 20 years ago, many people saw sweet potatoes only on holidays and only under a charred mound of mini-marshmallows. But with today’s laser-like focus on diabetes and obesity, the richly colored sweet potato has risen in stature and familiarity, migrating from fancy restaurant menus to appearing as tots and fries at drive-thru burger joints everywhere.

But research from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (www.usda.gov) shows that the two potato versions aren’t that different in nutritional value; in a medium (approx 100 gram) potato, the white potato has 92 calories, 21 grams of carbs, 2.3 grams of dietary fiber, 2.3 grams of protein and 17 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. The same amount of sweet potato, on the other hand, has 90 calories, 21 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, 35 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C and 380 percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin A.

Medical experts from the Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.com) said that besides the evident vitamin values, the sweet potato is low on the glycemic index — as a result, people don’t experience the roller coaster of sugar highs and lows that stress the pancreas and can lead to hunger spikes. In the simplest terms, foods with lower glycemic indexes, like sweet potatoes and brown rice, make you feel full longer.

Sweet potatoes don’t have to be sweet — savory preparations are perfect for this tender, moist tuber as well. Especially tasty seasoned with some spicy zing, like chipotle peppers, cinnamon or smoked paprika, sweet potatoes are also great with walnuts or pecans and even bright fruit flavors, such as orange and apple.

Whether served as a side dish, in a salad or as a dessert, the vibrant warm-colored vegetable can complete a plate with panache, leave the memory of charred marshmallows in the dark of Christmases past and take these fresh, flavorful dishes into the sparkly promise of future Christmases.

WARM SWEET POTATO SALAD WITH BALSAMIC BACON VINAIGRETTE

Ingredients:

3 large sweet potatoes, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes

3 medium red potatoes, cut into 1-inch dice

1/3 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 tablespoon chopped chives

Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

2 slices crisply cooked bacon, crumbled

2 green onions, finely chopped

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

Directions:

Either boil or steam the cubed potatoes until fork tender, about 20 minutes. Do not overcook — potatoes should still hold their shape. Cool the cooked potatoes slightly.

Mix together the mayonnaise, mustard, balsamic vinegar, turmeric, chives, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Set aside.

Combine the bacon, green onions and red onion with the cooked potatoes, tossing carefully. Cover warm potatoes with the dressing. Serve warm garnished with extra chives or green onion.

CHIPOTLE SWEET POTATO PUREE

Ingredients:

2 large sweet potatoes, approximately 2 pounds

1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1/2 to 3/4 cup heavy cream, heated to warm

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 chipotle pepper packed in adobe sauce, minced, with 1 teaspoon adobe sauce from can

(You can remove seeds when mincing if desired.)

Directions:

Peel potatoes, cutting into 1-inch pieces. Place in boiling salted water and cook until fork tender. Remove from heat and drain well. Add butter, kosher salt and red-pepper flakes, and beat in enough warmed cream with hand mixer to make smooth. Stir in brown sugar, chipotle pepper and adobe sauce.

SWEET POTATO PIE

Ingredients:

1 pound 3 ounces sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 1/4 cups plain yogurt

3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

5 egg yolks

Salt

1 (9-inch) deep-dish, frozen pie shell

1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

1 tablespoon maple syrup

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put cubed potatoes into steamer basket, and place steamer basket into a large pot of simmering water that is no closer than 2 inches from the bottom of basket. Allow to steam for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Mash with potato masher and set aside.

Place sweet potatoes in the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat with the paddle attachment. Add yogurt, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, yolks, and salt to taste, and beat until well combined. Pour this batter into the pie shell and place onto a sheet pan. Sprinkle pecans on top and drizzle with maple syrup.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until the custard reaches 165 to 180 degrees. Remove from oven and cool. Keep refrigerated after cooling.

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