On one of my trips this summer to Amawalk Farm  I noticed they had a potato patch growing.
Sweet potatoes to be exact. It was the first time they were trying them and at the time, they were not exactly sure what they would be getting in the Fall.
Never fear … the yield was magnificent. Beautiful and delicious sweet potatoes! I went back in October and bought 20 pounds!
So what exactly are they, and how are they different from yams? The names seem to be used interchangeably by many people and they kind of look similar, right? Well, not really. First, they hail from different parts of the world: yams from Africa and Asia, and sweets from South America. Yams are dry and starchier in texture, where sweets are, well sweeter and creamier. So there is really no need to add sugar, or even marshmallows, which I think mask their beautiful flavor in the end. Sweets are loaded with great nutrients: complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, beta carotene, Vitamins A, B6, C, Iron, Calcium … wow!
I’ve been literally planning this post for months, truth be told. Ever since I saw the patch of leaves growing at Amawalk, I knew I wanted to create something with this great veggie. This week I have four different ways to use your sweet potatoes. A couple are inspired by recipes I came across in my research and a couple from experimenting!
More after the jump …
First up is Sweet Potato Hash. One of Larry’s favorite dishes. There once was a little restaurant in Port Chester named the Crossroads Cafe, who made his favorite rendition of this dish. They closed several years ago and ever since I’ve been trying to replicate it. He thinks this one came very close!
I have no real recipe for this, only general amounts. For four servings I used 1 small onion (about a cup) diced, 1 pound of sweet potatoes cubed, one pound of Gaia’s Breath Farm Boudin Blanc Sausage, a bunch of their red kale and eggs.
After sautéing the onion with extra virgin olive oil, I added the sweet potatoes and cooked until they got nice and crisp. In another pan I cooked the sausage. Once the sweets were done I added the sausage to them and the finely sliced kale and wilted it. Then I made four little wells right in the pan, adding a bit of oil to keep them from sticking, and crack the eggs right in. Cover and cooked for about 3 minutes. To make life super easy I just move the whole pan to the table and served. Delicious!
Moving on to lunch I decided to make a soup. I have a really wonderful book by vegetarian cookbook author Anna Thomas , called Love Soup. She has a kale and sweet potato recipe in the book that I slightly adapted. The recipe is below, but basically this one is leek, sweet potato, Yukon gold potato and kale. I used half the kale she suggests and chicken stock in mine.
With Thanksgiving around the corner I was determined to do something other than gob up these beautiful potatoes with marshmallows. As a kid growing up the 60s and 70s never a Thanksgiving would pass without my Grandmother taking sweet potatoes from a can, covering them with marshmallows and broiling. Even back then I knew there was something just so wrong about that! (Sorry Grandma!) This year we’ll be heading to my Aunt Donna’s house and I promised my cousin Maria that I would make them sans marshmallows!
After noodling around on the web I kept coming up with a recipe that Mark Bittman  created for Cooking Light last year. Link after link touted this recipe. All I needed to see was his name and how could I go wrong? The only thing I changed from his original recipe was doubling the cranberry sauce and adding some beets. I was just too amazing to not have more! The garnish is pepita seeds (picture above) that are toasted and scallions. I also wanted to show you a little trick I do with chipotle peppers, that also works with tomato paste. Drop them on a sheet of plastic wrap and cover. Then place in a freezer bag. Snip the sections off as needed, straight from the freezer!
Back to this dish: you can make it as spicy or mild as you like – but do use the chipotle peppers. The contrast to spicy and sweet is what makes it so special. I had some beets in the ‘fridge and added them as well, but simply using the sweets is just perfect!
Last, but not least, a Sweet Potato Pie. I found lots of recipes in books and on line – but I let my creativity lead me on this one! I wanted to really mix up the spices and let the crust do a little of the heavy lifting, too. After taste testing several ginger snap cookies I found the Walker brand to have the best flavor. I combined them with unsweetened coconut and butter. The crust is sticky, so keeping it cold and having patience is a must!
While my potatoes were baking I worked on the crust. Here is a little tip I use when teaching kids to roll out crust: I place it in a big zip lock bag, cutting the sides open and roll. This method works beautifully with sticky doughs!
I added ricotta cheese to the filling which gave it texture and richness, along with Chinese Five Spice which worked beautifully with the crust.
It’s a must to left this completely cool and pop in the ‘fridge to set up. The crust is a bit crumbly straight from the oven. I promise you won’t be disappointed! The result is amazing … warm, spicy and exotic!
I hope you will give a few, if not all of these a try. If I were to choose one I would suggest the cranberry chipotle recipe. They are completely addictive!
Kale and Sweet Potato Soup (adapted from Love Soup by Anna Thomas)
Makes 2 quarts
2 cups thinly sliced leek, white and light green only, about 2
1½ cups Vidalia onion, ¼” dice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly grated black pepper
2 cups sweet potato, ½“ dice, about 2 medium sweet potatoes
1 cup Yukon gold or white potato, 1/2“ dice
6 cups thinly sliced kale, about 6oz.
½ cup thinly sliced scallion, divided
1½ tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
1½ cups vegetable or chicken stock
Zest 1 medium lemon
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Thoroughly rinse the leek under cool water to get rid of all the sand that might be lurking about. In a heavy bottom pot over medium heat sweat the onion with ½ teaspoon of salt and pepper. Once they get translucent add in the leeks and cook for about 10 minutes until they get caramelized.
Add in 5 cups of water, the sweet potato, Yukon gold potato, kale and 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/5 teaspoon of pepper. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes.
Add ¼ cup scallion, thyme, stock, lemon zest and juice. Simmer another 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cranberry-Chipotle Dressing (adapted from a Cooking Light recipe by Mark Bittman)
2½ lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1½ cup fresh cranberries
½ cup water
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon chipotle chile, finely minced, (canned variety)
½ cup pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds)
¾ cup chopped green onions
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
Preheat oven to 450°.
Place sweet potatoes on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Bake at 450° for 30 minutes or until tender, turning after 15 minutes.
Place remaining 1 tablespoon oil, cranberries, water, and honey in a saucepan. Add chopped chipotle and 1 teaspoon adobo sauce. Place pan over medium-low heat; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and cook 10 minutes or until cranberries pop, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Mash with a potato masher or fork until chunky.
Place pepitas in a medium skillet; cook over medium heat 4 minutes or until lightly browned, shaking pan frequently. Combine potatoes, pepitas, onions, and cilantro in a bowl. Add cranberry mixture to bowl; toss gently to coat.
Cooks Note: Feel free to also add beets to this recipe. Just make sure you cut them the same size as the potatoes to ensure even cooking.
Spiced Sweet Potato-Ricotta Pie with a Ginger-Coconut Crust
Makes 1 – 9” pie
2 lbs sweet potatoes, approximately 3 cups
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup whole milk ricotta
3 whole eggs
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice Powder
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Rinse the sweet potatoes and place on a foil lined cookie sheet in a pre-heated 425 degree oven. Bake until the center is soft, about 30-45 minutes, depending on the size. Remove from oven slit open and allow the potatoes to cool. When cool enough to handle scoop out the center and place in a bowl, discarding the skin.
Cooks note: skip down to the crust recipe at this point and start working on it.
When the potatoes are completely cool place in the bowl of an automatic mixer. Using the paddle attachment beat the potatoes on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar, ricotta and eggs and continue to beat for 3-4 minutes. Add the salt, vanilla and spices blending well.
Place the filling into a cold Gingersnap-Coconut pie-crust shell (recipe below) and smooth out the top. Bake in a pre-heat 375 degree oven for 40 – 50 minutes, or until the filling is set and an knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove and allow to cool completely. The crust sets up the best if you cool and place in the ‘fridge for at least 1 hour, or overnight.
Serve with freshly whipped heavy cream, or simply by itself.
Makes 1 pie crust
9 Walkers Stem Ginger Biscuits
¼ cup all purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened coconut
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 stick of butter, frozen and chopped up
1-2 tablespoons ice water
Break up the biscuits and place in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 3 or 4 times and add in the flour, coconut and salt. Process until the cookies are finely chopped. Remove and measure. You should have 1¼ cups of dry mix. If not, add a little more flour to have it equal 1¼ cup. Place back into the food processor. Add in the frozen butter pieces and pulse 5-10 times or just until the butter is incorporated into to the dry mix. Open the lid and drizzle in 1 tablespoon of water, then pulse 1 time. If the mix needs a bit more to pull together add another tablespoon.
Remove the dough and place on a cutting board. Working quickly form it into a disk and place in a large zip lock bag and set in the ‘fridge to chill.
When the dough is firm after about 15-20 minutes) take the bag and slit the sides, keeping the dough inside. Roll the dough to ¼” thick. Place on a cookie sheet and put back in the ‘fridge to chill for about 5 minutes.
Once it’s cold again, but slightly pliable peel back one side of the plastic and place in a metal pie plate. Press down slightly. Gently peel back the other side of the plastic and discard. Working quickly, with damp fingers smooth out the dough in the pan. When it looks smooth and even take the plate and put in the freezer until ready to bake.
Cooks note: Don’t despair if the dough gets a little sticky on you. The cooler it is, the easier to manage – hence the in and out in the ‘fridge. I promise that patience will be rewarded with a very delicious crust!
Recipe created by Maria Reina of Bella Cucina Maria.
Seasonal Chef blogger Maria Reina  comes to the world of food as a third career, spending a great portion of her adult life in the field of Human Resources. With her private company Bella Cucina Maria she is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher in Westchester. She’s an avid food television watcher and cookbook collector, always looking for a new take on a traditional dish. In her free time she loves hanging out at local farmers, chatting it up with the farmers and doing cooking demos with their seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog , which is loaded with easy recipes, you can follow her on Facebook , Twitter  and Pinterest .