When Suzen tells a group that has come to do a group event at Cooking by the Book that they will be preparing a sweet potato side dish, you can see the frowns on many faces.
“Trust me. You haven’t had anything like this,” she reassures her audience.
We never have leftovers. Guests, who come here to make a meal in our kitchen and then go into our dining room to consume their creativity, keep coming back for seconds. Not of the chicken or the salmon or the steak. Of these marvelous sweet potatoes.
I know. It does seem a bit of an oxymoron to call them sweet. Unless you are recalling that catastrophic recipe where they are baked with marshmallows.
No, here you go the other way: spice and heat. Okay, there is just a glimmer of sweetness from the apple juice, and yes the 20 cloves of garlic do tend to sweeten a tad when sautéed. All that aside, this dish has a little fire to it. Definitely serve it warm to accentuate that sensation of heat.
This is fine accompaniment to chicken, steak, or even fish. The flavor is deliciously distinctive without being overwhelming. It pairs well with a strong wine, either red or white.
And, yes, you’ll be asking for seconds yourself.
Sweet Potatoes with Garlic, Ginger, and Cilantro
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
- 4 medium sweet potatoes cut into ½-inch cubes
- ¼ cup olive oil, divided
- 6 tablespoons onion powder, divided
- 2 tablespoons smoked paprika, divided
- 20 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 1-inch piece of fresh ginger minced
- 3 tablespoons apple juice
- 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
- 1 small punch of fresh cilantro roughly chopped
- Seat salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Toss the sweet potatoes with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, then add 3 tablespoons onion powder, salt and pepper. Roast the potatoes for about 35 minutes until cooked through and starting to brown.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan on low heat, add the ginger and garlic. Sauté gently for about 5 minutes, stirring to blend and to keep from sticking to the pan bottom.
When ginger and garlic are tender, add 3 tablespoons of onion powder and 2 tablespoon of smoky paprika, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Cook scraping up all the bits from the bottom of the pan. Distribute those flavor bits through the potatoes by stirring to mix well.
Raise the heat to medium high. Deglaze the pan with the apple juice and sherry vinegar until most of the liquid is evaporated, about 2 minutes.
Transfer the warm potatoes to a large bowl. Gently toss with the garlic ginger mixture. Toss in and mix in the cilantro at the end. Serve warm.
Source: Chef Mariya Yufest at Cooking by the Book
Photo Information [top picture]: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/5.6 for 1/20th second at ISO-3200
Have you ever done something that seemed strange, maybe wrong, but you did not know why and you just did it anyway?
I really never thought about it growing up. My grandmother did it, taught me, and always seemed naturally comfortable doing it. It was one of my earliest food memories.
I knew, of course, that my grandmother was a tad off. Born in Edinburgh, she grew up on the island of St. Helena [yes, the place Napoleon was exiled, too], eventually taught piano to the Czar’s family in St. Petersburg, and ended up marrying a railroad engineer in Montana. I never got the story in detail, and now there is no one to get it from. All I have are those disjointed snippets of a life.
Those images and her method for eating white rice. The first time I sat down to dinner with Suzen and we had rice, I began to follow my grandmother’s habit. I put butter on my rice, which drew Suzen’s attention. Then I reached into a sugar bowl and took out a teaspoon of sugar.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Suzen screamed. Yes, she can scream.
I held the teaspoon above my rice, my hand quivering slightly. Yeah, I had always thought it was a little strange — white rice with butter and sugar — but it went well with pork chops.
I explained it all to Suzen. “People don’t eat rice like that, Brian,” she said.
“My grandmother did.”
“Gene pool,” she mumbled.
I’ve never done it again. I think if I tried she’d put a fork in my hand. But, in compensation, I have learned how to get rice with flavor and with sweetness. From Mexico, here is a side dish that pairs yummily with just about anything. Suzen served this with pork in adobo sauce. Chicken or fish are equally fine partners.
The rice has almonds for crunch, raisins for sweetness, and cilantro for the herby tones that rice always seems to beg for. It’s the perfect side dish.
I think my grandmother would have like it.
Cilantro, Raisin and Almond Rice
Yield: 6 servings
- 2 cups hot steamed white rice
- ½ cup raisins
- ½ cup slivered almonds
- ½ cup snipped fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoon butter
In a bowl, stir together all ingredients. Taste and, if desired, add salt or pepper. Serve alongside the entry or in a separate bowl. Garnish, if desired, with a cilantro sprig.
Source: Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publication: Mexican, 2013
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 18-55MM Macro lens shot at F/2.8 1/60th second, ISO 3200