Giving thanks for sweet potatoes
A set of festive and weeknight recipes to help you enjoy fall's signature vegetable all season long
While planning your Thanksgiving meal, make sure that sweet potatoes are on the menu. This orange vegetable can sometimes be confused with yams, but despite often misleading store signage, the two tubers are not even related.
Yams are a starchy edible root originally from Africa and Asia. They have a rough, brown skin and white interior and can be small or grow as large as five feet. They generally have a dry, starchy taste.
Sweet potatoes have a smooth skin and can come in a variety of colours ranging from yellow to purple-tinged and have a sweet interior. They are more common in North American kitchens even though they may be sitting under the yam sign at the grocery store, says Juli Proracki of Round Plains Plantations in Norfolk County, Ont.
Sweet potatoes are low on the glycemic index and contain potassium, fibre and vitamin A. The skin is a healthy part of the vegetable and doesn't need to be discarded, especially this time of year when the potatoes are freshly harvested, Proracki says. Yams are nutritious as well but have less vitamin A and are considered a starch.
One of the most common kind of sweet potato is the super sweet Covington, which has the familiar orange skin and flesh. But there are hundreds of varieties of sweet potatoes grown around the world, according to Proracki, each with a different texture and different levels of sweetness and tang. The Prorackis grow at least five kinds of sweet potatoes, but no yams.
Although yams are tasty, it's sweet potatoes that are synonymous with Thanksgiving and fall. Though often paired with sweet seasonings, they also match well with spicy and bitter flavours, and can act as a base for chili and gooey melted cheese. For everyday dinners, roasting or microwaving sweet potatoes and serving them with a variety of toppings is a good option. Leftovers mix well into soups and can double as toast for a fried egg.
If your Thanksgiving table feels incomplete without a sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallow, we beg you to lay off the fluff and try this more sophisticated but still festive brûlée. Because of the natural sweetness, the vegetable can also be part of dessert. It's a dream come true – who doesn't want to dip their vegetables in chocolate?
- Recipe: Sweet Potato Brûlée
- Recipe: Oven baked sweet potato crisps
- Recipe: Sweet potato and Brussels sprout hash
- Recipe: Sweet potato chocolate triangles
Everyday sweet potatoes
Poke potatoes all over with a fork. Wrap in damp paper towel and microwave until very soft, about 8 to 10 minutes, flipping midway.
Rub skin with a little oil and salt. Prick potato with a fork right before baking (too early and the holes will oxidize and turn black). Bake at 350 F until soft, 40 to 60 minutes depending on size. Make sure there is a baking tray or foil underneath to catch the inevitable drippings, which are pure sugar and will stick to the oven racks.
If you've been lucky enough to find especially small and tender sweet potatoes, slice them lengthwise and put face down on a pregreased cookie sheet. Add some olive oil on top. Roast at 350F for 30 minutes or until tender and caramelized. Serve with skin on.
Cut into one-inch chunks and place in a steamer for 28 minutes.
Sweet potato bar
Roasted sweet potatoes served with a selection of toppings make a quick and easy dinner or fabulous lunch. This is a great way to use up leftovers or bedraggled arugula. Place the toppings in separate bowls or layer them on top of the sweet potatoes to make healthy nachos.
- Butter, sour cream, bacon bits and chives
- Avocado, lime, black beans and salsa
- Pulled pork or chicken with barbecue sauce
- Stir-fried greens with soy sauce and sriracha
- Leftover ground beef with chili spices and grated cheese
- Harissa sauce mixed with yogurt
- Tahini mixed with yogurt or labneh and honey and lemon