Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sweet Potato

Gingered Sweet Potato Soup with Pork Barbecue

”Song, song of the South, Sweet Potato Pie and I shut my mouth….” Got that song by Alabama going in my head and it just won’t stop… Then there’s the James Taylor song, or the old Sweet Potato Blues by Lonnie Johnson or the soulful instrumental by Booker T and the MG’s.

     Sweet potatoes bring music to my ears, and solace to very being.  I LOVE sweet potatoes and I’m so excited because ‘tis the season.  They’ve been dug up, “cured” to allow the starch to sweeten, and are hitting our markets right about NOW!

Roasted, then smashed, ready for many recipes!

     Beauregard.  Jewel.  Carolina Ruby.  Old White. . . I love these names that describe their colors. There’s even Stokes Purple, a beautiful tater than retains its color even when cooked, developed in Stokes County, NC, in pursuit of more antioxidants.  Those colors of the rainbow help sweet potatoes to deliver a whopping 300 percent of Vitamin A needed each day, as well as another good dose of vitamins C.  Plus, they’re fiber rich.  

In the Kitchen House of the Roanoke Island Farm, Manteo

Sweet potatoes run deep in the South.  NC is the number one producer of this tuber, over 40 % of those grown in the nation.  A few years back, the state’s commission tried to run the spelling of both words together…..”sweetpotato”, which we all know is just wrong, besides driving my Spellcheck crazy.  And we’ve heard or read about the old days when a hot, cooked sweet potato stuck in pockets warmed the way to school or provided lunch when working out in the field.  Most of us have learned not to call them “yams,” which are a completely different root vegetable grown in more tropical climes.

Sweet Potato Biscuits
One of my favorite restaurants in Winston-Salem is Sweet Potatoes, Well Shut My Mouth, run by partners Vivian Joiner and Stephanie Tyson.  You can only guess what’s frequently on their menu, in many shapes and forms, like bread puddings or Charlottes made with leftover Sweet Potato Biscuits.  I also am impressed that many of their employees are those that have been down in their luck but given a chance to turn things around by this couple.  Look for Stephanie’s cookbook, Well Shut My Mouth, published by John Blair.

Whaddya do with Sweet Potatoes?

My fav?  Cook ‘em whole, in the microwave or oven, then slather on some good butter and sprinkle on the salt.

Baskets of grated sweets
Or slice them into “fries,” grease them up with some oil, and bake or grill.

Then you can also cut them up and substitute them in a hash, or, roast chunks with onions and red peppers, all coated with olive oil and seasoned with thyme and/or rosemary.

Sweet potato pancakes, or cakes, or pies, or biscuits, rolls, or fritters, or mashed into the traditional Southern casserole with a pecan topping . . .See how versatile this tuber is?

Coating a Salmon Fillet . . . heavenly!
 I’ve even coated a salmon fillet with thin slices coated with olive oil, which baked was just out of this world good.  (You’ll find several of these recipes in my books.)

I’m including a recipe below for Sweet Potato Soup with Gingered Shrimp (or you can add crabmeat or even eastern-style pork barbecue!).  And then there’s one for sweet potato baskets, to hold crabmeat, perhaps.  And also a recipe for Sweet Potato Guacamole, a riff on a recipe by my friend Fred Thompson, in his latest, Southern Sides.

If you decide to share, please be nice and give credit.

Sweet Potato Soup with Gingered Shrimp
I try to use local products as much as possible, as in local brown or green-tail shrimp from NC’s coast, Mattamuskeet Sweet onions, and eastern NC sweet potatoes.  Covington or Beauregard varieties of sweet potatoes make a soup with a brilliant color.

1tablespoon olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, peeled and chopped
About 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into cubes (5 to 6 cups)
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1teaspoon salt or more, to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste

1.     In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium low heat.  Add onions, and stir occasionally until translucent or softened, about 5 minutes.
2.     Add garlic and gingerroot, and stir to coat.  Add sweet potatoes, stir, then pour in just enough stock to cover the veggies.  Add either water or more stock, if necessary, to cover veggies.
3.     Bring to a simmer, and cook over low heat until sweet potatoes are fork-tender, about 30 minutes.
4.     If you have an immersion blender, use that to puree the soup until no chunks or onion pieces remain.  Or, use a blender or food processor.  With a slotted spoon, remove chunks to be processed with a small amount of liquid from the pot.  Be aware that the heat could cause the top of the blender to explode, so place a dish cloth or pot holder on top, and hold it in place.  Process all of the soup until smooth, then return it to the pot.  Keep warm. 
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
½ pound shrimp, peeled, deveined, rinsed and patted dry
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger (or more, if you like!)
½ teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons chopped chives or 2 to 3 green onions, chopped fine
1tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1.     In a small sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add shrimp, and stir for about 2 to 3 minutes, until shrimp are pink and cooked through.
2.     Add ginger root, garlic and chives, stirring to combine.  Sprinkle with the lemon juice.
TO SERVE:  Place soup in bowls, then divide and place shrimp in the center of each serving.  Serve immediately.
YIELD:  Serves 6 as appetizer or 4 for lunch


CRABBY SWEET POTATO BASKETS  from THE OUTER BANKS COOKBOOK, by Elizabeth Wiegand, Globe Pequot Press, 2013      
            These little cups made from grated sweet potatoes are perfect backdrops for buttered crabmeat, as both are sweet in flavor plus there’s a refreshing contrast in color and texture.  Surprisingly easy, what elegant finger food, perfect for cocktails, special events, or a buffet.  
For the Sweet Potato Baskets
2 cups grated sweet potato (about one very large)
3 tablespoons flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten
1.     Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray or grease a one-dozen mini-muffin pan.
2.     Place grated sweet potato in a mixing bowl.  Sprinkle with flour and salt, then add beaten egg.  Mix well.
3.     Press about one tablespoon of sweet potato mixture into each muffin cup, firming the mixture up the sides, also.
4.     Bake in oven for about 25 minutes, covering with foil, if needed, for the last five minutes to prevent burning.  Let pan cool for a few minutes, then remove baskets to a cooking rack.
For the Crab Mixture
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 pound (about 1 cup) lump or backfin crabmeat
½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 tablespoon chopped chives
salt and pepper to taste
1.     Melt butter in a small skillet.  Add crabmeat, sprinkle with old Bay and chives.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
2.     When potato baskets are cool enough to handle, fill each with about one tablespoon of the crab mixture.  Serve warm.
YIELD:  one dozen appetizers

Adapted from my friend Fred Thompson’s new cookbook, SOUTHERN SIDES, this tasty appetizer is healthy and so easy to prepare.  And what a great way to use a fall vegetable – sweet potato – as a substitute for avocado found in traditional guacamole recipes.  Fred likes to spice his up with roasted poblanos, and you can also substitute Serrano or canned chipotle chilies.  Blue corn tortilla chips provide a nice color contrast.

1 large sweet potato, cooked
½ cup chopped cherry tomatoes
½ cup chopped green onions (or red onions, if preferred)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 to 2 teaspoons chopped fresh jalapeno (or 1 roasted poblano chili or 1 teaspoon chopped canned chipotle), or more if you like it spicy
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
juice from 1 to 2 limes
1.     Scrape the sweet potato from its skin into a medium mixing bowl.  Mash with a fork. 
2.     Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the lime, and stir to mix.
3.     Add just enough lime juice to loosen the consistency for dipping chips, and also to taste.  Adjust salt, and perhaps add more jalapeno or chili if desired.