intensely trivial

No more boring holiday food!

‘Tis the season for sweet potatoes! You’ll be noticing them soon in the grocery store for really cheap. I’ve been known to see ads for, say, 5 lbs. of sweet potatoes for a dollar, so of course I buy them! You can’t beat that for nutrition and taste — at least if you’re willing to be a little creative with them. The marshmallowy, orange-glazey, sugary, buttery sweet potatoes sure do hit my sweet tooth, but truthfully, those qualify more as a dessert than a vegetable. (Don’t deceive yourself anymore.)
Today I want to share with you a recipe that will change the way you think about sweet potatoes. In fact, I made it again today for our church small group. They don’t mind my culinary adventures — and this is an adventure! These sweet potatoes will sparkle in your mouth! And you may never make sweet-potato dessert again. 🙂
You can get all the ingredients for these at a normal grocery store, I think. But it is WORTH a trip to the international store to buy the spices! (Go to one that sells ingredients for Indian food.)

Grocery list for the int’l store (might as well buy several things if you’re going — it’s probably the best deal you’ll find on spices):

Cardamom pods

ground turmeric
whole dried hot red chiles
cardamom pods
cinnamon sticks
curry leaves (or basil or cilantro if neither of the other two is available)
a lime or two

*A NOTE ON COOKING THIS KIND OF FOOD*Lime juice squeezed, cilantro chopped, onions sliced; NOW you heat the oil.
OK, this is similar to Indian food in that you have to be FAST! So measure out/chop/squeeze your ingredients before you start heating your oil, and don’t leave the stove while you’re frying the spices. The spice-frying part happens in a matter of 30 seconds or less (get your oil good and hot before you start), and then you have to get the onions in the pan, or the spices will burn. Kinda ruins the main flavors of the dish.
Another thing that always used to stymie me was the onion-frying bit. Your pan has to be pretty hot, and sometimes it takes a few extra minutes till they’re ready, but you really do want them to be lightly browned. It’s a whole new flavor.

These onions are not quite as brown as I would like, but getting there.

Sri Lankan Sweet Potatoes

Dried whole red chiles -- put these in some hot oil in a pan for a few seconds, and voila! Instant great flavor and warmth.

from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian

— 2 very large sweet potatoes (about 2 1/2 lbs.)
— 1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
— 5 tbsp. oil
— 3 whole dried hot red chiles, broken into halves
— 2 whole cardamom pods
— 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
— 20 fresh curry leaves (or basil or cilantro, for different flavors)
— 3 good-sized onions, sliced into thin rings
— 1-3 tsp. crushed dried hot red chiles (I actually usually leave this out, b/c 3 whole dried chiles fried in oil, as mentioned above and below, bring a lot of heat; I try to tone things down for some audiences. Our family could probably handle 1 tsp. of the crushed peppers in addition to the whole chiles.)
— 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 tsp. salt
— juice from one freshly squeezed lime

1. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into bite-sized chunks. Put them in a large pot and cover with water. Add the turmeric and bring to a boil. Stir well to mix in the turmeric. Boil, uncovered, for 5-6 min. or till sweet potatoes are tender but still firm. Drain.
2. Put the oil in a large frying pan (big enough to hold all your ingredients, eventually), and set over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the red chiles. Stir once, and when the chiles darken, a matter of seconds, put in the cardamom and cinnamon. Stir once or twice, and put in the curry leaves (when I use cilantro, I wait to put it in at the end so the flavor is more bitey). Stir once and put in the onions. Stir and cook the onions for 5-6 min., or until they are lightly browned. Put in the drained sweet potatoes. Stir and fry for 5 min. Put in the crushed red chiles, salt, and lime juice. Stir and cook, lowering the heat as needed, until the sweet potatoes are tender enough for your taste.
3. Remove the cinnamon and cardamom before serving.

Ready for your mouth to start dancing?

The picture doesn’t look as good as in real life — of course. This time my sweet potatoes got a little mushier than is pretty, but still it tasted mighty good.


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  1. * carmen says:

    Mmmm, I love me some sweet potatoes! 🙂 I’ll have to try this.

    Posted 7 years, 7 months ago

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