Caribbean Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a wonderful root vegetable, sweet and flavorful, and loaded with dietary fiber (an important element in controlling cholesterol and some types of cancer). Sweet potatoes contain naturally occurring sugars, complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium. They have almost twice the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A, 42 percent of the recommendation for vitamin C, four times the RDA for beta carotene, and, when prepared and eaten with the skin on, sweet potatoes have more fiber than oatmeal. To top that off, an average-sized sweet potato contains only about 130-160 calories.
Among root vegetables, sweet potatoes offer the lowest glycemic index rating, because it digests slowly. This gradual rise in blood sugar makes you feel satisfied longer, which is also an advantage for maintaining weight or to shed excess pounds. With what seems like the entire population fearing “carbs,” sweet potatoes goes on the “good for you” list.
Try them mashed, baked, fried, in desserts, or prepared as I do in the recipe that follows. I picked up this simple recipe on a recent trip to the Caribbean where sweet potatoes overfill the bins in local groceries.
5-6 sweet potatoes, peeled or not, and cubed
1/2 cup maple syrup or agave nectar
3 T. freshly grated ginger
2-3 T. olive oil
1 t. ground cardamom
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1/2 t. ground chipolte pepper powder (optional)
1/2 c. chopped roasted peanuts (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the cubed sweet potatoes, salt, pepper, maple syrup or agave nectar, ginger, oil, cardamom, and chipotle, if using. Transfer to a large terra cotta baking dish or a large, deep cast iron frying pan. Cast iron pans make wonderful baking dishes.
Bake for about 20 minutes, then turn the mixture in the pan to get the pieces from the bottom of the pan to the top. Continue baking for an additional 20 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are fork tender and caramelized.
Top with the chopped peanuts, if you like, or serve as is over rice, black beans, tucked into my chickpea crepes or with my spicy Jamacan Jerk Tempeh or Tofu. I have used these leftover in roll up sandwiches with avocado, scallions, lettuce, and tomato. These make substitute for homefries with breakfast as well.
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