Monday, January 4, 2010

Sweet Potato Gratin

Many recipes I've used many times come from my homeland of America. North America to be exact. Therefore, while they may be ethnically inspired, they are more or less, just, American.

Since the sweet potato, or the softer- yam- as it is known in America, is native to the Americas, this is not a stretch. It has long since spread throughout Polynesia, Hawaii, New Zealand, and Africa. The sweet potato is considered a staple crop in many African countries, such as Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi, since they grow heartily in temperate climates if rain is scarce.

Furthermore, the Center for Science in the Public Interest compared sweet potatoes to all other vegetables and ruled that sweet potatoes were of the highest nutritional value, due to high amounts of fiber, complex carbohydrates, vitamins A & C, iron, protien and calcium. What could make you happier about grubbing up something delicious with these orangy spuds?!

I made the following recipe for my boyfriend, A, and his parents, who rather typically of their generation, have a difficult time thinking up whole meals that don't contain either fish or meat. I do believe they said 'ruokka oli hyvaa'. :)

Sweet Potato Gratin
(serves 4)

2 tsp oil
1 large onion, chopped coarsely
2 tbs sage or herbs de province
3 medium sweet potatoes, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic
3/4 cup shredded guyere, smoked mozzerella, or any smoky flavored cheese
grated parmesan
1 cup cream, warmed

1. Preheat oven to 190C, oil a gratin dish, and set a pot of water to boil
2. Add sweet potatoes to water with a pinch of salt. Depending on how thinly you were able to slice them, they should take only a few minutes to soften. Test softness with a fork.
3. Heat onion, garlic and herbs in a skillet until the herbs are fragrant and the onion translucent.
4. Add sweet potatoes to skillet and mix well.
5. Layer 1/3 sweet potato mixture, 1/3 cheeses, until all are used. Salt and pepper to taste as you go.
6. Pour cream evenly over all other ingredients.
7. Bake with foil cover for 25 minutes and without for another 25 minutes.

I used a less expensive smoked cheese than guyere, and herbs de province instead of sage.
This recipe was modified from Deborah Madison's 'Vegetarian Suppers'.

I served it with steamed broccoli on the side and another vegetable high in beta carotine, a curried carrot salad.

Curried Carrot Salad
(serves 4-6)

1 lb carrots, peeled and shredded
1/4 cup finely diced leek/green onion/onion
juice of 1 lemon, or 1/4 cup vinegar (good quality red wine vinegar or equal)
1/4 tsp cumin
1 tsp curry
3tbs olive or safflower oil
1 tbs honey

Add all ingredients together and let marinate at least 20 minutes before serving.
Add optionally something sweet, like pineapple, shredded apples, raisins, or currants. Or use something bitter or sour, such as pickled capers for a burst of additional flavour. Sugar can be a substitute for the honey if that's all you have available.

This recipe can be modified to whatever you have in the kitchen, or or your preferences. I have also heard of people cutting thin slices of the carrot and quickly blanching them, cooling them before adding other ingredients.

This recipe was modified from Martha Rose Shulman's 'Fast Vegetarian Feats'.

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