Three Thanksgivings ago Derek’s cousin asked me which cookbook was my favorite. I wasn’t sure what my favorite was, but I told her Peter Berley’s Modern Vegetarian Kitchen was my most-used cookbook. I think she went and bought it because the subsequent Thanksgiving she made Berley’s recipe for sweet potatoes with orange and ginger. This year, my mom was thinking of making a dish for the seder that my sister had made up–a casserole made from sweet potatoes layered with slices of tomatoes and onions. But to me that just sounded weird. Maybe the tomato-sweet potato combo is good, but I just couldn’t imagine it. So instead I went looking for Berley’s recipe in my Mom’s copy of Modern Vegetarian Kitchen. I looked in the index under sweet potatoes, but the recipe wasn’t there. I was sure it was in the cookbook, however, so I browsed around until I found it: candied yams. Ah ha! I checked the index for yams and there it was. Urgh. I really wish cookbooks had better indices. Below is my version of Berley’s recipe.
- 3 pounds sweet potatoes
- zest from one orange, either in long strips or with a microplane
- 3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup maple syrup, depending on how sweet you want it [Berley calls for 1/2 cup]
- 1.5 – 3 Tbs. olive oil (depending on how rich you want it, you can also use butter or a mix) [Berley calls for 3 Tbs.]
- 1.5 Tbs. lemon juice
- 1 Tbs. grated ginger (grated on a microplane) [Berley calls for finely chopped ginger]
- 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon [Berley calls for 3 cinnamon sticks, broken in half]
- 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
- Preheat the oven to 375.
- Peel the sweet potatoes and cut each one into about 8 chunks. If your sweet potatoes are wide cut them into half lengthwise and then cut each half crosswise into four chunks. If you have really skinny sweet potatoes just cut them into 8 pieces crosswise.
- Place the sweet potato chunks in a single layer in a 9×13 inch pyrex baking dish. If using strips of zest tuck them in among the sweet potato chunks.
- In a medium bowl mix together the orange juice, grated zest (if using) maple syrup, olive oil, lemon juice, ginger, cinnamon, and salt. Pour on top of the sweet potatoes.
- Cover the pan with tin foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover, turn the sweet potatoes, and cook for another 30 minutes. If you used strips of orange zest remove them before serving.
When we made this for Passover we used the larger amounts of maple syrup and olive oil, and the sweet potatoes came out quite decadent. Everyone seemed to really like them. For non-special occasions, however, I want to try it with the smaller amounts of oil and syrup. I forgot to uncover my pan halfway through, and so there was still quite a bit of syrupy liquid in the bottom of the pan. I spooned it over the sweet potatoes when serving, and it was delicious, but I would have preferred it if the liquid had reduced a bit more. Berley says to keep the pan uncovered the whole time and baste the sweet potatoes every 15 minutes, but that’s just too much work for me. I prefer the half cover, half uncovered strategy with a flip in the middle.
Update May 2012: I was trying to use up the last of the sweet potatoes from the winter, and so I used about 3 3/4 pounds rather than the 3 pounds in the recipe. It was definitely tight, but I cut the potatoes into larger pieces and eventually managed to fit all of the pieces in a single layer in the 9×13 pan. I used my mom’s suggestion of 2 Tbs. olive oil and 1/3 cup maple syrup, and it came out well. To get 3/4 cups of orange juice I needed two small oranges, so I used the zest from both and it wasn’t too zesty. Everyone seemed to like it. It’s a very sweet recipe, but certainly tasty. I didn’t cover the pan at all—just flipped the sweet potatoes twice to keep the top half (which wasn’t submerged) from drying out. In the end the sweet potatoes were extremely soft and the sauce had reduced quite a bit, although not quite a much as I would have liked. I just spooned the extra sauce on top when I served the potatoes, and it worked out fine. I didn’t fully peel the sweet potatoes this time, and although the pieces with the peel didn’t seem to absorb the sauce quite as well, the partial peeling worked out fine, since the unpeeled portions absorbed plenty. The peel makes the mouthfeel a little less silky smooth, but it didn’t bother me. It’s definitely an option.
I just noticed that I had blogged this recipe previously. Here’s the original post.