Sweet Potatoes: Hold the Marshmallows

It is only recently that I discovered how much I like sweet potatoes. For me, there are no happy childhood memories of the aroma of roasting sweet potatoes wafting from my mother’s warm and cozy kitchen. My Italian-American mother prepared sweet potatoes just once a year--for Thanksgiving dinner. I can still see them, topped with melted miniature marshmallows, brown sugar and pecans. I hated the way they looked and refused to eat them.

My appreciation for the sweet potato comes from my own kitchen--and my personal quest to learn more about cooking with this gnarled, dead-looking, challenging and, ultimately, delectable tuber.

Despite its “sweet” taste, a medium sweet potato contains only about 150 calories--comparable to the calories in a white potato. It is a superb source of Vitamin A and an excellent source of Vitamin C.

But what I love most is the sweet potato’s versatility. I use it for soup or stew or serve it plain, either roasted, broiled or boiled. It is good cut into small pieces and added to risotto or pilaf. I cut up cooked sweet potatoes and add them to a frittata. They are even good in potato salad.


In the recipe below I take plain sweet potatoes, bake them whole and serve them split and filled with a mixture of black beans cooked with sweet red peppers, onion and spices.


While the oven is baking the sweet potatoes, bake some apples for dessert. Baste the apples with honey and bake until tender. They are especially good served warm, with the juices spooned over the tops.


4 large sweet potatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups chopped sweet red pepper

1 cup chopped onions


1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 (14- to 15-ounce) can cut peeled tomatoes with juices


1 (15- to 16-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon minced, seeded jalapeno chile


4 lime wedges


1 cup plain low-fat yogurt

1/4 cup cilantro leaves, optional

1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion tops

Rinse sweet potatoes thoroughly, but do not peel. (Sweet potatoes darken very quickly once they are peeled.) Pierce with fork before baking to allow steam to vent. Place on foil-lined baking pan to catch juices. Bake at 350 degrees until tender when pierced with skewer or wooden pick, 40 to 60 minutes, depending on size.


Meanwhile, prepare black beans. Combine oil, sweet red pepper and onions in large skillet. Cook, stirring, until golden, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Stir in chili powder and cumin along with tomatoes and beans. Bring to boil. Cover and cook over low heat 20 minutes. Stir in jalapenos. Season to taste with salt.

To serve, arrange 1 sweet potato on each dinner plate. Split potato open and mash slightly with fork. Spoon some black beans down center of each. Squeeze juice from lime wedge over each. Top with 1 spoonful yogurt. Sprinkle with cilantro and sliced green onions. Makes 4 servings.


4 Golden Delicious apples


2 tablespoons butter

1 to 2 tablespoons raisins, dried currants or minced candied ginger

2 tablespoons honey

Remove cores from apples with apple corer. Stand upright in baking dish. Cut butter into small pieces and stuff evenly into cored-out apples. Stuff some raisins into each cored-out apple. Drizzle tops with honey, dividing evenly.


In baking pan bake apples at 350 degrees, basting with pan juices every 15 minutes until apples are tender, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly, basting with pan juices before serving. Makes 4 servings.