Roast sweet potatoes for a romantic winter treat

If you only eat sweet potatoes at the Thanksgiving table when they’re covered in marshmallows, brown sugar, or maple syrup, you’re missing out on an incredibly versatile vegetable.

Photo by Claudia Alexandre

Mojo sauce is made with green pepper, cilantro, garlic and more.

Full of vitamins A and C, sweet potatoes can be steamed, roasted or fried. Like regular potatoes, they can be a meal on their own simply roasted in their jackets and topped with any number of ingredients, from a simple block of butter to crumbled bacon and a fried egg to feta and chimichurri. Their versatility, easy cultivation and rapid growth make them a popular street food in many parts of the world.

Did you know that the sweet potato is related to the morning glory? The vine originated in Central and South America 5,000 years ago. Carbon dating shows Polynesians were also eating this root vegetable as early as 1000 AD. Archaeologists believe Polynesians built huge catamarans, sailed to Peru and brought the plants back a few hundred years before Christopher Columbus.

The Spanish introduced them to the Philippines in the early 1500s and to the Japanese in the 1600s, saving many from starvation when rice crops failed. It was also around the same time that they landed on English soil. Today, there are a few thousand varieties that vary in color from light yellow to purple. They are eaten for breakfast with peanut sauce in Kenya and as a pizza topping in Korea.

I hope some of this worked up your appetite and if you haven’t already, you’ll give the sweet potatoes a try. The following recipe can be in the oven and on the table in less than an hour; the mojo sauce is well worth the effort. It will keep for three to four days in the refrigerator and is also excellent on a variety of other dishes, including roasted carrots, rice or fish.

You can easily double the recipe. Perfect for a romantic winter night – remember that Valentine’s Day is less than two weeks away – in front of a roaring (electric) fire.

Claudia Alexander has been happily cooking for her family and friends for over three decades. She has a weekly food blog, sweetbynurture.com. Contact her at [email protected]com.

RECEIPTS

Lamb Chops with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Mojo Sauce

For 2

3 lamb loin chops

1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into ½-inch strips

1 medium onion peeled, halved and cut into ½ inch strips

¾ pound sweet potatoes, washed and cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces

4 tablespoons of olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

mojo sauce

1 clove garlic sliced

4 tablespoons of olive oil

1 teaspoon of cumin

1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar

½ teaspoon of salt

1 cup cilantro leaves

¼ chopped green pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Salt and pepper the chops and set aside. Toss red pepper, onion and sweet potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper and spread on a baking sheet large enough to hold them all in a single layer. Bake for 30 minutes. While they cook, prepare the sauce by combining all the ingredients in a food processor and blending. You want the texture to be similar to pesto.

Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat, add oil and sear the chops for 2 minutes, flip and repeat. Place them on the roasted vegetables and bake for another 10 minutes. Top with 2 or 3 spoonfuls of sauce.

– Adapted from Diana Henry’s cookbook, “From oven to table”

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