Two Years Ago: Pumpkin Spice Pancakes
Do you ever have the feeling that the cosmos is trying to tell you something? Last Wednesday my friend Robin sent me a recipe for Grilled Sweet Potatoes and raved about the taste. Then on Thursday I found this little tidbit in the newspaper:
"The National Turkey Federation estimates that 46 million turkeys will be served on Thanksgiving, but what’s surprising is that more than half — 53 percent — will be cooked outdoors on grills, barbecues or smokers, according to a survey by the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association. In addition, one in five hosts intend to cook their vegetables outdoors, and more than one in 10 will prepare their appetizers in the open air. Wishful research? Perhaps, given the association’s vested interest. But snow no longer warrants shutting down home grills." (The italics are mine.)
Finally on Friday I read another article that said people are looking for new twists on traditional side dishes for Thanksgiving. OK, I get it! No more hints are needed. I therefore immediately headed into the kitchen and then to the grill, so I could pacify the cosmos by posting this recipe as a new grilled twist on Thanksgiving sweet potatoes.
I should mention that sweet potatoes, for me, are one of those foods that were ruined in childhood by their preparation method. (Peaches and wax beans are two other foods I remember with particular horror - I can't eat either to this day.) In the case of sweet potatoes, they were baked into mush, then mixed up with about a ton of brown sugar and topped with mini-marshmallows. The whole thing reminded me of overly sweet baby food with gooey white lumps. Luckily, that particular memory faded with time and distance so I was willing to try sweet potatoes (sans sugar in any form) a few years ago and to my surprise, I really like them when prepared in a savory way. Score one for conquering our childhood phobias!
I particularly like this recipe because it's fresher and lighter than your typical Thanksgiving sweet potato concoction, and it can be served either warm or at room temperature. My friend Jon in Phoenix just got a brand new smoker and is planning to smoke his Thanksgiving turkey - I think this would be the perfect side dish. It would also pair beautifully with pork, duck or chicken in addition to turkey. You could alter the dish by adding other vegetables or nuts or using different herbs - add cilantro for a southwest twist, add walnuts and tarragon for a french feel, or add a sprinkling of zatar seasoning for a middle eastern variation. During the summer, mix in a little barbecue seasoning and this would be a great side for grilled ribs. But I tend to like simpler recipes for Thanksgiving side dishes - there are so many different competing flavors already on the plate that making complex side dishes seems like overkill.
Finally, I should also mention that sweet potatoes are a very healthy food - low in sodium, and very low in saturated fat and cholesterol. The heart-healthy olive oil in this recipe actually helps the absorption of the vitamins. Sweet potatoes a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6 and potassium, and a very good source of vitamin A, vitamin C and manganese. That's more than you can say about most Thanksgiving dishes! I hope you enjoy it - and thank you, Robin!
Grilled Sweet Potatoes
Note: for a southwest version, add 1 teaspoon ground cumin and use cilantro as the herb.
2 ½ pounds sweet potatoes
¼ cup olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 green onions, cut into small pieces at a diagonal
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
¼ cup fresh herbs of choice – cilantro or thyme are good
In a large saucepan cover potatoes with salted cold water by 1 inch and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for approximately 15 minutes (depending on the size of the potatoes) or until a thin skewer may be inserted but the potatoes are not yet tender. Drain the potatoes in a colander and rinse under cold water to cool. When cool enough to handle, peel potatoes using a peeler or sharp knife and cut crosswise into ½” thick slices.
In a small bowl whisk together oil, salt, and cumin (if using) and brush some onto both sides of potato slices, reserving the remaining oil.
Prepare a grill for medium heat. Grill potatoes on an oiled rack until golden and grill-marked, about 90 seconds per side. Transfer to a bowl. Whisk lime juice into remaining oil with salt and pepper to taste and drizzle over potatoes; toss gently. Transfer to a platter or shallow bowl and sprinkle with green onions and fresh herbs.