Not a Potato

In 1992, a comparison was done between the nutritional value of sweet potatoes and those of other vegetables. Considering fiber, complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A and C, iron and calcium, the sweet potato ranked highest in nutritional value. Sweet potatoes are rich in complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, beta carotene, vitamin C and vitamin B6. Studies have consistently shown that a high intake of beta carotene-rich vegetables and fruits, like sweet potatoes, can significantly reduce the risks of cancer. Sweet potatoes contain virtually no fat or sodium. And, despite the name “sweet,” they may be a beneficial food for diabetics, as studies have revealed that they help to stabilize blood sugar levels.

The sweet potato is not actually a potato, only a distant cousin. Potatoes are tubers; sweet potatoes are roots. The reason for the name may be found in the original Spanish word for sweet potato — “batata.” From there it was an easy change to potato and the common mistake that the two are related.

The sweet potato has yellow or orange flesh, and its thin skin may either be white, yellow, orange, red or purple. Sometimes this root vegetable will be shaped like a potato, being short with rounded ends, while other times it will be longer with tapered ends.

When selecting sweet potatoes, only choose those that are smooth, plump, dry and clean. Always use a stainless steel knife when cutting a sweet potato or the flesh will discolor.

It takes six to eight weeks after harvest for sweet potatoes to reach their peak in sweetness. They can be stored at home for up to two months in a dark cool place. Sweet potatoes can be baked, grilled, steamed, sautéed and roasted. Their mildly sweet flavor lends itself to both sweet and savory dishes. Roasting sweet potatoes rather than boiling them will keep all the nutritional benefits and bring out their inherent flavor. Bake up some sweet potato wedges with cinnamon and brown sugar or add them to a gratin. Any way you use them will be sure to please your family.

All this fascinating information is food for thought as you plan your Pesach menus. Serve them instead of white potatoes to ramp up the health benefits of your Yom Tov meals.

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

2 Bartlett pears

Juice of 1 lemon

6 medium sweet potatoes

4 tablespoons canola oil

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves, optional

1/2 cup light brown or regular granulated sugar

Sweet potatoes and pears go well together in this easy dish.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Peel, core, and roughly chop the pears; place in the water. Add the lemon juice. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until the pears are easily pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes. Remove pears using a slotted spoon, and set aside.

Wash potatoes and dry. Rub with a bit of canola oil and prick skins with a fork. Bake potatoes in a roasting pan at 400° F for 1 hour or until done. Smaller potatoes only need about 45 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool slightly.

Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop the cooked flesh into a large bowl, reserving the empty potato skins. Add the oil and pears to the potatoes and mash until smooth. Add the egg, salt, pepper, cloves and spoon or pipe into the reserved shells. Place filled potatoes on a lined baking pan.

Glazed Sweet Potatoes

1/4 cup canola oil

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1 cinnamon stick

4 pounds sweet potatoes

Sprinkle sugar over potato tops and bake until tops brown, about 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

Preheat oven to 400° F. Line a sheet pan with parchment.

In a medium saucepan, bring to a boil the oil, sugar, water, salt and ginger. Add the cinnamon stick and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove cinnamon stick and discard.

Peel sweet potatoes and cut them in wedges lengthwise. Toss potato wedges with brown sugar mixture and spread on prepared pan. Bake 40 minutes or until tender, stirring once after 20 minutes. Serve immediately.