When someone gives you a box of 16 waxed sweet potatoes, and you've only got 1 1/2 weeks to cook and eat it all, what strategy would you use? First, I pricked one and microwaved it about 5 minutes, then slit it open, mashed the flesh with a fork, and drizzled on a little bit of butter, salt, and pepper. That was good lunch for the two of us, but I didn't want to do that 15 more times in a row. So next, I peeled and cubed two sweet potatoes and steamed them until tender. Then I tossed them in a warm salad with spinach, rice noodles, hard-boiled eggs, and peanut sauce. Very satisfying. But after the salad, many steamed sweet potato cubes remained, but they tasted kind of bland and watery, not so great on their own. We couldn't bring ourselves to finish them. I hate wasting fresh produce, but I hate eating nasty produce even more.
I next attempted to make sweet potato gnocchi, served fresh with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. Following Mark Bittman's recipe, I mixed baked sweet potato with flour and grated Parmesan. Then I tried to get the gnocchi to be small and elongated, but the sweet potato was so gooey that it ended up in irregular lumps. This also turned out quite bland and watery, even with the cheese.
When I baked four sweet potatoes into wedge-shaped "fries," however, the fries vanished practically as soon as they hit the table. I used a recipe from Perfect Vegetables by the editors of Cooks Illustrated (I highly recommend this book for vegetable lovers). I oiled two baking sheets and heated them up in the oven until toasty. Meanwhile, I sliced each sweet potato into 8 length-wise wedges. I tossed them with a little bit of canola oil, some sea salt and fresh pepper. Then I spaced the wedges onto the preheated baking sheets and baked 15 minutes on each of the two flat sides of the wedges. Each wedge came out hot, tender, and with a little firmness on the flat sides. I served this with a dip of mayo mixed with curry powder. I would bake these fries again any day because they were quick, easy, way healthier than restaurant fries, and quite inexpensive. I wouldn't know from my own experience, but I bet these fries do the trick when you want your kids to eat their daily serving of beta-carotene.
Getting to the party - We have a lot of summer birthdays in my family, which, in addition to the summer I spent running a little cake-making business from my kitchen, has taught ...