3.3.10 I Eat Therefore I Yam
The whole yam conversation can be very confusing. Americans use the word to refer to a rich, orange-fleshed variety of sweet potato. But botanically, yams are of the species dioscorea batatas, and are native to Africa, while sweet potatoes are of the species ipomoea batatas and are a member of the morning glory family, native to Ecuador and Peru. To everyone else in the world, a yam is what Americans call a “tropical yam,” a firm tuber with white flesh. There are more than 150 species of yams grown throughout the world, but true yams, with their bark-like, deeply brown skin, are seldom seen in our supermarkets. Whatever you call it, I am deeply fond of the garnet yam, pictured above. It has a sweet, creamy, brilliant orange flesh that, when roasted, could pass for dessert. Mixed with a little flavored ghee or just plain, it is truly delicious. And don't let me forget to mention what a great source of nutrition they are: rich in vitamins A and C, niacin, riboflavin and potassium, with some protein and plenty of fiber thrown in for good measure.My sister Sarita first introduced me to African peanut soup but I had not thought about it in years, until a fellow member of the Food52 community posted this recipe. It’s a rich, filling soup, perfect for these cold days of winter. Velvety and sweet from the yams, peanut butter and cream (you can substitute buttermilk), it is spiked with smoked paprika, cayenne pepper and fresh cilantro. I sometimes like to add cooked, shredded chicken if I happen to have it on hand.
AFRICAN-INSPIRED YAM & PEANUT SOUPAdapted from Food Bloggaserves 4-62 large garnet yams, scrubbed and split in half, lengthwise6 teaspoons olive oil, divided1 yellow onion, diced4 cups vegetable or chicken stock2 tablespoons light brown sugar1/2 cup creamy salted peanut butter2 teaspoons smoked pimentón (paprika)1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper1 cup cream (or substitute buttermilk)juice of 1 lime (about 1 tablespoon)1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro, plus extra for garnishsea salt, to taste2 tablespoons chopped salted peanuts, for optional garnishPreheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking pan with tinfoil (for easy clean up). Brush the flesh of the sweet potatoes with 2 teaspoons olive oil and roast, flesh side down, for 40-45 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Cool. Scoop out the flesh, and discard the skins.In a deep pot over medium heat, sauté onion in remaining 4 teaspoons olive oil until lightly browned. Add cooked potato flesh and broth. Bring to a boil; reduce to low, and add brown sugar, peanut butter and cayenne. Cook 7-8 minutes. Turn off heat, and cool slightly before pureeing.Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return to the pot over low heat. Add the cream (or buttermilk), lime juice and cilantro. Stir occasionally until soup is hot, 8-10 minutes.Season to taste with salt. If you prefer a thinner soup, simply add a bit more broth until desired consistency is reached.To serve, place in individual bowls and garnish each with minced cilantro and chopped peanuts.I also love this simple recipe for roasted yams (again, use garnets). You toss them with some olive oil, maple syrup and red chile flakes and throw them into a hot oven. They emerge beautifully caramelized and addictively spiced.
SWEET-SPICY ROASTED YAMSserves 8 4 large garnet yams 4 ounces pancetta 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoon maple syrup 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes 1 teaspoon sea salt Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel yams and cut into 1/2" cubes. Cut pancetta into small dice. Combine yams and pancetta in a large bowl and toss well with remaining ingredients. Spread this out on a sheet pan or large casserole. It's important that it be in a single layer as this promotes faster cooking and better caramelization. Roast in the oven for about 25 minutes or until nicely browned and sizzling, stirring 2-3 times.