A Sweet Potato Two-Fer

I had a moment yesterday that only can happen at the neighborhood farmers' market, an affirming moment when I exclaim, "This is why I shop locally!"

As I glanced over the selection of seasonal fruits and veg at the stand of Flowers of the Forest Farm in Great Mills, Md., I spotted a crate of greens that I had never seen before. The I saw the sign which read: "Sweet Potato Greens, $2/pound."

Sweet potatoes and their sweet, tender greens. (Kim O'Donnel)

I asked the farmer how I might prepare them - they are so tender, and she agreed, mentioning they might go well in a raw salad with other greens. Then James, the vendor who sells baked goods for Grace's Pastries, walked over and chimed in. He says back home in his native Liberia sweet potato greens are a beloved dish.

"We fry them," he says, looking excited to prepare a bunch later that day.
"With a little onion?" I ask. He nods yes.
Oh yes.
"And [chile] pepper?"
Pepper too.

With that ringing West African endorsement, I bought a bunch to whip up for supper. When I got home and started rummaging through the fridge, I realize I've got a bunch of sweet potatoes purchased earlier in the week from Clarendon farm market. It might be fun to showcase the whole sweet potato on one plate, I think out loud.

Already dog-eared was a recipe I spotted this week in the current issue of Martha Stewart Living -- roasted mashed sweet potatoes married with Thai red curry paste and coconut milk.

Aside from the hour of roasting time, the sweet potatoes take about 30 minutes to prepare, and let me tell you, I've got a new favorite way to eat sweet potatoes. Man, is this combination a treat! I love the mellowness of the coconut milk and how it plays off the heat of the curry paste. Such a kicky combination.

And the greens - my only complaint is that I didn't buy enough. Tender-leaved like baby kale or lamb's quarters, sweet potato greens need about five, seven minutes of cooking time, just enough to wilt them and let them talk to the aromatics in the pan. They are faintly sweet, not bitter like turnip or mustard greens, and they worked beautifully with a quick mix of onions, garlic and chile pepper. I'm thinking they'd like a little ginger next time, or maybe a handful of shallots or scallions.

Next time you're at market, keep your eyes peeled for sweet potato greens, and don't be shy, give them a try. They are my new favorite green veg.

Recipes below the jump.

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Mashed Red-Curry Sweet Potatoes
Adapted from the November 2007 issue of "Martha Stewart Living"

6 medium sweet potatoes (about four pounds)
3/4 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
1/4 cup good quality maple syrup (I used about 1 teaspoon because my sweet potatoes were freshly harvested and sweet to begin with)
A few tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prick sweet potatoes all over with a fork. Place on a baking sheet and bake until soft, about one hour. Let cool slightly. Scoop flesh out of skins with a spoon and transfer to a bowl. Mash with a potato masher.

In a saucepan, combine coconut milk and curry paste and bring up to a simmer. Cook for five minutes and stir, ensuring that curry paste is integrated. Add mashed sweet potatoes and two tablespoons of butter and salt, stirring well. Taste and add maple syrup if sweeter result is desired.

Butter small gratin dishes or a larger six-cup baking/casserole dish. Spoon sweet potato mixture into dish and dot with another tablespoon of butter. Place under broiler and allow to brown, three to four minutes.

Makes six servings.

Ad Hoc Sweet Potato Greens

vegetable oil of choice for sauteeing
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 chile pepper of choice, seeded and minced
1/4 pound sweet potato greens, thoroughly rinsed, stems removed
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce

Heat a skillet over medium heat and add enough oil to coat surface of pan. Add garlic, onion and chile, and allow to soften, about three-five minutes, making sure that vegetables don't burn.

Add greens, and with tongs, toss and coat well with aromatics. Allow to cook for at least five minutes, until greens wilt and soften. Add soy sauce just before serving.

Makes two-three side-dish servings.

By Kim ODonnel |  October 15, 2007; 12:04 PM ET Fall Produce , Seasonal Produce , Vegetarian/Vegan
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Hmm, this is reminding me of a wonderful recipe I haven't made in quite a while from Lorna Sass' vegetarian pressure cooker cookbook. It is a Thai chickpea dish. You cook the chickpeas in coconut milk with red curry paste and sweet potatoes (along with basil, cilantro, and a few other things). When it's all done, you stir it up, and the sweet potatoes basically dissolve into the sauce. Mmmmm.

Posted by: EP | October 15, 2007 1:10 PM

I've got the first of our winter radishes in this week. It seems these are much earthier than the little round red guys I'm more used to. The greens are also a bit sturdier and more bitter than spring radish greens.

For dinner tonight, I'm planning to steam the sliced radishes and toss with butter, salt and pepper, and the greens...braise them in something a bit sweet? Braise in beer? Do them like escarole with lemon, garlic, red pepper flakes and a pinch of sugar? Any suggestions for me? Thanks!

Posted by: librarylady | October 16, 2007 8:37 AM

Skip the butter in the sweet potato mash. You'll never miss it. Just use cooking spray inside the little dishes and on the top to promote browning.

And for an even more intensely caramelized flavor, peel and cube the sweet potatoes and toss with a tablespoon of olive olive before roasting in a single layer.

If you roast the potatoes whole, peel 'em first, then spray with cooking spray and roast. Much easier than scooping out the flesh afterwards and won't hurt the texture a bit.

Posted by: Leslie | October 16, 2007 6:14 PM

I have purple sweet potato vines growing in containers. Can I safely cook the leaves from these ornamental plants? Last fall when I took the plants out there were tiny sweet potatoes at the roots so I assume that the leaves are edible, but I want to be sure.
Thank you.

Posted by: Cynthia | October 25, 2007 11:45 AM

Yippee! Packed up the ornamental flower pots but could not part with the potatoes. I was thrilled to see they truly are edible - and the leaves - how exciting! Can't believe I've missed this treat all these years. Thank you. Thank you! Thank you!!!

Posted by: Chicago Native | November 7, 2007 12:35 PM

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