Meatless Monday: Yummy Sweet Potato Tacos


Yes, yes, I know the calendar says it’s May, and you’re thinking, Why would I want to eat a sweet potato when it’s warm enough for tulips to bloom. Don’t worry yourself about such details, because this little number is the furthest thing from winter. And I dare ya, just like I did with Mister MA, to try this one on all the sweet potato naysayers in your midst. I’m telling you, I’ve got a gem right here, and you need not waste one more minute in dubious contemplation.


(Kim O'Donnel)

Here’s how easy it gets: Boil a large-ish sweet potato and mash it, and zing it up with some chopped garlic and the heat of a chile or cayenne. Whip up a little pepper-onion mix in the skillet, grate some cheese and assemble these little beauties. Dinner is ready in about 45 minutes, sooner if you’ve got a kitchen partner.

Here’s the madness behind my sweet potato motivation in May: Sweet potatoes make great mash, and great mash means a dry filling that sticks to other stuff in a tortilla and makes for a swell taco. I suppose you could mash up a few spuds instead, but I love the antioxidant beta carotene bennies you get from the sweet potato, plus it’s darn pretty in a tortilla.

As I wolfed down my third taco, I started to think of the possibilities -- a lil’ spinach tucked inside, or chopped pineapple, scallions and queso fresco or feta instead of the melty cheese. See how much fun you can have on a Monday night?

KOD’s Sweet Potato Tacos
Ingredients
1 large sweet potato
1 clove garlic, minced or mashed
¼ teaspoon cayenne and/or smoked paprika to taste
½ fresh chile of choice, seeded and diced (optional)
salt to taste
1 medium yellow onion, cut into half moons
½ red or yellow bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Vegetable oil for frying tortillas
8 -10 small corn tortillas
at least ½ cup grated smoked mozzarella and/or cheddar
Small bunch cilantro, chopped, and lime wedges, for garnish

Method
Peel and cut sweet potato into cubes. Place in a medium saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook until fork tender, about 25 minutes, and drain. Mash with garlic, spice, chile (if using) and salt. Taste for seasoning and adjust. Should have a little kick in the mouth.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add onion half moons and diced pepper and allow to soften, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and reserve.

Meanwhile, prepare the tortillas: Heat ¼ teaspoon of oil in a skillet over medium-heat hit. When oil is hot, place a tortilla in the pan and fry until soft, about 25 seconds; flip and repeat with the other side. Do not let tortilla get too crisp; reduce heat if this happen. It’s key to keep oil to a minimum, as the tortillas will end up unpleasantly greasy.

Place tortillas on a plate and keep warm, and preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Assemble your tacos: Spoon a scant tablespoon of sweet potato mash in the center of each tortilla, and flatten it a bit. Add a teaspoon or so of onion-peppers and top with grated cheese. Fold over so that ends meet and place on a baking sheet.

Bake for about 8 minutes, until somewhat crispy and cheese is melted.

Garnish with cilantro and lime. Ripe avocado slices also make a luscious topping!

Makes about 8 tacos, with a lil' extra for cook's treat.

By Kim ODonnel |  May 4, 2009; 7:00 AM ET Meatless Monday
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Comments

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(eyes popping open wide)
OOHHHH MY! I am definitely going to try this. Even saw sweet potatos at the store yesterday but passed them over for avocados - which we haven't seen for months and months - and now a dish that can feature both. Thank you, Kim!

Posted by: CentreofNowhere | May 4, 2009 7:51 AM

Another meatless monday question for you -- I'm going to make your falafel tonight, but the soaked peas have been drained and sitting patiently in my freezer since your original entry (something came up and I literally had to put the idea on ice)

How screwed am I? Or will I be ok? Or is your suggestion to give it a try and report back tomorrow so you can tell the next poor sap what not to do?
Thanks!!

Posted by: capecodner424 | May 4, 2009 10:41 AM

Capcodner424, I've never worked with frozen/thawed beans, but I'm thinking you'll be fine. Just make sure beans are completely thawed and drain off residual water. Keep me posted!

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | May 4, 2009 11:10 AM

These sound delicious. Will they work with white sweet potatoes (those Japanese kind..or even what our markets here call Jersey Whites)? I don't like those big stringy orange ones.

Posted by: khachiya1 | May 4, 2009 11:35 AM

I think a nice variation would be to replace the red or yellow pepper, which aren't available yet at my farmers' market, with thinly sliced cabbage (but don't cook it). This is the topping of choice for tacos Chez Esleigh because it tastes so great with lime and avocado, and it's crunchier than lettuce or other greens.

Posted by: esleigh | May 4, 2009 11:42 AM

Khachiya1, I don't see why not! I think this would work beautifully with mashed parsnips and taters, too.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | May 4, 2009 11:43 AM

Hmm. I'm a big fan of mashed sweet potatoes with chipotle, which sounds like it would fit in. Sweet, smoky, and a bit spicy. Worth a try sometime.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | May 4, 2009 12:05 PM

Kim,

I think in the past you have mentioned combining sweet potatoes and black beans? Can you explain about that?

p.s. I miss your chats!

Posted by: qb9b | May 4, 2009 12:17 PM

qb9b, I love the combo of sweet potatoes and black beans. Works best as a veggie chili or stew, in my opinion. P.S. My chat, now called Table Talk, is living at Culinate, Thurs at 1ET: http://www.culinate.com/columns/table_talk
Stop by and say hi this Thursday!

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | May 4, 2009 12:35 PM

This, with flour tortillas instead, will be dinner tonight!

Posted by: earlysun | May 4, 2009 12:51 PM

Kim,
Hope I am not violating WaPo rules or etiquette here, but I have a question about your Culinate chats. The chats seem to be much more interactive and "real time" than the WaPo chats were. That can be a real advantage, I realize. However, I am confused about something: can I post a question in advance? It is hard to tell in the new format.

Sorry if this is an innapropriate or stupidly newbie question. But I do miss Kim on Tuesdays.

Thanks.

Posted by: Agathist | May 4, 2009 11:03 PM

Agathist, in this new format, you cannot submit a question in advance, but apparently there is a way to submit a question via twitter, if that is of interest. Let me know @kimodonnel

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | May 4, 2009 11:16 PM

I have been loving sweet potato and black bean tacos for years! For a fastish version, I microwave the sweet potato while I saute some onions to the point of caramelization. Then I cut the sweet potato into big chunks, saute for a couple minutes in a little oil with powdered cumin and coriander and salt, and layer all of the above into hard taco shells with some mashed black beans and salsa.

A yummy, healthy, cheap dinner in 20 minutes or less! (10 minutes or less if you skip the onion and use grated cheddar instead). Leftovers keep great (so long as you don't assemble the tacos until the last minute).

Posted by: inCoHeights | May 4, 2009 11:30 PM

I was wondering what to do with my sweet potatoes! Thanks for the great tip.

Posted by: Sam888 | May 4, 2009 11:36 PM

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