- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Creatures of habit that we are, many of us experience our traditional holiday foods as sacred. Our heirloom menus are emblems of constancy in this otherwise dizzying modern world.

There are probably a good number of us nostalgic for the traditional but also interested in something new and different. For those of you who would like something just a touch unusual but still in keeping with tradition, I offer a variation on the trusty sweet potato.

Normally, we bake or boil sweet potatoes and then mash them. In my new version, we roast sweet potatoes at a surprisingly high temperature until they reduce slightly and caramelize. They are then cooled until comfortable to handle, and the pieces are marinated in a fragrant walnut oil with accents of lime, garlic, honey and mustard. The final touch is a sprinkling of crimson pomegranate seed. This dish tastes wonderful warm, at room temperature or cold.

Roasted sweet potatoes in walnut oil with pomegranates

Nonstick cooking spray

2 pounds sweet potatoes (try to find 6 long and narrow potatoes, about 5 ounces each)

3 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon honey (the lighter the color, the milder the flavor)

1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic

1 teaspoon salt, divided

½ cup toasted walnut oil (if not toasted, then use a high quality, fragrant variety)

Seeds from 2 medium pomegranates (see note)

Line a baking tray with foil or parchment paper and mist with nonstick spray.

Cut unpeeled sweet potatoes into 1-inch thick rounds. Place on prepared tray, then set tray on center rack of preheated 450-degree oven for 10 minutes. Using a spatula, tongs or fork, turn sweet potatoes over so that they roast evenly. Roast for another 10 minutes or until fork tender but not too terribly soft. Be careful not to let them burn.

To prepare the marinade, measure lime juice, vinegar, mustard, honey, garlic and ½ teaspoon salt into a small bowl. Whisk steadily while you drizzle in the walnut oil, creating a slightly thickened emulsion. Set aside.

Remove tray from oven and let sweet potato pieces cool until comfortable to handle. Peel them by hand (skin should strip off easily) and transfer to a medium-large bowl.

Sprinkle with remaining ½ teaspoon salt and pour in the marinade. Stir gently, then cover bowl and let sit for at least 1 hour, shaking a bit every now and then to redistribute marinade. If you plan to let it marinate longer, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. If you want to serve it cold, remove from refrigerator just before serving. If you prefer room temperature, remove from refrigerator 2 hours ahead. Before serving, adorn the top generously with pomegranate seeds. Makes 6 servings.

Note: To extract pomegranate seeds from the pith, have ready a large bowl of cold water. With a sharp knife, slice pomegranate into quarters, right through the skin. Place pieces in water, then pull the pith out and pull seeds from the pith. Almost like magic, the seeds will sink to the bottom of the water.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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