- The Washington Times - Monday, February 23, 2004

I discovered a long time ago that there is a world beyond the classic Thanksgiving preparation of sweet potatoes with melted marshmallows on top.

As versatile as white-fleshed potatoes, the sweet potato is great baked whole, halved or cut into chunks, or cut into wedges and broiled or grilled, steamed and mashed.

Dark orange sweet potatoes are my favorite variety. Erroneously marketed as yams, these sweet potatoes are unrelated to the true yam. (True yams are white and sometimes purple, but never orange. They are bland and starchy and never sweet.) The long orange potato found at all supermarkets is the true sweet potato, although it may be labeled yam.

To add to the confusion, or the delight, of sweet potato lovers, they come in many colors, the most common being yellow, orange and creamy white. They also have names such as jewel, garnet and boniato. The important thing is that they make a perfect meal.

Last night, I split two potatoes lengthwise, brushed them with olive oil and roasted them in a hot oven, cut sides down, for about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, I steamed some broccoli rabe and tossed it with red bell pepper wedges that had been browned in olive oil with garlic and a pinch of crushed red pepper.

It made a satisfying meal in itself, but for the carnivores in my family, I pan-browned crumbled Italian turkey sausage and sprinkled it over the top of the broccoli rabe. For dessert, we ate Fairchild tangerines, abundant and in season right now. They are small; dark orange; and very, very sweet.

Oven-roasted sweet potatoes

The preparation time is 5 minutes, and the cooking time is 30 minutes.

4 large sweet potatoes, peeled or unpeeled, halved lengthwise

Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Scrub potatoes; peel, if desired; and halve lengthwise. Place cut sides up on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Turn cut sides down. Roast in preheated 400-degree oven for 20 minutes. Use a wide spatula to loosen potatoes and turn. Roast cut sides up until tender, about 10 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

Broccoli rabe with red bell peppers in garlic oil

The preparation time is 10 minutes, and the cooking time is 10 to 15 minutes.

1 bunch (about 1½ pounds) broccoli rabe, rinsed (see note)

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 large red bell pepper, quartered, seeds and membranes removed, cut into thin wedges

2 garlic cloves, sliced thin

Pinch of hot red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper

Cut off and discard 1 inch from the base of the broccoli rabe stems. Gather a few stalks of broccoli rabe and cut across at 2-inch intervals. Heat a large pot of water to boiling. Add broccoli pieces, and cook until tender, 4 to 5 minutes; drain well.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper and cook, stirring, until edges are browned, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until tender. Add drained broccoli rabe and cook, stirring, until blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Note: If broccoli rabe is not available, substitute 1 pound broccoli florets. Makes 4 servings.

Pan-browned crumbled Italian turkey sausage

The preparation time is 5 minutes, and the cooking time is 5 minutes.

1¼ pounds turkey sausage with Italian seasonings, removed from casings

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot enough to sizzle a drop of water, crumble the ground turkey into the skillet. Cook, stirring, until sausage is lightly browned.

To serve, place two halves of roasted sweet potatoes on each plate. Spoon broccoli on top, dividing evenly. Top with sausage, if using. Makes 4 servings.


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