Blog #6 – Sweet Potatoes

Tips for seasonal cooking could be the subject of its own blog. I live in the mid-Atlantic states of the United States, and in winter my local farmers have a lot of sweet potatoes and root crops.  So other than covering sweet potatoes with marsh mellows on Thanksgiving, what do we do with them?

Sweet Potatoes store well. I get my first sweet potatoes in September, and, they last easily until April.  In fact, sweet potatoes benefit by sitting in a closet, cupboard, pantry, or on a countertop.  They do not like refrigeration, so please keep them at room temperature. My local CSA providers me with three varieties.

Japanese Purple-Skinned sweet potatoes. They have “beige flesh that has chestnut overtones if baked slightly past the soft stage,” according to my local organic farmer.  They are excellent for sweet potato fries.

Beauregard sweet potatoes are another variety my local CSA provides.  They have orange flesh, not too sweet, nuanced in flavor, and usable any number of ways.=

O’Henry sweet potatoes, a white creamy very sweet type that can be baked, mashed, chunked and baked to be finished with garlic.


When the center for Science in the Public Interest compared sweet potatoes to other vegetables, they found them substantially more nutritious and particularly high in vitamins A, C and D.


Sweet Potato and Red Pepper Soup Adapted from Ken Newman in the New York Times. This is a fantastic soup, particularly when you’ve gotten a little tired of the taste of sweet potatoes.  The red peppers take it up a notch.


  • 2 small red bell peppers.
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 cups leftover mashed sweet potatoes.
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • Pinch saffron threads (optional)
  • Freshly ground white pepper to taste

1. Heat broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with foil. Arrange red peppers and broil about 4 inches from heat until skin is very charred, turn and repeat until the entire pepper is charred. Remove from oven and as soon as the peppers cool, peel off skin and coarsely chop them.

2. In a 4-quart saucepan, heat olive oil. Add onion, 3 thyme sprigs, bay leaf and salt. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add sweet potatoes, bell peppers, stock, 2 cups water and saffron and bring to a boil. Uncover, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

3. Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Pure the soup. Taste and add salt if needed, and white pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with leaves from remaining thyme sprigs, parsley sprigs or other herbs  and drizzle on a little olive oil.

Yield: 8 servings.

Sweet Potato Oven fries
Source: Haley Koch

1 large sweet potato cut into julienne strips
3-4 tbls olive oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper

Julienne the sweet potato, toss in olive oil to lightly coat and add salt and ground pepper. Spread out evenly on a cookie sheet and bake in 375 degree oven for about ten minutes. Turn the potatoes and bake another five minutes until the potatoes are golden brown.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes
By Christopher Koch

  • 1 lb fingerling sweet potatoes (3 to 4 inches long are best). Cut into 1 inch rounds.
  • 10 cloves garlic unpeeled.
  • 3-4 tbls olive oil
  • 1 lemon juiced fresh
  • salt and pepper to taste.

Put all the ingredients in a baking dish and bake in a 425 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until tender and beginning to brown.

Sweet Potato Custard
This is a tasty spiced sweet potato custard dessert recipe. This spiced custard is just perfect for a family dessert or special occasion.

1 3/4 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
1 cup pureed sweet potato
1/3 cup granulated sugar
dash salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
dash ground nutmeg
dash ground cloves
dash ground ginger
freshly ground nutmeg or ground cinnamon for topping


Heat oven to 350°. Butter 6 5- to 6-ounce custard cups; set cups in a large baking or roasting pan.

Heat the milk until very hot, set aside.

In a mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add sweet potato, sugar, salt, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and dashes of nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Whisk in milk and beat until well blended. Pour into the prepared custard cups.

Heat about 5 to 6 cups of water until nearly simmering.

Place the pan with cups in the hot oven then fill the outer pan with the very hot water until the water is about halfway up the side of the custard cups.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until edges are firm. The center of the custards will still jiggle a bit. Allow a little more time if you’re using larger custard cups, and check early if using very small or shallow cups.

Remove cups from water immediately and place on a wire rack to cool. Cover the cooled custard with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. The custards may be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Makes 4 to 6 servings, depending on the size of the cups.

Chinese Turnip Cakes A bonus treat this week.  My CSA sent me this recipe for their turnips and chinese radishes.  I’ve never made anything like it, but it is delicious and easy!

Turnip cakes are a Cantonese dim sum dish made of shredded radish (typically Chinese radish or daikon) and plain white rice flour. Despite the name, turnip is not usually an actual ingredient, although my CSA cook says turnips work fine.  Each pan-fried cake has a thin crunchy layer on the outside and a soft inside.

This recipe if from my CSA weekly newsletter.  “This traditional recipe  is often seen in Dim Sum houses, and is adapted from Florence Lin’s Complete Book of Chinese Noodles, Dumplings and Breads.  This recipe easily halves or doubles.  The recipe as we give it below, makes two loaf pans (9”x4”x3”).  This is really easy to make, doesn’t necessarily taste “radishy,” and is absolutely delicious!

3 pounds turnips or radishes
4 tablespoons neutral oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper or ¾ teaspoon black pepper
4 cups rice flour
1 bunch scallions, chopped
Optional: ½ pound bacon or ground pork, precooked to until edges are browned, soaked dried shrimp or shitake mushrooms and shredded carrots. (These flavoring ingredients may first be stir-fried before being added to the radish and flour/starch mixture.)
2 tablespoons neutral oil + 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
Garnishes: soy sauce, chili paste, minced scallions, garlic and/or cilantro.

Wash roots well.  Grate by hand or with a food processor.

Heat oil in wok or heavy-bottomed skillet, stir-fry the grated roots for 1 minute on medium heat.  Add the salt and pepper, cover and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring often.

Meanwhile, line two loaf pans with plastic wrap.

Mix rice flour with 3 ½ cups water, then pour mixture into roots, stirring constantly  Cook an additional 3 – 4 minutes.  Remove from heat. Stir in scallions and optional meat or stir fried vegetables.

Spoon mixture into loaf pans.  When full, push down to remove air bubbles.

Steam these loaf pans in a wok or large pot with a steamer basket for 45 minutes.  Check the water level regularly to make sure you don’t burn the bottom of the pan.

Let cool in loaf pans and then refrigerate.

When cold, remove turnip cakes from pan and slice ½ inches.

Heat a skillet over high heat. Add second set of oil. Pan-fry until crispy on both sides.

Serve with garnishes.

About Christopher Koch

Christopher Koch is a journalist and filmmaker who is now teaching at Montgomery Community College
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2 Responses to Blog #6 – Sweet Potatoes

  1. andie says:

    christopher, o.henry magazine is doing a short mention about the o.henry potato. could we use your photo and mention your blog?

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