Events, Ingredients, Peruvian Cuisine, Recipes

Cebiche-Style Sweet Potatoes (Yams) for Thanksgiving

Four Different Kinds of Sweet Potatoes in Utah

Four Different Kinds of Sweet Potatoes in Utah

Without Peru we would have no Thanksgiving in the United States. The meal relies on foods that originated in the Inca Empire.

The Spanish invaded that land almost a hundred years before the Puritans met Squanto. Besides gold they took from that land, and earlier from Central America, crops that revolutionized the Old World.

Today, we consume some of them as part of our Thanksgiving feast. The turkey originated in Mexico, but potatoes and sweet potatoes (also called yams in North America) came from Peru.

I was thinking about this and also realized how codified our Thanksgivings are, despite the probably millions of different recipes on the web. One version or another of candied yams seems what most Americans expect on their table when everyone comes together for the miracle, rare in our busy world, of a shining and heavenly scented feast.

My mind traveled in an instant to Peru, and I thought of sweet potatoes in all their color sliced and served on the side of a good ceviche where they provide a sweet yet hearty contrast to the brilliance of fresh fish in lime juice.

A full ceviche might be too much for Thanksgiving and too difficult to make given how hard it is to get fresh fish in most of our very big country. However, if you do not mind a table without lots of brown sugar and even marshmallow on their yams, sliced sweet potatoes dressed in a lime sauce is a wonderful addition to your meal.

Just tart enough—like cranberries, and yet subtly sweet enough to balance the powerful perfume and taste of roast turkey, this dish adds a new zing to tired Thanksgiving traditions.

A Display of Sweet Potatoes at Liberty Heights Fresh in Utah
A Display of Sweet Potatoes at Liberty Heights Fresh in Utah

Sweet potatoes also come in a rainbow of colors. Most people know the orange we commonly call yams. Many stores these days stock other colors and specialty stores stock more. They come in a rainbow from dark purple to red, yellow, and white. They bring a gem-like beauty to your table.

With this in mind, here are three ideas to refresh how you think of sweet potatoes. They range from very basic and almost American to more exotic and, hence, more Peruvian. In any case they are all easy to prepare and wonderfully tasty.

All of them are made from baked, whole sweet potatoes. Really, you just have to toss them in a medium hot oven (say 400 degrees Fahrenheit) for an hour or so. They cook up very easily along side your turkey. Or, if you wish, you can boil them in their skins. The sweet potatoes are done when a fork moves into their hearts smoothly.

Let them cool until you can handle them and then remove their peels. You can make up the recipes below then, or you can save the whole, peeled sweet potatoes in zip log bags in your refrigerator until you are ready to slice them and reheat them and then dress them as described below.

Lime and Aji Dressed Camote
Lime and Aji Dressed Camote
1). Rainbow of Sweet Potatoes in a Lime Butter Sauce

1 White sweet potato
1 Garnet yam
1 Purple sweet potato
1 yam (Orange sweet potato
5 tbs. clarified butter
7.5 tbs. lime juice
salt

Cook the sweet potatoes in their skins either in the oven or in boiling water. Let them cool until they can be handled, peel them, and then place them in the refrigerator until you are ready to slice them.

Once ready to serve you can either heat the sweet potatoes or serve them at room temperature. Slice or cube them and arrange in a sequence of colors on your plate.

Mix the lime juice and butter together with salt to taste. Pour over the sweet potatoes and let sit until ready to be served.

2) Rainbow of Sweet Potatoes in a Lime Sauce with Minced Red Hot Peppers

1 White sweet potato
1 Garnet yam
1 Purple sweet potato
1 yam (Orange sweet potato
5 tbs. clarified butter
7.5 tbs. lime juice
1 red jalapeño or, if you have it, red limo ají.
salt

Cook the sweet potatoes in their skins either in the oven or in boiling water. Let them cool until they can be handled, peel them, and then place them in the refrigerator until you are ready to slice them.

Once ready to serve you can either heat the sweet potatoes or serve them at room temperature. Slice or cube them and arrange in a sequence of colors on your plate.

Mince the jalapeño or limo pepper being careful to not get the pepper juice on your fingers. (I put a little olive oil on my hands before doing this and then wash my hands. The oil causes the pepper juices to not stick to my skin and to wash down the drain. )

Mix the lime juice and butter together and add salt and the minced pepper. Drizzle over the sweet potatoes and let sit until ready to be served.

Cebiche-Style Sweet Potatoes with Zarza
Cebiche-Style Sweet Potatoes with Zarza
3) Rainbow of Sweet Potatoes and a Zarza Criolla

1 White sweet potato
1 Garnet yam
1 Purple sweet potato
1 yam (Orange sweet potato
5 tbs. clarified butter
7.5 tbs. lime juice
1/2 large red onion
cilantro leaves
salt

Cook the sweet potatoes in their skins either in the oven or in boiling water. Let them cool until they can be handled, peel them, and then place them in the refrigerator until you are ready to slice them.

Make your zarza by julienning the onion finely lengthwise, placing it in a bowl, salting it, covering it with water and leaving it sit for a half hour or so. Drain and squeeze lightly to remove the onions bitters. Rinse and let drain in your colander. Mince the red hot pepper finely as well as the cilantro. Mix the now dry onion with the red pepper and the minced cilantro evenly. Salt lightly to taste.

Mix the lime juice and butter together.

Once ready to serve you can either heat the sweet potatoes or serve them at room temperature. Slice or cube them and arrange in a sequence of colors on your plate.

Drizzle the lime sauce over the sweet potatoes and add the zarza when ready to serve either on the side or on top of the sweet potatoes.

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