Cooking through the shoulder season can be tricky. When it's chilly and wet, I'm inclined to stay in and to forage through my scant pantry instead of browsing the co-op for lighter spring fare. I'm inspired to make something delicious from whatever I happen to have on hand — often it's potatoes or sweet potatoes in a basket, eggs from the refrigerator and the vibrant spices in my cabinet.
In the United States, our sweet potato consumption is far lower than the rest of the world's. Perhaps it's because we're in a butter-brown sugar rut. Instead, consider Asian and Indian seasonings when spicing up these earthy roots. Try drizzling them with toasted sesame oil and a dash of soy sauce. Or sprinkle them with chili powder, coriander, allspice and a squeeze of lime. They're also great with a splash of good olive oil, balsamic vinegar and an Italian herb blend.
Leftover roasted sweet potatoes make a wonderful mash that is as delicious on its own with hints of spice but even better when shaped into patties and sizzled in a pan before baking. These simple cakes make a great starter, light main dish or pretty side. Try them for breakfast or brunch sweetened with a splash of maple syrup or honey and served alongside bacon or sausage.
The orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are especially good mashed and shaped into cakes. Luscious looking, their flavors are mildly sweet and complex and the texture is light. Season the batter with chopped jalapeño or warm curry spices; work in a little shredded Cheddar cheese for a denser, richer cake. An egg makes a sunny addition, and the yolk will split into a golden sauce.
Sweet Potato Cakes with Baked Eggs
Serves 4 to 6.
These are best eaten straight out of the pan, but leftover cakes (without the eggs) can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator or frozen and then reheated in the oven. If you're not using leftover potatoes, you'll need to add time to roast the sweet potatoes. From Beth Dooley.
• 1 tbsp. olive oil, or more as needed
• 1 small jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 large sweet potatoes, roasted and peeled (see below)
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• 1 large egg, plus 4 to 6 more for topping
• 1/4 c. corn flour or all-purpose flour for dredging
• 2 to 4 tbsp. vegetable oil, as needed
• Chopped cilantro, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Heat the olive oil in a small skillet and sauté the jalapeño and garlic until fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes; transfer to a medium bowl. Add the sweet potatoes to the bowl and mash them together and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Mash in 1 egg to make a soft dough. Shape the dough into patties. Scoop up four to six portions of the soft dough and with floured hands, shape the dough into patties. Place flour in a shallow bowl; dredge the patties in the flour and set aside on a parchment-lined plate.
Film a large skillet with the vegetable oil and set over medium heat. Place the patties in the skillet, working in batches so as not to crowd the pan. Lightly fry the patties until just crisped on each side, about 2 to 4 minutes per side, using care when flipping. Transfer the patties to the prepared baking sheet and make an impression in each one. Crack an egg into each impression. Bake until the eggs are set, about 15 to 20 minutes. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
To roast sweet potatoes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Score a large X in the center of each sweet potato and place them on a baking sheet. Bake until tender, about 45 to 50 minutes. Remove and allow to cool enough to handle. Peel the sweet potatoes.
Beth Dooley is the author of "The Perennial Kitchen." Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.