roasted sweet potatoes with crunchy fall salsa.

I just have to get it off my chest - I'm not even one sentence into this post and I already feel like a liar. As soon as I typed "sweet potato" into that little title bar up there, the pang of guilt struck me. You see, I spent Thanksgiving at Uncle Bill and Aunt Cindy's farm again this year and that means I come to you with a new-found wealth of knowledge regarding vegetables and the true meaning of a free-range turkey because they raised it themselves and it saw its final days in the barn in their backyard...but mostly sweet potatoes.

A casserole dish of bright orange "sweet potatoes" has no place at their Thanksgiving table - not decorated with toasted marshmallows, not covered with a gingersnap-cookie crust, not cleverly disguised as not-technically-dessert even with heaps of crushed pecans and brown sugar swimming through it. Why the sacrilege, you ask? Well, because those bright orange numbers are yams, not sweet potatoes. Yam. Sweet Potato. Not the same thing. It's just that the word yam strikes me as sort of yee-haw, and I am plagued by the voice of Uncle Bill in my head saying, "Sweet potatoes are better." Pay no attention to that recipe title behind the curtain.

Real sweet potatoes are a pale golden yellow with an interior so lush you'd swear it was filled with cream. At the farm, Uncle Bill slices them lengthwise and sends them for a dip in a pool of maple syrup and melted butter before they make their appearance, in front of my plate, of course, on the dinner table. I made the mistake of sitting just two seats to the left of the 42-pound turkey (yes, 42-pounds) and in Justin's family, since they abide by the pass-your-plate rule when serving, that meant I would be second to last to eat. While this normally would not concern me, watching those slices of sweet potatoes disappear off the plate in front of me one by one was giving me ants in my pants. Justin's cousin, Jamie, must've seen the fear in my eyes since she leaned over and spooned a few of them onto my plate before the turkey ever reached my mouth. God bless her.

Maybe it was the sweet potatoes, or maybe it was the wine, or maybe it was the love-drunk feeling of having both my parents, my almost-husband and his family that is now my family all at the same table, but I am thinking that meal will be hard to beat. In a way, I've outsmarted them all, because by agreeing to marry Justin that means I've locked in Thanksgiving at the farm, and Uncle Bill's sweet potatoes, for years to come. Could I make them myself? Sure, but it wouldn't be the same. When I asked him for the recipe, he smiled and said, "Does it have to be measured?" I love that. He just wings it.

So here's the thing - this year, we perfected the art of not hosting Thanksgiving dinner and were fortunate enough to gather around the tables of relatives who were up to the challenge of stuffing a bird the size of my dog. There is a downside to this method - you don't get any leftovers. As the rest of America ate turkey sandwiches for dinner this weekend, my Mom and I tapped our fingertips on the refrigerator door and stared at the empty shelves, waiting for dinner to appear. She requested a low-fat option, and normally I would balk at the idea, but then I remembered that my wedding dress is a bit too snug in the hips and maybe I should cancel my liposuction appointment and just eat a light dinner instead.

I won't try to promote this dish to anyone on earth who eats like my police officer and requires a slice of animal next to his potatoes, this is girl-food. Since all the men in my life are propped up in tree stands, sitting perfectly still in the freezing cold in the wee hours of the morning on the chance that Bambi might walk by [sorry boys, I just don't get it!], Mom and I were free to indulge without any complaints from the carnivores. Let me get right to it - this dish is so, so good. You roast the sweet potatoes yams until they are toasty and browned but not mushy, then top it with a crunchy seasonal-salsa of pecans, celery, tart cranberries and a very pungent, smelly cheese. Tossed with a gentle vinaigrette that packs just enough tang to brighten up the dish, I couldn't be more excited about the leftovers I'll be eating for lunch.

I detoured from the original recipe quite a bit and it still turned out beautifully, so I imagine you could do the same. Swap walnuts for pecans, cranberries for dried cherries, add parsley (I left it out), use goat cheese instead of Gorgonzola, whatever tickles your fancy.

Sweet Potatoes with Crunchy Fall Salsa
Adapted, quite a bit, from Smitten Kitchen

3 pounds sweet potato, a.k.a. yams, scrubbed, unpeeled, sliced into 1 inch slices
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2-3/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon smooth Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Warm the oven to 450 degrees F. Coat the bottom of a baking sheet with 4 tablespoons of olive oil, there should be a generous amount on the pan. Lay the slices of sweet potato down on the baking sheet and sprinkle the tops with salt and pepper. [Don't worry about not oiling the top just yet, you will flip them later.] Roast the potatoes without touching them for 20 minutes. The tops may look a little dry, but don't fret, my dear. Flip each slice of potato over; their bottoms should be a lovely shade of golden brown and they should come off the pan easily. If they stick, bake them a little longer. Sprinkle the flipped slices with more salt and pepper and continue to roast for another 10-12 minutes.

Meanwhile, get started on the celery-salad. In a medium bowl, mix together the celery, pecans, and cranberries. In a small bowl, make the vinaigrette. Whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the Dijon and red wine vinegar. Pour the dressing over the celery salad and then add in the Gorgonzola cheese. Spoon a good amount of the salad on top each slice of sweet potato and eat, eat, eat.


  1. Oh man those look awesome!

  2. Anonymous29.11.10

    I love the idea of a fall salsa- great flavors!


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