Ah Winter in Edmonton. You see where I live, we experience extreme weather; and by extreme I mean, minus 20 degrees and 25 cm of snow one day and plus 3 degrees and sunny the next- we are forever on our toes during the six months (yes SIX) of winter. Last week was wrought with extremes, in which I felt very lucky to work from the comfort of my home most days. After a valiant trek for sundries, as one never knows how longs these extremes will last, I got to work on this recipe.
I’ve loved sweet potatoes for years now, for their delicately sweet flavor profile; I’ve always appreciated foods that play well in the savory and sweet sandbox. And one of the best merits about sweet potatoes, as far as healthy food is concerned, is that they aren’t even potatoes- low carbers rejoice! Yes, of course, this is a starchy vegetable, but with so many accolades, one can easily overlook its starchy nature.
This starchy vegetable boasts an enviable amount of fiber, half of which is soluble; and is a rich and powerful source of antioxidants in the carotenoid family, especially beta carotene. Sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamin A and heart healthy potassium, with a smidge of calcium thrown in for good measure. And in a published article they concluded that an extract from a baked sweet potato has chemo-preventive properties; in English, this mean cancer fighting. And for those with inflammation, grab thyself a sweet tater, as they contain quercetin, a powerful anti-inflammatory, and chlorogenic acid, an antioxidant; and all this for a mere 103 calories per small sweet potato.
But this tale does come with a disclaimer for those with blood sugar issues; if this is you, please enjoy these baked sweet potatoes and other recipes in moderation and preferably accompanied by vegetables and protein to stabilize your sugars. For everyone else, this relationship can be entered into with wild abandon!
This baked sweet potato recipe was born out necessity, as necessity is the mother of invention. As I returned from the store to whip up a sweet potato soup, I realized very quickly that I didn’t have onion; and no soup worth its salt is created without onion. So I rifled through my pantry and found what I could create what you see before you. Prior to this extreme bout of Mother Nature’s prowess, I became enamored with Za’tar spice, a lemon scented spice that enhances everything it comes in contact with; and luckily I had made a large batch and kept it frozen for later use. A word on Za’tar spice, it’s not readily available in your run of the mill grocery store, but it’s very easily prepared at home, which saves you the mileage in searching for it.
Pumpkin seeds are always a welcome addition to any of my dishes, from salad to this baked sweet potato creation; and instead of using quinoa, which is always my default grain; I opted for brown rice couscous. When making baked sweet potato, to enhance the sweet profile even further, drizzle lemon juice and olive oil once it’s been removed from the oven and is still hot- is there anything lemon cannot do?! Also if you are making this dish for a picky palate, bake them one and serve a day or two later, the longer they sit the sweeter they become.
So without further ado, Baked Sweet Potatoes and Pumpkin Seeds with Za’tar Spiced Brown Rice Couscous…phewf, what a mouthful- of delicious!
Za’tar Spiced Baked Sweet Potato with Brown Rice Couscous
3 small sweet potatoes
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 ½ cups brown rice couscous, cooked
1 tsp za’tar spice, see recipe below
½ cup raw pistachios, chopped
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
Preheat oven to 4000F.
Wash the sweet potatoes and cut into 6 wedges. Place in a roasting pan, drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper; roast for 20-25 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender and starting to caramelize. Add the pumpkin seeds to the pan for the last 5 minutes of cooking time.
While the sweet potatoes are cooking, prepare the couscous according to package instruction; once cooked stir in pistachios and za’tar spice and season with salt and pepper if needed.
Mix together the juice of the lemon with the remaining olive oil, and pour over the warm baked sweet potatoes when they come out of the oven. To serve sprinkle with the herbs.
2 tbsp lemon zest, minced
1 tbsp pepper
2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 tbsp sesame seeds, roasted
2 tbsp marjoram
2 tbsp oregano
1 tsp coarse salt
In a food processor or mortar and pestal, grind sesame seeds; add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Store in airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy sweet potato?