Did you know that North Carolina NUMBER ONE producer of sweet potatoes in America? We hold these vegetables near and dear. Sweet potatoes are our state vegetable. The types grown here are: Beauregard, Carolina Rose, Carolina Ruby, Cordner, Hernandez, Jewel and NC Porto Rico 198.
We even have a Sweet Potato Festival to commemorate and celebrate this native crop. Winston-Salem has an award-winning, culinary mecca called Sweet Potatoes (Well shut my mouth!!) that leaves everyone hankering for Southern cuisine for days afterward.
Savory or sweet, I could eat them any day. I am not too keen on adding marshmallows, brown sugar and making a dessert of them, but I am all about adding them to soups, stews, boiling vats of hot oil and microwaves with fork holes poked in them.
|I. Love. Them.|
When shopping for sweet potatoes, select firm potatoes with smooth skin. Three medium potatoes (the size of a woman's hand) equal one pound. One pound of sweet potatoes is about 1 1/4 cups mashed.
SWEET POTATOES vs YAMS
Compared to sweet potatoes, yams are starchier and drier, not grown in the United States and not even related to sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are classified as either firm (creamy white flesh) or soft (orange flesh). The soft varieties are often labeled as yams in the United States.
Why? Americans have been calling sweet potatoes "yams" since Africans saw similarities in them to the yams from Africa. The USDA decided to label them as "yams" to differentiate the two varieties of sweet potatoes grown in America.
Now that you know all about sweet potatoes, it's time for me to reveal a recipe that I normally never give out. Technically, it's a sweet potato casserole (I suppose), but if you say casserole, no one is impressed. Casserole = shit I put together in a dish and baked it.
Lasagna = composed dish with layers, flavor and complexity.
Am I right?
Sweet Potato Lasagna
Serves 10 (as a side)
Serves 6 (as a main)
2 lb Sweet potatoes, unpeeled, sliced thin (1/16", no more than 1/8")
10 oz fresh OR frozen spinach, defrosted and drained dry
4 tsp salt, divided
2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
2 tsp nutmeg, ground
4 egg whites OR 2 whole eggs
16 oz ricotta cheese, skim
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
16 oz button mushrooms, sliced
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and spray a 13X9 baking dish with non-stick spray. Spray an additional skillet and set on medium-high heat and saute mushrooms and spinach with until the vegetables release their water. Season vegetables with 2 tsp salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Remove from heat and set aside.
VARIATION: Add 1 cup of white wine after spinach and mushrooms release their water and cook until liquid is reduced to 2 Tbsp.
In a mixing bowl, mix egg whites (or whole eggs) with the ricotta, remaining 2tsp salt, Parmesan and red pepper flakes.
Place a layer of potato slices on the bottom of the 13X9 dish. Take care to put like-sized pieces adjacent to each other. If need be, slice the rounds in half to fill small gaps and spaces in between pieces.
Alternate layers of potatoes, spinach and cheese mixture until all ingredients are used up--you should end up with a top layer of potatoes. Lastly, sprinkle all the cheddar cheese on top.
Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes. The bottom layer of potatoes with be soft and the top layer will be a bit firmer. If you prefer a softer layer, bake an additional 15 to 20 minutes or cover during intial baking with foil, uncover the last 10 minutres to brown the top. Let rest for 15 minutes so the vegetable juices can redistribute.
Okay. Enough talking. I'm hungry.