Photos by Zachary Cross
This recipe is possibly the fastest this month. It’s a twist on tacos or burritos, a Mexican-style filling in sweet potatoes instead of a tortilla.
Sweet potatoes have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity, and are not merely the ingredient in a holiday casserole topped with marshmallows. Followers of the Paleo diet use them in place of Irish potatoes or cut into various types of noodles, among other uses. Unlike traditional white potatoes that are members of the nightshade family (which include tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant), sweet potatoes are related to morning glories. Also different from the Irish potato, sweet potatoes have edible greens. And though the sweet potato roots have a long storage time, the greens have a pretty short shelf life, so look for them around harvest time in fall - or ask a farmer about availability.
Sweet potatoes are not only the familiar dark orange “yams” (they’re not yams at all, but that’s a common name for them), but are also white, purple, and a more yellow-orange. I find the flavors all different but similar and have a hard time describing the differences. Note that a white sweet potato tastes very little like an Irish potato. It seems sweeter to me than an orange one, and drier, though still more moist than a regular potato.
This recipe was originally published in the October issue of Real Simple, probably reaching subscribers in September. It’s a time when summer and fall vegetables overlap. So this recipe has not only sweet potatoes but it also has zucchini in the filling. I made this in December when zucchini is long gone. I did not want to replace it with a squash such as butternut; that seems too similar to the orange sweet potato to me. Acorn squash are pretty neutral, both in color and flavor so I went with a half an acorn squash to replace the zucchini. It worked well, though it was a bit more prep to peel and seed.
Real Simple says to be sure to save any leftovers for future tacos or nachos. This is a yummy recipe but if you want any leftovers be sure to double the recipe at least! We ate it all for supper and could have used some more.
To make this a quick supper Real Simple recommends cooking your sweet potatoes in the microwave. I find they cook unevenly and dry out in the microwave. An excellent alternative if you don’t have time to cook them in the oven is to use a slow cooker. Both Irish potatoes and sweet potatoes cook well all day on low in a slow cooker. Some of my family members prefer regular potatoes over sweet so I put sweet potatoes in the bottom of my slow cooker and white potatoes on top. I figured the sweet potatoes would create the most juice and it would be preferable for them to be on bottom. Some suggestions I found online said to poke holes in them or wrap in foil but I did neither. At the end of they day they were perfect! I think I prefer them that way to baked in the oven. If you have multiple slow cookers you can also cook black beans instead of using canned, making it possible to use another product I see at market sometimes: dried beans. There are also tricks and tips online for using one slow cooker to make more than one dish at a time, usually using foil or slow cooker bags, but alternately oven-proof dishes.
However you cook your potatoes and beans, the rest of the recipe is a quick sauté. I snubbed cayenne and chose cumin instead - and added a little more. All-around this a pretty basic, simple recipe.
Adapted from Zucchini and Black Bean Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
4 medium sweet potatoes (about 8 oz. each)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ acorn squash (about 8 oz.), peeled and chopped
1 cup sliced yellow onion
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (add or substitute ½ tsp ground cumin, to taste)
1 (15-oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 ounces white Cheddar cheese, shredded (about ½ cup)
sour cream, cilantro, lime wedges, and green salad, for serving
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