Sunday, October 23, 2011
Eat: Sweet Potato Cakes with Black Bean Salsa
This week’s recipe for Sweet Potato Cakes with Black Bean Salsa offers a unique blend of flavors and textures. The cakes themselves are subtly sweet and soft with a little kick from green onions. Add to that the cool smoothness of sour cream, zest of lime juice, crunch of raw onion, smack of cilantro, and heat of cayenne peppers. What does all that give you? Quite a culinary experience, that’s what! Preparing the sweet potatoes is the most time consuming aspect of this recipe but the salsa is incredibly easy and quick. So they balance each other out, right?
Although I found this dish while browsing Pinterest, it was adapted from the book Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi and Jonathan Lovekin. The original recipe has a few variations from my own rendition. For example, I added some extra heat with dried cayenne pepper instead of chipotle in adobe. This was balanced by the sweet onion I utilized in place of the red onion originally prescribed. I say that as though it were part of my grand culinary scheme, but I just wanted to use ingredients that I already had waiting for me in my cupboard. The most important difference to note is that this is actually a recipe for appetizers: little bitty cute potato cakes ready to be displayed on your finest silver platter. Since I knew my husband and I would consume everything ourselves, I opted to save time by making larger (and therefore fewer) cakes with bigger portions of sour cream and salsa. As always, you are welcome to adjust the dish according to your own edible preferences.
TIME: 1 hour
YIELDS: up to 34 cakes (if using smallest portions)
MY SOUNDTRACK: Brahms' cello sonatas
Sweet Potato Cakes…
2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 green onions, both white and green parts, finely chopped
4-6 tablespoons oil (I used vegetable, but any kind is fine)
4-6 tablespoons butter
1. Begin by steaming the sweet potato chunks for 15-20 minutes. As odd as this may sound, this was my first time really steaming vegetables without using my microwave or an electric steamer. I'm pleased to report it is a snap. You simply fill a pot with approximately 1 inch of water and then place a "steamer basket" or colander atop the water. Bring to a boil, fill the steamer with your raw vegetables (check to make sure they are not touching the water), and cover. You can check the progress by testing a potato chunk with a fork; if it smooshes easily you are good to go.
Tip: I recommend making the salsa while the potatoes are steaming. You can also prepare the other ingredients for the cakes.
2. Transfer the potatoes to a colander or strainer over the sink and allow to dry thoroughly. Once the sweet potato chunks are cooked and dried, place them in a large mixing bowl. Mash them with a fork or potato masher (if you ever thought to purchase such a thing).
3. Stir in the flour, green onions, salt, and pepper. Resist the urge to use a food processor or else the sweet potato mixture might get gummy. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if desired.
Note: the mixture should be sticky but not wet; add more flour if needed.
4. In a non-stick skillet, heat two tablespoons of oil and/or two tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Form round, flat cakes from about two tablespoons of batter per cake (or more if making larger cakes like I did), and fry four or five at a time for three minutes per side until golden. Transfer finished cakes to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain and cool. Add more oil and butter to pan between batches as needed, and continue frying a few cakes at a time until all are ready for their toppings.
Black Bean Salsa…
16 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1-2 dried cayenne peppers, chopped
1 small bell pepper, finely chopped
¼ cup finely minced onion (red or yellow)
¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
¼ teaspoon salt
1. Combine all of the salsa ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine.
2. Taste for heat and seasoning, adding more peppers and/or salt as desired.
This salsa can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
Place sweet potato cakes on a serving platter and add a small dollop of sour cream to each. Top sour cream with a small spoonful of black bean salsa.