Sweet potatoes are like the Great Houdini of the holiday table. They make a grand, showy appearance, then vanish from sight for the rest of the year.
Although no single food can be considered magical, a simple baked sweet potato contains health-promoting nutrients, including a whopping dose of antioxidants.
Agricultural Research Service scientists list the antioxidant capacities of many foods on their database at www.ars.usda.gov/nutrient data/ORAC.
ORAC is an acronym for oxygen radical absorbance capacity. Scientists use this method to measure the amount of antioxidants contained in particular foods. One of the highest ranked foods is blueberries: 1/2 cup has an ORAC of 4848. For comparison, a medium baked sweet potato has an ORAC of 2411, also quite high.
Still, most cooks hide their sweet potatoes under a layer of marshmallow goo that adds calories and little nutritional value. The Star’s recipe for Ginger-Infused Baked Sweet Potatoes uses a syrup of apple juice, fresh ginger, honey, lemon juice and lemon zest for delicious sweet-tart results. A sprinkling of walnuts adds heart-healthy omega 3 to the diet.
Cooking tip: Minced ginger is available in supermarket produce sections, and it’s undeniably convenient, but we don’t recommend it for this recipe. Fresh ginger not only has more active compounds but also has a more pungent flavor. To peel ginger, you can use a vegetable peeler but you may be removing a flavorful layer of flesh.
David Joachim, author of Brilliant Food Tips and Cooking Tricks (Rodale), uses a teaspoon to scrape away the peel by following the curves and bumps of the root. To mince ginger, use a good quality garlic press.
Ginger-infused baked sweet potatoes
Makes 6 servings
4 medium sweet potatoes, about 3 pounds
1 cup apple juice
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons butter
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
Scrub potatoes and prick them. Bake at 400 degrees 60 minutes or until potatoes are cooked but still firm. Remove from oven and allow to stand until cool enough to handle.
Meanwhile, heat apple juice to boiling. (If desired, microwave apple juice on high, 100 percent power, about 3 minutes or until boiling.) Stir ginger into apple juice. Allow to stand 1 hour.
Peel potatoes and slice 3/8 inch thick. Arrange potato slices in a 2-quart casserole dish.
Strain apple juice to remove ginger. Stir in honey, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper; blend well and pour over sweet potatoes. Dot with butter. Sprinkle with walnuts. Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.
Per serving: 258 calories (16 percent from fat), 5 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 3 milligrams cholesterol, 52 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 125 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber.
Recipe developed for The Star by professional home economists Kathryn Moore and Roxanne Wyss.