Sweet Potato and Onion Dip
George Washington Carver, the botanist, educator and inventor, was known as “the peanut man,” but he geeked out over sweet potatoes as much as peanuts. He recorded recipes for sweet potato flour, sweet potato starch and commercial canning. “The delicate flavor of a sweet potato is lost if it is not cooked properly,” he wrote in his 1936 Bulletin No. 38. (His paper booklets were distributed to rural farmers to assist with crop rotation and provide instructions for added-value products.) Dr. Carver considered baking the best way to cook sweet potatoes while preserving the most flavor. Use varieties like Covington, Vardaman or jewel; the sugary notes balance the alliums and warming spices. Raw vegetables or tortilla chips make practical dipping utensils for this spread, or lather the dip over toasted thick-cut bread.
- Serves: 4 persons
- 2pounds sweet potatoes (about 3 medium)
- 2tablespoons grapeseed oil
- ½medium white onion, sliced (about 1 cup)
- 1small fennel bulb, sliced (about 1/3 cup), fronds reserved for garnish
- ½small jalapeño, finely chopped (about 2 teaspoons)
- ⅓cup fresh ricotta
- ⅓cup grated Parmesan (about 1 ounce)
- ⅓cup raw pecans, chopped
- 1tablespoon fresh lime juice (from 1/2 lime)
- 2teaspoons maple syrup
- 1 ½teaspoons anchovy oil (optional)
- 1 ½teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
- ½teaspoon onion powder
- ½teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅓piece whole fresh nutmeg, grated (about 1 teaspoon)
- Extra-virgin olive oil and crispy fried onions (optional), for garnish
- Toasted Agege bread, tortilla chips or celery sticks, for serving
Step 1Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Using a vegetable brush and water, scrub the sweet potatoes to remove dirt, then place them on a sheet pan.
Step 2Bake the sweet potatoes on the top rack until soft to the touch, about 1 1/4 hours. Let cool for at least 1 hour.
Step 3Add grapeseed oil to a large skillet and heat over medium. Add sliced onion, fennel and jalapeño to the skillet and sauté for 15 minutes or until onions are soft and slightly browned. Set aside and let cool room temperature.
Step 4Using your hands, gently peel the sweet potatoes and discard the skins. In a large bowl, use a potato masher to mash the potatoes until you see tiny chunks. (The texture shouldn’t be ultrasmooth.)
Step 5Using a spoon, stir in the cooked onion mixture along with the ricotta, Parmesan, pecans, lime juice, maple syrup, anchovy oil (if using), salt, onion powder, vanilla and nutmeg. Store the dip in an airtight container, and place in the fridge until ready to eat. (If you have the time, the flavors are always better the next day.)
Step 6Just before serving, stir to combine and season the dip to taste with salt. Drizzle it with olive oil, then top it with the reserved fennel fronds and crispy fried onions, if you like. Serve with any combination of bread, tortilla chips or celery sticks.