The look of her is pure nectar. Catherine was raised on only green growing things and the beguiling offerings of vine and stem. She cooks with the sensitivity of a delicate orchard fairy, taking only the purest items from an agricultural display, into her kitchen that has never been touched by the cold rub of meat. She is beautiful because she does beautiful things, borne of her beautiful and loving heart.
I had sent an array of Spanish vegan dishes, to be served at her dinner table without me, but in the company of my boyfriend Chuck and his daughters. These were the food stuffs of that high plateaued country where her family vineyard faces west. But when it came to dessert, I packed incongruous items from distant Asia, because it was the easiest and best way I knew, to end the meal sweetly and lightly.
This dessert of sweet potatoes in ginger syrup has no correlate in the west. It looks like an opaque golden soup, thickened slightly with sugar, livened with ginger, and spotted heavily with sweet potato chunks, orange and majestic. Knowing only this tuber as a savory dish, Catherine nestled it between a bowl of eggplants and a tray of stuffed peppers, not aware it belonged separately, as the conclusion of their repast.
It is a nutritious dish, the rich color suggest it is so. It falls cleanly on the tongue, the sugar is modest in its abundant broth, the ginger sharp to cleanse the palate. It is delicious standing at the stove, taking in the medicinal quality of simmering ginger, cold out of the fridge eaten with a mug and fork, or as I had planned, waiting at room temperature to be the last taste of the meal.
It was the dish most memorable to my boyfriend in that array of eleven.
Thai Sweet Potatoes in Ginger Syrup
2 lbs. sweet potatoes (Depending on the size, this usually equates to two medium tubers.)
8 cups of water
3” of unpeeled ginger, sliced thinly
1 1/2 cups sugar
- Peel the sweet potatoes and wash well. Carefully cut them into chunks, being very mindful of your hands, because this vegetable is very dense, and you will have to apply strong pressure to get the knife to sink through successfully. Each chunk will be irregular, but try for a 1” cube. Let them soak in a bowl of cold water as each section is finished.
Bring water to a boil. Strain the soaking water and add the sweet potatoes to the pot. When the water has been brought back to a boil, add the ginger. Simmer with a lid slightly ajar until the sweet potatoes are tender and give no resistance to a fork piercing through. About 20 to 25 minutes.
Add sugar and bring once again to a boil. It is done, when the sugar has dissolved, which happens almost immediately. Stir.
If the flame is on when you try to taste it, watch it, because it will be very hot on your tongue and lips, but it will be so delicious, you won’t want to stop tasting how well sweet potatoes enrich their own piquant broth.
Serve in bowls with handles or lips, to slurp up quickly this bubbling sweet.
This would be good on an afternoon when the leaves are thick on the lawn as the wind picks up an impending chill. Or to give to an ethereal friend your earthly regards.
***Note: I will post a picture of this dish as soon as I learn how to upload pictures from my new camera. Thank-you.