I know I keep saying, but can we even call our evening meal "dinner" without a vegetable? There's got to be at least one on the nightly menu, and when I’m in charge of dinner it’s veggies or bust. Though let’s not get it twisted while I go on about vegetables, sometimes “dinner" is chips and guac when lunch was animal style fries, and that’s just the way it is. What I'm talking about here rests on the presumption that I’m at home making an effort.
Sometimes even when I am giving a crap or two about what goes down our gullets, I still can't find it in me to try *that* hard. Like hose hangry and uninspiring midweek evenings, for example, where all bets are off and "OMG BE INSIDE MY BODY ALREADY, FOOD." On those nights, the prospect of preparing a full-on proper dinner (or a “meat and three” for my southerners) ends up requiring more time and planning than I’m working with. So I wing it. I fancy up a pan of roasted vegetables by either (a) putting an egg on it, (b) adding beans, (c) serving it with cheesy garlic bread, and call it dinner.
I'm not alone either; this recipe is proof. I spied it over at Smitten Kitchen where this goodie from the Gjelina Cookbook, originally intended as to be a veg/side, was fiddled into a dinner-worthy version of itself based on Deb Perelman’s relatable desire to call a dressed up bowl of vegetables a meal. But - twist - I admittedly didn't have much of a taste for sweet potatoes when I happened upon this recipe. Before coming to know them in this format, they were just a thanksgiving staple and an erstwhile pie ingredient. In truth, I only decided to try this recipe because it was presented amidst a flurry of gushing over the city of Los Angeles, where Gjelina is located.
At the time I was also wrapped up in a SoCal swooning phase, having just returned from a long weekend in LA where I ran the marquee marathon and celebrated my 31st birthday. It was my first visit to the City of Angels and I fell hard. Hard enough that as soon as I forgot about the hellish traffic I was planning our next visit back. LA is one sultry bitch of a city, and I appreciate that. So, I guess you could say that me making this dish was like buying a bottle of wine because the label was cute. But then the wine turns out to be surprisingly delicious and is now favorite wines of all time. Seeing that we’ve made this recipe more times than I can count since February and I am now officially converted as a lover of sweet potatoes, I’d call it serendipitous. Perhaps my most productive recipe digression to date.
Came for the LA swoonery, stayed for the sweet potatoes.
Nomenclature: Sweet potatoes vs Yam. From my googling, it looks like the name weirdness here stems from the fact that when the United States first began growing and harvesting these orange-fleshed tubers, they more closely resembled actual yams, which are native to Africa and Asia and a rare find in the States. Thus they were appropriately dubbed “yams” (from the African word “nyami,” meaning “to eat”) by the slaves who physically harvested them. Further obscuring the matter, grocery stores in the U.S. today call the firmer, ivory-fleshed tubers “sweet potatoes” and the softer, orange-fleshed ones “yams.”
3 large yams or orange-fleshed sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon crushed red-pepper flakes (I use a combination of standard red pepper and Aleppo)
1 15 oz can chickpeas (or a scant two cups fresh chickpeas)
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon paprika (I’ve used and enjoyed both hot and sweet paprika, original uses smoked)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Greek-style plain yogurt or sour cream
juice of one lime
2 scallions, green and white parts
Heat oven to 425 degrees F.
Line two baking sheets with foil, for minimal mess. (This was in the original, and I agree, the honey can get messy!) Coat the pan that you’ll be cooking the yams on with olive oil (about a tablespoon).
Give the yams a good scrub and pat them dry. Cut them into slices that are the size of large steak fries. The original says 4 lengthwise wedges, or 8 for thick yams, but we preferred them smaller (more surface area for roasting and potential for crispy edges). Toss yams with honey, 1 tablespoon olive oil and, 1/2 tablespoon of pepper flakes. Let them rest in the bowl for 5 to 10 minutes. Toss chickpeas with 1 tablespoon olive oil, smoked paprika and salt, to taste.
Spread the yams out on the oiled baking sheet in a single layer. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, until nicely browned on the undersides. Flip the wedges over and shuffle them around the pan a bit and roast for 5 to 10 more minutes, until they are soft and singed. For extra color, run them under the broiler for a final minute.
Meanwhile, spread chickpeas on the second non-oiled baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, rolling around once or twice so that they cook evenly, until lightly browned and crispy on the outside. Set aside.
While the yams and chickpeas are roasting, prep the fixings. Whisk the yogurt and lime juice together in a small dish, add 1 tablespoon of oil (optional), then season with salt and pepper to taste. Slice the scallions, both green and white parts, into thin rings.
Arrange the yams on a platter (or in a bowl) and dollop the yogurt on top. Sprinkle with as many chickpeas as you like (though you’ll have some left over), then garnish with scallions and another shake of red pepper flakes if you like it hot.