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Sweet potatoes are like a blank canvas—you can top them with just about any- thing. I grew up with them in Israel, simply cooking them in the embers of campfires at my kibbutz, slashing them open, and then scooping out the hot, tender centers from the ashy skins. This live-fire style of cooking sweet potatoes is trendy in restaurants now, but I’ve been doing it since I was six years old. My favorite part, though, was the creamy center of the sweet potatoes. I re-create that texture and introduce bold new flavors with this spiced puree.
4 to 6
Lior Lev Sercarz, from "Mastering Spice" by Lior Lev Sercarz
1 medium yellow onion, halved and very thinly sliced
11⁄2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2 large), peeled and cut into 1⁄2-inch chunks
1⁄2 cup fresh orange juice
Generously coat the bottom of a large saucepan with oil (1 to 2 tablespoons). Add the spice blend and set the heat to medium. Cook, stirring continuously, until tiny bubbles break the surface, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the onion, season generously with salt, and stir well to evenly coat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion tenderizes a bit, 5 to 6 minutes.
Add the sweet potatoes, stir well to evenly coat, and cover. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often to prevent the spices from burning and the sweet potatoes from sticking, until the sweet potatoes start to break down into a semi-chunky mash, 13 to 15 minutes.
Stir in the orange juice, cover, and cook until the remaining sweet potato chunks are soft, 5 to 6 minutes. If all the liquid has evaporated before the sweet potatoes are soft, add water to the pan, 1 tablespoon at a time, to keep the mixture from drying out and burning. Remove from the heat.
Using an immersion or stand blender, food processor, or food mill, puree the sweet potatoes until smooth. Fold in 2 tablespoons oil, then season to taste with salt. If you prefer a thinner puree, you can fold in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until they reach the desired consistency. Season to taste again, if needed. Serve hot or warm.
• A suggestion from Christian: As a fun option try topping with a bit of Lemon Sultana Marmalata. In this case reduce the orange juice to 1/3 cup to balance the sweetness and acidity.
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