Sweet Potato Walnut Gratin
Melted cheese covers this walnut-studded puree. The salty notes of cheddar complement the earthy sweetness of the sweet potatoes nicely. Together, they make this a great side dish to a hearty meal or a satisfying vegetarian main.
Sweet Potato & Walnut Gratin with Melted Cheddar
4 to 6
Lior Lev Sercarz, from "Mastering Spice" by Lior Lev Sercarz
1 1/4 teaspoons cumin seeds (4 grams)
2 teaspoons dried garlic slices (3 grams)
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds (2 grams)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (1 gram)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (1/2 gram)
Finely grind the cumin, garlic, and caraway together and immediately mix with the ginger
Extra-virgin olive oil
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
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 400F. 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 and the walnuts, then season to taste with salt.
Spread mixture in a shallow 1 1/2 quart baking disk. Sprinkled the top with cheese. Bake until the cheese is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Serve warm.
Variations & Ideas:
• 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.
Recipe from "Mastering Spice" by Lior Lev Sercarz.
Photo © Thomas Schauer
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