I had no idea one could eat sweet potato vines until earlier this year. Like every good European gardener I knew that every part of the regular potato above the ground was poisonous and just assumed the same was true of the sweet potatoes. How wrong I was!
When we got sweet potato vines in the pick box this week I immediately thought about a Chinese stir fry but I also wondered whether they were eaten in Africa as well.
We tried Frog Song’s vines in a stir fry from Katie Cannon. We had them with brown rice and Fuchsia Dunlop’s Pock Marked Mother Chen’s Bean Curd (Ma Po Dou Fu, sounds better in Chinese doesn’t it, but delicious in any language) and her Steamed Eggplant with Chile Sauce that I mentioned in an earlier post. But I have to say, the addition of the fish sauce did not make this a Bethany favorite. Just a bit too pungent. Next time I will stir fry them in a hot and garlicky sauce.
Getting the vines from Frog Song made me look at the vines in my own garden, which at this time of year are rapidly taking over. So I send Bethany out to bring back a laundry basket full of vine clippings (I kid you not) and began preparing a version of this recipe. I couldn’t get goat, so I used lamb, find a nice fatty cut. I also didn’t pound the leaves, just cut them and I didn’t cook the leaves for so long. No need to boil them to death, they will meld in the stew nicely enough. Finally, I just used a few fried anchovies instead of making a fish stock. Also, note in the recipe at Shepherd’s Song the cooked leaves are “set aside” and, as far as I can tell, never make it back into the stew!
1 half cup of peanut butter (I used Smucker’s Natural Chunky. Use one with nothing but peanuts.)
Salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to boiling. In the meantime, brown the lamb chops in the oil until nicely browned on both sides. Remove from the skillet and place in the bottom of a casserole. Add the diced onion, the anchovies, garlic, and eggplant to the remaining oil and brown. Grind one chili and add it to the onions. Add the spring onions. Place the chopped sweet potato leaves in the boiling water and cook until bright green. Remove from the water and place in the casserole on top of the meat. Then place the browned onion mixture on top of that. Season the whole thing generously with salt and pepper. Add the second chili, whole. Add enough of the water from the vines to almost, but not quite cover the meat and vegetables. Mix the peanut butter with another half a cup of the cooking water and add that to the casserole. Cover and bake in the oven for approximately one hour. Remove the casserole from the oven. Fish around in the stew to remove the chops. The meat should easily fall away from the the bone and remaining fat. Return the meat to the stew, stir and adjust the seasoning.
Serve over brown rice. We drank a Californian Pinot Noir with it, but you could choose a more full bodied red.
Yet another thing I had never heard of. I regard myself as a reasonably knowledgeable gardener and eater, but that is now twice in four weeks that the folks at Frog Song
have stumped me. First with papalo and now with this sweet pepper. This was not in the CSA box this week, we just picked it up at the market.
John assured us that this was a sweet pepper. But come on! Look at them, they look just like a red hot pepper, maybe an Anaheim or a fresh arbol. So, somewhat dubious, we brought them home. I nibbled the end of one, no heat. So I sliced one and ate a seed. Most of the heat of a pepper is in the pith and the seeds, not the flesh. Still no heat. So this is what we did with them.
Sausage with mushrooms, peppers, and onions
2 mild Italian sausages (Wholefoods or The Meat House have good ones.)
2 red onions, sliced radially (stem to root.)
1 clove of garlic, chopped.
8 oz crimini mushrooms, quartered.
8 oz Nardello peppers, cut in half with the pith and seeds removed.
1 tbsp olive oil. More if necessary.
1/2 cup of red wine.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Brown the sausage in the oil in a skillet. Remove, slice, and set aside.
Sauté the onions in the same pan until beginning to brown. Remove and set aside. Add the peppers to the pan, try and keep as much of the skins on the skillet bottom as possible so that the skins brown and blister. Add the onions back in and the garlic until they are thoroughly cooked through. Add salt and pepper. Remove everything and set aside. Add the mushrooms and sausage to the pan. Add the thyme. You may need to add a little more oil. Cook covered until the mushrooms are cooked. Add the wine and reduce. Then put back the peppers and onions and cook until the favors meld. Not long. At this point you can leave the dish on a warm stove top, or simmering, covered until you are ready to serve. Correct the seasoning, serve in a large serving dish with a splash of balsamic vinegar. It is great with crusty bread and a green salad.
Jimmy Nardello peppers came from Italy in the 19th century. Jimmy Nardello donated them to the Seed Savers Exchange. They are a lovely Italian frying pepper.
Thursday evening and this is the last of the week’s CSA. Roasting green beans is one of my favorite preparations. The combination of olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic dressing and a hot oven leads to a lovely charring and really brings out the sweetness of the beans. We ate them warm, but they make a good cold dish as well. Finish them with some good balsamic vinegar from Ancient Olive.
The whole onions, with the sweetness of the peppers, and a mild Italian sausage from Wholefoods all fried together are great way to use a surfeit of peppers.
Here are the recipes.
Roasted Green Beans
One pound of whole green beans, topped.
Two tablespoonfuls of Olive oil
Juice of one half lemon
Two cloves of garlic, sliced
Salt and Pepper
Good balsamic vinegar
Heat the oven to 450F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Wash the beans and place in a large bowl. Mix the other ingredients together and add to the beans. Toss until the beans are thoroughly covered. Spread thinly on the parchment paper and roast for 15-20 minutes or until nicely browned. Place in a suitable serving dish and dress with some good balsamic vinegar.
Peppers with Sausage
Six small onions, peeled but left whole
One mild Italian sausage
Six small sweet peppers, halved with seeds and pith removed.
Two cloves of garlic
Heat a suitable cast iron skillet with some olive oil. Add onions, when brown in parts, add the whole sausage. When brown, remove the sausage and cut into slices. Return to pan. Add peppers and salt and pepper. Reduce heat and cook covered until flavors blend and peppers are thoroughly soft and their skin charred. Transfer to a suitable serving dish and deglaze the skillet with red wine. Add wine sauce to the serving dish. Adjust seasoning.
goes very well with a cheap and cheerful Primativo and a crusty loaf of bread.