Sweet Baked Yam With Tahini, Cilantro, and Pepitas

As the fall and winter months steal over the calendar, baked yams similarly creep into my meal plans as the year’s darkness and chill cause cravings for sugar and fat. This is not to say I don’t find an excuse to eat sweet potato fries all year…but since the trend to replace yams with russet potatoes in French fries hit the gastronomic scene in the 1980s, yams have come a long way from their once-a-year appearance at the Thanksgiving dinner table to transitioning into more of a culinary “regular.”

Why Choose Yams Over White Potatoes?

Yams are a great replacement for regular white potatoes if a diet requires complex carbs rather than starch, which is often hard to digest and more filling than it is nutritious. Generally, sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index (GI) than russet potatoes. Additionally, yams are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants like beta carotene. This antioxidant is turned into vitamin A once it is digested, which is essential for immune system function, skin clarity, and eye health. It is also pivotal in maintaining healthy mucous membranes in the digestive system, increasing immune response and lowering inflammation. In fact, vitamin A is incredibly abundant in yams, clocking in at over 100% of the daily value (DV) recommended for optimal health. What’s more, it is a fat-soluble nutrient–so preparing your yams with a little fat helps to make this vitamin more readily absorbable.

 

The Colorful Food Diet

Studies suggest that loading your plate with a variety of colors is a great way to ensure consumption of an abundance of nutrients, and typically at a lower caloric cost. This is a fun way to skip out on taking daily supplements and to explore new foods and cooking methods at the same time. Additionally, brightly colored foods tend to be fruits and vegetables, which have added benefits aside from their vitamin and mineral content such as fiber, complex carbs, healthy fats, and more.

Health Benefits of Tahini

Aside from boasting a rich, complex flavor, tahini has several health benefits as well. Just one tablespoon of tahini contains minerals essential to bone health, like phosphorous and manganese. Tahini also contains thiamine (vitamin B1) and vitamin B6, which are both important for sustaining energy production. Like yams, tahini is contains anti-inflammatory compounds and may even be beneficial to people with arthritis.

Sesame seeds, the main ingredient in tahini, have even been shown to improve kidney and liver function, and may even help to prevent fatty liver disease by increasing fat burning and decreasing fat production due to naturally occurring compounds. Sesame oil is a heart-healthy oil with primarily unsaturated fats and omega-6.

The Bottom Line

This dish is rich, filling, and incidentally healthy. One yam can easily feed two people, especially if prepared as a side dish to a protein or salad. Get your knife and fork ready and eat to your health!

Tahini and lemon juice is a classic pairing. The acidity of the lemon helps to temper some of tahini’s more earthy, bitter notes while enlivening some of its more pleasant characteristics, like its nutty richness and tang. Throw some grated garlic into the mix and you’ve got the beginnings of a flavorful dressing!

This easy dinner comes together quickly and is a great way to stretch ingredients to fill more bellies!

Sweet Baked Yam With Tahini, Cilantro, and Pepitas

Bake a yam and dress it with a sweet tahini sauce, fresh herbs, pepitas for crunch, and sour cream, creme fraiche, or yogurt for brightness! A simple, healthy, and fresh lunch or dinner.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Healthy, Intuitive, Vegetarian
Servings 2 people

Ingredients
  

  • 1 yam or sweet potato, medium
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 100 g fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs honey
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated or pressed
  • 2 Tbs water
  • 2 Tbs sour cream, creme fraiche, or yogurt
  • 1 Tbs cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbs pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • sumac, to taste (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Scrub yam free of dirt and particulates. Wrap in tin foil tightly and bake in the oven until fork-tender and releasing caramelized juices, 45 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on the size of the yam.
  • Meanwhile, create the tahini dressing. Mix tahini, lemon juice, honey, garlic, oil, and water in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup until silky and uniform. Remove cilantro leaves from the stems and chop.
  • In a small skillet over medium heat, toast pumpkin seeds until fragrant and golden, about five minutes. Set aside.
  • When the yam has finished baking, remove from the oven, discard the tinfoil, and set the yam on a large plate. Using a long knife, slice the yam into four even pieces, lengthwise. Immediately splatter tahini and sour cream in equal measure over the yam. Toss cilantro and pumpkin seeds over the top, and a dash of sumac, if desired. Serve immediately.
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Samin Nosrat’s Buttermilk Roast Chicken

I’m sure we can all agree that the circumstances surrounding this holiday are less than ideal. It’s challenging for families to come together, connect, and share food due to travel limitations. It seems most folks are celebrating on a smaller scale than usual, reducing their menu for the day if they’re even observing the holiday at all–at least, this is what I’ve observed on my food-saturated social media feed.

If you, too, are cooking for two, or four, or even just yourself–you may consider a roast chicken as your centerpiece rather than larger fowl.

Of all the chickens I have ever roasted in my life (and I love roast chicken!) this buttermilk chicken from Samin Nosrat is the juiciest, most chicken-y roast chicken I have ever had the sublime pleasure of sinking my teeth into. It really is about quality of ingredients because there are so few: take care to use a fine grain salt, like a sea salt or kosher salt, good buttermilk with few additives (or make your own like I do!) and a chicken that you can wager, with reasonable certainty, lived a good life. I don’t know if it’s all in my head, but I feel pretty certain that one can taste the difference in quality meat.

If you treat this recipe with the respect it deserves by investing in quality ingredients, you will be rewarded with beautiful results. For me, this was a life-changing, eureka moment, holy-smokes-this-is-it recipe for roast chicken. (You should probably buy yourself a copy of Salt Fat Acid Heat if you haven’t already.)

I like to keep the ingredients fairly simple in accordance with the original recipe. The lemon, herbs, and half an onion featured are optional, but delicious, additions.

this chicken marinated for two days in the fridge, though samin recommends 24 hours. i have found that two days does not negatively impact the chicken at all by drying it out w salt exposure–in fact, two days is kind of my sweet spot for this recipe, taking care to rotate the chicken every 8-12 hours, or whenever it crosses my mind: whichever comes first.

After I drained the chicken of buttermilk, I tucked the thyme under the skin near the breast meat, and stuffed the cavity with half of a small onion, a small bundle of sage, and a squeezed lemon half. The legs get tied together with twine.

samin instructs us to remove excess buttermilk from the skin by “scraping it off”; i have never found this to be a necessary step. if you hold the chicken so the cavity is facing over the sink or garbage can and wait patiently for a few seconds, the extra moisture should wick away. any remaining milk solids contributed to that delicious, delicious browning on the skin–and tell me, why would one want to prevent this from happening??

The first time I tried this recipe, I was slightly daunted by the recipes–shall we say, specific–roasting instructions. However, I followed them to a T and, I have to say the results made a believer out of me. Just try it. It will work. Trust me. (If you can’t trust me, trust Samin.)

i removed the chicken as soon as the drumstick juices ran clear and the breast meat clocked in at 155°F–for best browning results, use a shallow cast iron to house your chicken.

After you pick clean the carcass with the most delicious chicken you’ve had, maybe ever, save the bones/carcass to make stock. It’s soup season, after all…

Buttermilk Roast Chicken with Aromatics

Based on Samin Nosrat's recipe in NYT Cooking.
Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Resting Time 10 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, keto, paleo, traditional

Equipment

  • cast iron skillet

Ingredients
  

  • 1 4 lb chicken, preferably organic
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • fine grain salt
  • 1/2 onion, peeled, optional
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced into the cavity and shoved inside, optional
  • fresh sage, optional
  • fresh thyme, optional

Instructions
 

  • One to two days before you cook the chicken, generously season it with salt, and rub into the skin. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Do not be shocked if you go through 2-3 Tablespoons, bearing in mind what is not absorbed by the bird initially will dissolve into the buttermilk as it marinates.
  • If using any aromatics like fresh herbs, onion, lemon, garlic, etc, tuck under the skin or in the cavity of the chicken now.
  • Place chicken into a large zip top bag and seal the buttermilk inside. Place in the fridge for 24-48 hours, turning the bag whenever you remember; ideally this is every 8-12 hours.
  • An hour and 15 minutes before you plan to cook the chicken, remove it from the fridge to thaw. After an hour has passed, preheat the oven to 425°F and take care your rack is centered in your oven.
  • Drain the chicken of the buttermilk over a sink or garbage can. When the chicken is completely drained, place it in a shallow cast iron pan. Slide the cast iron to the very back of the stove and into one corner of the oven, so that legs are pointing in the corner. Bake this way for 20 minutes.
  • After 20 minutes has passed, reduced oven heat to 400°F, and continue roasting 10 more minutes. Then, rotate chicken so that it is in the other backmost corner, with legs facing in the opposite corner. Bake for another 30 minutes, or until the chicken is a beautiful brown on top, juices pricked from where the drumstick meets the carcass run clear, or until the breast meat clocks in at 155°F-165°F.
  • If chicken is getting too crispy as you wait for it to reach temperature, feel free to cover the top with foil.
  • Let bird rest for 10 minutes before carving. Enjoy.
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Giada de Laurentiis’ Lemony Fettuccini Alfredo

Sometimes, you just need creamy pasta–especially when the weather demands comfort food.

In spite of the ample amount of cream in this dish, lemon juice and zest brighten the whole thing up–and you can’t help but feel like you’re getting away with something as you dish up another forkful of heavy-cream-coated carbs, without the associated heaviness plastering you to your chair like the lead-filled protective apron the doctor drapes over you when it comes time to get x-rays.

I distinctly remember the first time my mother told me to add freshly grated nutmeg to ricotta cheese. I remember thinking, “Nutmeg? In cheese?” My understanding of the spice up until that point was pretty much exclusive to “pumpkin spice” flavored things. Though I was somewhat aghast at this idea, my mother informed me that this was, in fact, the traditional way to make lasagna–and my trust in her knowledge had handsome returns when it came time to eat. Needless to say, I’ve never looked back when it comes to adding nutmeg to savory dishes. A warming spice with an almost menthol-y personality, a little nutmeg goes a long way; but if you skip it, it’s often the “missing link” at the flavor party. The point is, don’t skip the nutmeg. Freshly ground is best. (That goes for all spices, all of the time, by the way. But that might be another blog post.)

I will say this is another recipe that truly is at its best when prepared right before dinner. The leftovers are, well, not a prime example of what the original dish can be–I’ll put it that way.

But if you’re having company, or even if you want to spruce up date night with your partner, this recipe has an element of indulgence, and the romance that pasta brings. (Why do I think pasta’s romantic? It might have something to do with this iconic scene, not gonna lie.)

this recipe tastes complex, but relies on a few “big player” ingredients–lemon, parmesan, and nutmeg…and of course, butter!

One of my favorite aspects of this recipe is, there’s no thickening agent to make the sauce coat the pasta, like cornstarch or flour. The sauce relies on the cream curdling slightly with the addition of lemon juice; then the flavor is softened slightly with the addition of a few pats of butter. What could be bad about that?

i even drizzled some sauce over my panfried chicken…because you can never have too much cream, right?

Giada de Laurentiis’ Fettucine Alfredo

Serves 6

  • 18 oz fettucine (fresh is yummy but dried is great too)
  • 2 ½ c heavy cream
  • ½ c lemon juice, fresh squeezed
  • 12 Tbs butter 
  • 2 c grated parmesan
  • 2 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1-2 pinches freshly grated nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh basil (garnish)

Juice and zest lemons, and grate parmesan and nutmeg.

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add fettucine and cook until al dente, 6-8 minutes, and drain in a colander in the sink. Do not rinse the pasta.

Stir 2 cups of cream and lemon juice into a heavy-bottomed sauce pot. Add butter and cook over medium heat until butter melts, about 3 minutes. 

Remove from the heat, add pasta, remaining ½ cup of cream, parmesan, lemon zest, nutmeg, salt, and pepper, and toss until cheese is melted and pasta is coated. Taste for seasonings and add more salt and pepper as needed, bearing in mind the parmesan contains a lot of salt.

Return pot to burner and warm over low heat, about one minute, or until sauce thickens to desired consistency. Plate with fresh basil and serve immediately. Simple steamed greens, salad, and meat are great compliments, as is a glass of white wine.