When we think about skordalia, our first thought is usually garlic. Our second thought may be the food that we serve with skordalia, or even the potatoes. We did not think about sweet potatoes, however. Yes, sweet potatoes! The beautiful orange tubers that melt in our mouths with a little butter and brown sugar do not seem, at first, to go with garlic. But, the authors of The Olive and the Caper offered a simple recipe for sweet potato skordalia, that we became intrigued and had to try it.
The authors of the book write about the importation of potatoes into Greece, and how sweet potatoes are still a new food in Greek cuisine. But, finding a place for the sweet potato may be difficult, since many classic dishes use potatoes which are savoury and have a tomato base; sweet potatoes may not fit into some of those recipes. Using them with garlic and vinegar seemed out of place to have that sweet, creamy base with the bite of the garlic and the tang of the vinegar.
But, if a Greek household such as ours is to learn about how to use sweet potatoes in traditional fare, then this is a good place to have our first lesson. Our other thought was that during Great Lent, we make skordalia regularly; we tried the walnut one, so why not try this suggestion, too? This very informative cookbook has given us some really great recipes and stories, so we had some faith that this would turn out well, too. And, we only had to buy sweet potatoes -- we had all the other ingredients.
For this recipe, you will need:
2 medium sweet potatoes
1/3 cup pine nuts (can use almonds as a substitute)
3 large cloves of garlic
1 cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
dash of cayenne pepper (or other hot pepper)
1/2 cup water
and a food processor
The first step to this recipe is to peel the sweet potatoes, then cut them into cubes. You want to cut them into similar sized cubes so that they cook at the same rate while boiling. Uniformity is important in a lot of foods for this reason, so make sure they are similarly sized chunks of potato. Put the sweet potato cubes into a pot full of water, and boil until they are just tender. If a fork is put into the piece of potato, and the potato slides off the fork then it is done cooking. You want to make sure there is a very slight bite to the potato and it is not mushy.
While the potatoes are cooking, start mixing together the pine nuts and the garlic in the food processor. Give this a few pulses so that the two mix together well. The pine nuts do not have to be well-pureed here, because they will continue being smashed when adding other ingredients.
Next, add the oil and the vinegar to the food processor. Add the cayenne pepper, too. Remember that cayenne pepper, as do many hot peppers, get a little hotter as they sit, so don't go too crazy with the spicy. The bite of skordalia should come from the garlic, not the hot pepper.
Beat the ingredients together until you have a smooth and creamy mixture. It will look a little like Hollandaise sauce or mayonnaise when it is all whipped. But, we are not done yet. So, this is the point to make sure that the nuts, garlic, oil, and vinegar are smooth and creamy.
now it is time to add the sweet potatoes to the food processor. But, first, take them out of the boiling water and drain them in a colander. Give them a moment to cool, or, run them under cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain all the water you can off of the sweet potatoes, and then, add them to the nut/oil mixture.
Use the pulse function on the food processor to get to a chunky consistency. If you want the final product to be chunky, then add only half to two thirds the amount of sweet potatoes initially, and reserve the remaining sweet potatoes for the adding at the end. If you prefer a smooth and creamy texture, then continue to blend until you reach the desired consistency.
But, you are not done yet! Now, with the lid on, and using the lowest speed setting on the processor, begin pouring in the water to the mixture until it is all blended well. This will make the sweet potato skordalia a little fluffy and add the last bit of creaminess to this dairy free delight.
Whip this until you achieve the smooth, creamy consistency of a dip or a spread. If you chose to withhold some of the sweet potatoes to get to a chunky version of skordalia, then add them after the water and continue with only the pulse function in order to get to the consistency you want. Then, when you are done blending, chill the mixture until you are ready to serve it. Put it in a serving dish and garnish as you would any skordalia -- with capers, crushed pepper flaks, oil, pine nuts or just parsley. Now, you can enjoy the sweet potato skordalia!
Prior to making this dish, we were not sure what we would think about this skordalia. As much as the recipe appeared interesting, and given the fact that we really like this cookbook, this was so different from the traditional versions that we don't know what to expect.
So, what is the verdict? It is an unexpected surprise to get the sweetness of the sweet potato, followed by the little bite of garlic. The pine nuts were completely unnoticeable in this. We think that they were used more as a binding agent than a flavouring. Almonds may have gone better for flavour in this. We garnished with a little oil and a sprinkling of hot pepper just to keep it simple. That extra bite of hot pepper was nice, but did not really match the expectation of sweet that we wanted from the sweet potatoes. Actually, we all thought the recipe needed a little more red wine vinegar. We all agreed that it was a lovely texture, spreading so easily and smoothly onto our crackers and bread. We even used it as a sandwich spread with lettuce, tomato, and onion. That was interesting! Somehow the sweet potato really worked with the onion and tomato -- the lettuce was just for the crunch. We also used it with some roasted vegetables and that seemed to be the best combination. The sweet roasted peppers and zucchini were perfect matches with this sweet potato creation. The pairing just 'worked.'
We don't know that we would make this too often, but it is a nice surprising dish that combines flavours in a new way. It is worth trying, and worth using as a treat. Now, we have yet one more way of making skordalia, and that is always a bonus!