You’ve gotta love fall and all the great produce that crops up at this time of year. Squashes are everywhere in all their resplendent colors and one of my personal favorites, the yam, is found in abundance for all those wonderful holiday dishes that will soon be popping up in people’s kitchens. I’ve been making more of an effort to eat seasonal produce not just to partake of great deals but to enjoy what certain foods are supposed to taste like when harvested at their peak. Here in the US, we are very spoiled in that we usually have any type of products we want right at our fingertips no matter what time of year it may be: asparagus in November, apricots in February… it gets so that we just don’t appreciate food seasons the way we ought to because of the instant gratification we’re so used to receiving. This point has been brought up to me a couple of different times over the past few weeks, particularly from folks who have lived abroad or have immigrated to the US from places like Uzbekistan or Kenya. In those countries, it’s unheard of to have tomatoes in October or any other non-seasonal eating because they just don’t have the same type of set up we do (refrigeration, huge grocery stores, etc.). Learning about how other people of other cultures cook & eat renewed my interest in exploring more seasonal products and I thought I’d start out with something easy: the lovely little yam.
Recently, I was lucky enough to find some great yams (okay, technically they were garnet sweet potatoes; someday I’ll get them all straight) at the Co-op at the low, low price of just $0.79/lb. I made sure to pick up a couple in addition to the cutest little butternut squash ever, which was also on sale. The beauty of seasonal eating is that you can find fabulous deals on produce that is actually (go figure) in season. Practically every store I’ve either been to or whose ads I’ve checked out lately are offering yams, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, spaghetti squash – you name it! – at wonderful sale prices. Though I love sweet potatoes even as simply prepared as baked with a little bit of butter on top, I thought it would be fun to try something new (to me) and add them to some pasta. The rest came to me as I smelled them roasting in the oven: smoky-tasting ham to go with the sweetness of the yams and the nuttiness of the pasta, lightly wilted spinach for color and a different texture; I was set.
Except for the sauce.
Though my four main ingredients did seem to go well together aesthetically and flavor-wise, if I just them together like that the dish would be a bit on the dry side. I wasn’t quite sure exactly how I would remedy this until I saw I had way more roasted yam cubes than I did ham or pasta. A creamy sauce using some of the roasted sweet potatoes seemed like a fun, albeit odd, idea. I’m glad I followed my creative instinct, though; the sauce was just what the dish needed to tie everything together. Sure, you can get away with adding a little extra butter to the dish to moisten things a bit, but take a leap of faith with me and try the sauce – it’s tasty and very easy to make! Because I wasn’t about to go out and spend $2 on some heavy whipping cream just to make this sauce (use what you have on hand!!!), I used the fat-free milk to make it. I was quite pleased with the result because it kept things on the lighter side while still keeping things a little creamy. Though a little labor-intensive (not difficult, just some extra steps), I really liked this dish. And when all was said and done I ended up with 4 huge helpings (possibly 6 normal sized ones… hello, leftovers!), the entire recipe coming out to just over $8. Not too shabby!