NON-candified sweet potato

You know what I find kind of gross? That so much food is so horribly over-sweetned to the point where you get cavities just from looking at the thing. Sweet potatoes (so named, because they're already SWEET) are a major culprit in this really awful trope. They're really sweet to begin with. They really don't need more sugar, unless you're making a pie (in which case, sugar away).

I had a friend ask what to do for a Thanksgiving side dish using sweet potato that wasn't a dessert. He was really tired of perpetually seeing that marshmallow topped, sickly sweet crime against food sitting on the table year after year. He wanted something a little more exciting, but still not so out there that it would clash with the flavours of the rest of the food. I suggested that he spice them up, and roast them so that they get crisp on the outside, and creamy smooth inside.

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced into 1 inch cubes
2 tablespoons of neutral flavoured oil (canola, peanut, grape seed, rice bran, etc etc)
1 stick of cinnamon
5 whole cloves
1/4 tsp (or less) fennel seeds, lightly crushed
1 whole cardamom pod (or two, if you like the taste)
3 whole dried red chiles
1 bay leaf (optional)
salt, to taste
a good grinding of black pepper
2 - 3 scrapes of nutmeg (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Peel and dice your sweet potato.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over high heat. As soon as you put the oil in the pan, while the pan and oil are still cold, add the cinnamon stick, cloves, fennel seeds, and cardamom pod(s). Let the oil heat up, and make the spices very fragrant. You want the spices to smell amazing, but not burn. Add the diced sweet potato, and toss well to combine with the spices. Add the dried whole red chiles. If you want it more spicy, break the chiles into smaller pieces before adding to the pan. Salt generously. Toss to combine with the salt. Turn off the stove.

On a parchment (or foil) lined baking sheet, spread the diced potato along with all the spices, in one even layer. Bake at 350ºF for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, and toss the potatoes around, so that they get redistributed. Put the pan back in the oven for another 10 - 15 minutes. You want the edges of the potatoes (and possibly the entire surface) to be a dark brown colour, and your entire kitchen will be fragrant with spices.

Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven, and grind on some black pepper and a scrape of nutmeg.


End of an Era

So in December end (G-d willing), I'll be leaving for Florida to finish off my last semester and get my degree conferred. I've lived here for a fair few years now, and am going to miss my friends, my family (some of whom I've been born with, and some of whom I've chosen as my family), and my favourite spots. Even now, I feel this tightness in my throat, because I know I'm really going to miss being a part of this wonderful city.

There are some things that you can only do in New York, and I'm glad to have done them. There are others that make living in New York truly unique, and I have done them or plan to do them.

- Order fried plantains at a Chinese food place.
- Walk in a park that's sitting atop a major street, and hear the traffic and city noise drop away as you go deeper inside.
- Take the subway to a place that's just a few blocks away, because you can't figure out the directions without the subway. I know what stop to get off at, but I can't be fussed to figure out what direction to walk.
- Helpfully point someone in the right direction when he's reading the subway map behind you really intently. "No no, this one doesn't hit Canal Street. You need to take the A for that one. Yeah, just transfer at 59th, and you'll be fine."
- Share a "Can you believe this thing that's happening" with a random stranger, and possibly even have a 30 second conversation about it.
- Notice that you're out of wine, and the store is only a block away, but you don't feel like getting up, so you pick up the phone, order delivery, and tip the guy a few bucks so he can get himself a bottle of something at the end of his shift.
- Actually decipher what the heck those announcements on the subway platform/train are saying, even when it's a human speaking, and the audio cuts out randomly, and the person is swallowing half their words.
- Find yourself sort of dance-walking while a really good song comes on your MP3 player; nobody notices, and you enjoy your little moment of private celebration amongst the masses of people. Catch someone else doing the same (but don't let them know you know).
- Smile when you realise that you can indeed spare some change, and brighten someone's day.
- Watch the children playing in the fountains or fire hydrants or parks in the summer. Know that were you that age, you'd totally be there having a blast.
- Curse the street sweeper passing your window at 4:00 in the morning, but then really appreciate the difference it makes in how clean the streets are.
- Throw a used water bottle into the trash, with the full knowledge that someone will come along, take it out, and make sure it gets recycled.
- Get the same thing at your favourite takeout place that they've got your order memorised. (Seriously. I'm awful at this, because I like what I like, and tend to order it repeatedly.)
- See the look of pride in someone's face when you're shopping in their ethnic market. (This happened to my friend this past weekend. He was at an Indian market in Queens by himself. An Indian guy approached him, and asked what was up. He replied, "I like Indian foods." The Indian dude looked so pleased, and said, "That's so great that you enjoy our food, and are seeking it out!")
- Find a moment of utter and complete quiet, after the neighbourhood shuts down for the night, and the cars have all parked for the night. Where I'm at now, it happens around 2:00 AM. It's still, silent, and peaceful, even while still hiding that pulsing, beating heart underneath.
- Watching really wealthy women get into physical fights over markdowns at Barney's, while enjoying a piping hot cup of coffee.

Anything else that I absolutely need to make it a point to do before I go? I'm not talking about restaurants, or shows. Those I can do in any major city, and still enjoy myself. I'm talking about those things that make you stop, and think "I can't find this anywhere else in the world, and I love my city because it's here."