|(Interview) Summer grilling season is here with Mollie Katzen's tips on how to grill sweet potatoes|
Related to neither the potato nor the yam, the sweet potato is actually a tuberous member of the morning glory family, and native to the West Indies. It was introduced to Europe by Columbus, when he brought many "new" foods back with him after his second voyage to the Americas in 1494. A bit later, on the other side of the world, sweet potatoes were also discovered by the Chinese in the Philippines, when a 16th century famine in the Fujian province prompted the governor to send out an expedition in search of food plants. Now sweet potatoes are grown in virtually all warm, humid areas of the world, and are used in the cuisines of many cultures.
There are hundreds of varieties of sweet potatoes, and all are terrific sources of beta-carotene, Vitamin A, and fiber. Because they are so satisfying and filling (and easy to cook in a microwave oven), they make a wonderful, nutritious snack that can effectively stifle the temptation to turn to potato chips or candy bars instead.
If you keep sweet potatoes in a cool dry place, they should last up to a month or longer. If you store them at room temperature, use them within a week. Don't refrigerate sweet potatoes for any length of time, or they will develop a hard core and an "off" flavor.
COOKING TIP: During grilling season, try cooking sweet potatoes until soft, wrapped tightly in foil, directly in the hot cools.
MY FAVORITE SEASONINGS FOR MASHED SWEET POTATOES: Salt and fresh lime juice. Period. It's divine, and you'll never miss the butter.