We grow many things well on our farm, but sweet potatoes are not one of them — our growing season is too short. So instead, we rely on farmers in much warmer climates to do it for us. Nonetheless they are a nutritional powerhouse, and one of my favourite vegetables. Baking is my preferred way to cook them. We do grow lots of fragrant cilantro, and through life-cycle harvesting we enjoy its aromatic leaves, green coriander seeds, and lacy white flowers. The pesto brings together lots of citrusy cilantro leaves and bright balancing flavours in a tasty condiment ready to complete a deliciously baked sweet potato.
Excerpted from Farmhouse Vegetables by Michael Smith. Copyright © 2023 Michael Smith. Photography by Al Douglas. Published by Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
Cilantro Cashew Pesto
Maple Spiced Sweet Potato
Measure the cilantro, cashews, garlic, canola oil, lemon zest and juice, cheese, and salt into a food processor. Purée until a smooth, bright paste emerges, scraping down the sides a few times along the way. Reserve or transfer to a resealable container and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Turn on the convection fan if you have one. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
Use the point of a small sharp knife to lightly score the surface of the sweet potatoes in a diamond pattern, making cuts ½-inch deep at ½-inch intervals. (For smaller side portions, no need to score the wedges.) Arrange the sweet potatoes cut side up on the prepared baking sheet and lightly oil the tops. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 45 minutes.
Carefully brush the potatoes with maple syrup and evenly sprinkle with the fennel seeds and coriander seeds. Continue baking until glazed and tender, 15 minutes or so more. Serve with a generous dollop of cilantro cashew pesto on top. Garnish with cilantro flowers, if any, and a few tender stems.
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