breaking news

Unbeaten Wittenberg moves to No. 5 in poll

Food for body and soul

Each traditional holiday dish has a fascinating history. Our beloved green bean and mushroom soup casserole topped with French fried onions, for example, was created by Dorcus Reilly, a Campbell Soup Company employee, in 1955. To mark its place in Americana, her original recipe card is in the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron.

As much as I love green bean casserole, the component of our American holiday dinner I regard the most as comfort food is candied sweet potatoes.

Part of the morning glory family of plants, sweet potatoes are native to tropical parts of the Western Hemisphere and their domestication goes back at least 5,000 years.

According to Stephanie Pappas’ Live Science article, “History of Plenty: How the Thanksgiving Meal Evolved,” the tradition of eating candied sweet potatoes originated in the West Indies when African slaves worked on sugarcane plantations. To grow their own food, slaves were given plots of land unsuitable for sugarcane, and highly-nutritious sweet potatoes were a favored crop.

Slaves who boiled sugarcane to make molasses would pour the hot liquid over raw sweet potatoes, thus cooking them. So what started as a staple food of slaves became Southern soul food, and from there spread out across America to become a popular holiday dish.

As cooks continue to tweak and experiment, our cuisine will continue to evolve and so will our holiday meal. The sweet potato recipe I’ve adopted this year comes from Marcus Samuelsson, owner of The Red Rooster restaurant in New York’s Harlem. He’s been a judge on Top Chef, Iron Chef, Chopped and The Taste, as well as a guest chef at the White House.

Born in Ethiopia, Samuelsson and his sister were separated from their father, an Ethiopian Orthodox Church priest, during that county’s civil war, and the children were adopted and raised in Sweden. Samuelsson then came to the United States and made Harlem his new home.

His twist on candied sweet potatoes is very easy, and the chipotle chile powder, thyme and garlic provide a sophisticated balance to the honey and potatoes’ natural sweetness. It’s considerably healthier than the saccharine marshmallow variety I grew up with. You can make the potatoes the day before, then take them out of the refrigerator and either serve at room temperature or heat up. They’d also work great for an office carry-in or open-house party.


2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch half moons

¼ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 sprigs thyme

4 garlic cloves, smashed

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

2 tablespoons honey

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.

2. Toss the sweet potatoes with the olive oil, salt, chipotle chile powder, cumin, thyme and garlic.

3. Spread the sweet potatoes out in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes. Stir, dot with the butter and drizzle on the honey. Roast until the sweets are caramelized and tender, another 20 minutes.

4. Lift up the parchment and slide the sweets into a serving dish. Serve warm.

From the book: “The Red Rooster Cookbook: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem” by Marcus Samuelsson; 384 pages, $37.50. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.

What you get: Interspersed inside a riveting and lyrical narrative of his insights into both Harlem and African American cuisine, Samuelsson organizes his recipes by days of the week and includes cocktails, brunch food, sides, meats and an entire chapter on chicken.

In his own words: “I offer the food I grew up with, big dishes that made you suck your fingers. Good lumpy gravy with odd-shaped kroppkaka, Swedish potato dumpling. But my food also comes out of church cooking, home cooking, diners, and the Southern tradition of meat and three (side dishes). It’s black culture, but it’s for everyone.” — Marcus Samuelsson

ABOUT THIS FEATURENew cookbooks flood the market every week. This feature will help you make sense of what’s new and what’s worth trying out.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in

Lack of sunlight may cause winter weight gain, research suggests
Lack of sunlight may cause winter weight gain, research suggests

We often blame our added winter pounds on the holidays. All the gatherings of family and friends combined with good food, often take the toll on our waistlines. But if you're one of the many who laments adding a few pounds in December, it may not actually be entirely due to changes in your diet. In fact, new research suggests that a lack of sunlight...
25 Dayton-area galas and charity events to put on your calendar in 2018
25 Dayton-area galas and charity events to put on your calendar in 2018

This is a rare opportunity to dine with Dayton’s Mayor Nan Whaley and other esteemed guests from My Project USA. Proceeds from the evening will be used to protect and empower Dayton’s needy and underserved families.  WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Saturday, January 20 WHERE: The Golf Club at Yankee Trace, 10000 Yankee St., Centerville ...
5 things to know if you’re trying to conceive

If you are trying to conceive, you may first want to make sure your diet is conception-promoting. Research suggests a connection between certain foods and nutrients and the probability of conception. And, it is not just women who have to watch what they eat — but also men. For men, different foods and nutrients can effect sperm count and production...
D.L. STEWART: Tired of the daily grind? Talk to your gadget!

Because walking across a room or tapping on a keyboard requires way too much energy, technology is providing exciting new solutions to rescue us from the brink of our daily exhaustion — digital assistants. As the Associated Press reported this week, “From your couch you, you can now ask the Echo’s Alexa assistant to play your favorite...
Here are the big coupon deals of the week
Here are the big coupon deals of the week

Coupon availability and coupon values may vary within different regions or neighborhoods. Colgate Toothbrush This week at Walgreens, select varieties of Colgate toothbrushes are on sale for $2.99 each. Use the $1 off one Colgate 360 or floss tip toothbrush coupon found in the January 7 SmartSource inserts. Visit and you can...
More Stories