“Do you want to rethink that necklace?”
My 16-year-old self looks down. I’m wearing heeled boots, jeans with some sort of design on the back pockets, a form-fitting top, a bracelet on each hand, shiny, dangling earrings, and the requisite too much eye makeup. And some sort of baubly necklace.
This was not the first time my mother gently (ha) encouraged me to tone it down. Like all young women, I became overexcited at the prospect of dressing up, growing up, being paid attention to. I fit in with my friends well, most of whom wore similar amounts of too much. We all felt that if one necklace was good, three was better.
Something similar happens to me with roasted vegetables. If a potato tossed in salt + pepper + olive oil and then roasted in a pan produces that sought-for exterior crispness and interior tender savoriness, then adding extra herbs, spices, and oils to the mix can only lead to improved taste!
And then my boyfriend brings home a Japanese sweet potato. This potato, long and thin with thick purple skin and surprisingly white flesh, begged me not to abuse it. I briefly considered drowning him in some sort of honey-miso-chile glaze, or mashing him with ginger.
“Do you want to rethink that?” the sweet potato scolded me. Curiosity about what this mysterious vegetable tasted like before he’d been accessorized into submission won out. I sliced him into wedges (skin on, always), tossed him with salt + pepper + olive oil, and roasted him for about 20 minutes at 450. He tasted wonderful—like a better version of his orange cousin—and I’ll never again try to make him any other way again.
Roasted Japanese Sweet Potatoes
Note: This technique works for pretty much any root vegetable— sweet potato, regular potato, new potato, turnip, carrot, etc. It also produces great results for asparagus, broccoli, and tomatoes. For non-root vegetables, just adjust the cooking time and keep an eye on them.
You will need:
1 1/2 lb. Japanese sweet potato (or 1/2-1 lb. other vegetable)
2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425. Wash sweet potato well, and cut into 1 1/2” wedges. On a baking sheet, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 15-25 minutes, checking for tenderness with a fork. (I’ve found roasting times vary greatly depending on the density of the vegetable and whether I’m also cooking something on the stove.)
These potatoes make a great side to pork tonkatsu or roasted chicken.