A yam is not a sweet potato is not a potato. You dig? Didn’t think so. I’ve often wondered what the difference is between a yam and sweet potato. They look essentially the same, they co-habitate in the grocery store, they cook pretty much the same way and they taste essentially the same. I’m not above using a yam in a recipe that calls for sweet potato or vice versa. After years of not really knowing what the ding dang difference is, my curiosity finally got the best of me. I turned to my trusty Whole Foods Companion for answers. A sweet potato, as it turns out, is not a potato at all, but rather a member of the morning glory family. (This is explains why they are included in diets that exclude nightshade vegetables.) Yams, are of no relation to the sweet potato nor the potato, and are in fact large tuberous roots that grow (above ground) mostly in the tropics and the Deep South of the US. Both yams and sweet potatoes are highly nutritious and easy to digest. The sweet potato is high in antioxidants and beta carotene, and, like the yam, contains phytochelatins–substances that bind to heavy metals and help expel them from the body. Yams are good source of phytoestrogen (plant estrogen) and are apparently great for treating PMS, menopausal complaints, fatigue, inflammation, stress, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Pow! I usually pick a sweet potato (or yam) up every time I go to the grocery store. The long and short of it is, the yam and the sweet potato, though not created equal, are both delicious and both worthy from a nutritional standpoint alone, of regular consumption. They are equally versatile in the kitchen and can be boiled, mashed, steamed, fried, baked, etc. Eating a slightly sweet veggie like this can also help those of you trying to curb or kick your sugar habit. For this salad I lightly steamed yams, tossed them with arugula and a simple vinaigrette, and topped the salad with my first ever savory granola for a nice crunchy counter-texture. This one’s already become a staple.
Arugula & Yam Salad with Savory Granola
makes 2 servings as main course
FOR THE SALAD
2 yams, sliced into 1-inch thick rounds
1/2 shallot, minced
1 t dijon mustard
1 T raw apple cider vinegar
4 T extra virgin olive oil
FOR THE GRANOLA adapted from Bon Appetite
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped cashews
1/4 cup hemp seeds
1/8 cup flax seeds
1 T fennel seeds
1 t cumin seeds
1 t smoked paprika
1 big pinch salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 egg white, beaten until frothy
–Make the granola: Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the oats, cashews, seeds, paprika and salt in a mixing bowl and stir with your hands or a wooden spoon. Pour in the olive oil and egg white and stir again until the ingredients are well combined. Pour the granola onto a baking sheet and bake until golden, stirring once half way through. About half an hour. Remove the tray and let cool.
-Make the salad: Bring a pot of salted water with a steaming basket over it to a boil over medium-high. Place the yams in the basket , lower the heat to medium, and cover the pot. Cook until the yams are soft but still have some firmness. About 10-15 minutes. They shouldn’t have any crunch but a fork should go easily through the flesh. *If you don’t have a steam basket you can place the yams directly in the water and reduce the cooking time by about 5 minutes. Remove the steam basket (or drain the yams) and let cool to room temperature or slightly warmer.
-In a small bowl, whisk together the shallot, dijon, vinegar, olive oil and a pinch of salt. Pour some of the dressing and the yams in a salad bowl and toss gently with your hands until the potatoes are well coated. Add the arugula and fold into the yams very gently so as not to bruise the leaves, adding more dressing little by little as needed. Heap the salad onto two plates and top with granola and black pepper.
The granola is delicious with kefir or plain yogurt and tart fruit for breakfast the next day. I also like it mixed in with popcorn for added crunch and substance or as a topping on a pureed soup.