Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Pineapple with Macadamia Nuts
Until a few years ago I didn’t know that I liked sweet potatoes. Until then I had only ever seen them on the table in a Thanksgiving casserole where they came out of a can and went into a dish along with brown sugar, a stick of butter and lots of little marshmallows on top. The sweet soggy smell was enough to warn me away. A small taste revealed an unpleasant mushiness and a singular overpowering and unnatural sweetness. I wondered, if they were really “sweet” potatoes, then why did they need all of the marshmallows and sugar anyway?
In the way that many traditions are passed down, without true understanding, I made that same casserole, that same way, after I began to cook my own Thanksgiving dinner. Every year I baked it and put it on the table. Some of my guests even ate it. I never touched a bite.
Then one evening I ate dinner with my sister-in-law. She served sweet potatoes in their jacket, just like any old Idaho potato, rubbed with a little oil and baked until tender. Intrigued, I tasted it. Surprised, I found that it was good!
Finding that it wasn’t the sweet potato itself that was the problem with those casseroles from my childhood, I began to look for sweet potato recipes that added no more than moderate amounts of fat and little sugar, relying instead on the sweet flavor of those earthy gems themselves. Better yet, I tried recipes that added savory ingredients, fresh herbs and exotic spices.
Now I love sweet potatoes and eat them often. Fresh, they are a nutritional powerhouse and are delicious cooked many different ways. My latest favorite pairs sweet potatoes with pineapple and macadamia nuts suggesting warm island breezes. Both the sweet potatoes and the pineapple are brushed with a savory herbed balsamic dressing and roasted, then tossed with candied macadamia nuts for a contrasting crunch.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Pineapple
with Macadamia Nuts
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in 1 inch cubes
1/2 of a ripe pineapple, trimmed, cored and cut into 1 inch chunks
2 T balsamic vinegar
2 T olive oil
½ teaspoon ancho chile powder (or red pepper flakes)
½ teaspoon rosemary, minced
½ teaspoon lemon thyme, minced
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 T brown sugar
1 T butter
½ cup macadamia nuts
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place sweet potato pieces on a lightly oiled rimmed baking sheet.
Whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, ancho chile powder, rosemary, lemon thyme, salt and pepper. Brush half of the vinegar and oil mixture over the sweet potatoes and turn to coat.
Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.
Meanwhile - melt 1 Tablespoon butter in a small non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. When the butter is melted add 1 Tablespoon of brown sugar and stir to combine.
Add the chopped macadamia nuts to the skillet and stir to coat with the butter and sugar. Continue stirring over medium-low heat until the nuts begin to brown slightly. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
When the sweet potatoes have baked for 25 minutes - remove the pan from the oven. Add the pineapple chunks to the baking sheet. Brush the sweet potatoes and pineapple with more of the vinegar and oil mixture.
Place the baking sheet back in the oven for 15 minutes more.
Remove from oven. Transfer the sweet potatoes and pineapple to a serving dish and sprinkle the nuts on top.
Serve and enjoy!
Note: This makes a great side dish but can also be served as a salad on a bed of romaine lettuce.
To make it a main course, cut honey ham or sliced chicken breast from the deli into half-inch strips and add them on top of the sweet potatoes and pineapple during the last 5 to 10 minutes of roasting.