The day after Christmas, Robin, a dear, old friend whom I haven’t talked to in some time, left this message on my Face Book Wall, “. . .I made your orange-glazed sweet potatoes for Christmas. They were a huge hit. . .,” and I’ve been beaming ever since. After all, it is a cook’s greatest joy to learn that somebody got pleasure from eating her food or, in this case, from the preparation of one of her recipes. I was imagining this vegan sweet potato dish at a traditional African American holiday celebration holding its own among a whole buffet of other holiday favorites that were perhaps not vegan. I was imagining Robin and her family members tasting and enjoying it so much that they did not think to ask or did not care that it was made with steamed sweet potatoes, raw sugar, and a vegan butter substitute because, ultimately, these orange glazed sweet potatoes made their hearts and taste buds happy.
While I had no idea that Robin even knew about the recipe, in the days leading up to Christmas, two of my other friends—one headed for home in Seattle, Washington and the other travelling to the other side of Charlottesville, Virginia–contacted me for the same recipe so that they too could prepare the dish for their family holiday celebrations. With Robin being from Gary, Indiana, I, all of a sudden, imagined this Vegan Orange Glazed Sweet Potato recipe sweeping the nation. O.K. maybe my imagination is grand, but it’s safe to say that something that started as my simply veganizing a recipe from one of my favorite soul food cookbooks for my own family has perpetuated itself beyond my kitchen table to gatherings and fellowships among people from the mid west and on both the east and west coasts. And that is one of the most meaningful and beautiful things about food.
I invite you to give this recipe a try during what’s left of the holiday season or at some point during these cold winter months.
Vita’s Vegan Orange-Glazed Sweet Potatoes
(from the article “Vegan Soul Grows in Anacostia, The Washington Post, October 10, 2007)
6 medium sweet potatoes (about 4 pounds)
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch or flour
3/4 cup turbinado sugar, such as Sugar in the Raw
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons Earth Balance Vegan Natural Buttery Spread
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a large flameproof casserole dish with nonstick cooking oil spray.
Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1/4- or 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place them in a steamer set in a large saucepan containing a small amount of barely boiling water. Cover and steam for 20 to 30 minutes or until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork. Transfer them to the casserole dish, layering evenly.
While the potatoes are steaming, prepare the glaze: Combine the orange juice and cornstarch or flour in a measuring cup and stir to mix well.
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the sugar, salt, lemon zest and butter substitute; add the juice-cornstarch mixture. Increase the heat to medium and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring until the mixture forms a syrup thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Pour over the sweet potatoes and cover the casserole with aluminum foil. Bake for about 45 minutes, basting occasionally, then remove the foil and bake for about 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven while you preheat the broiler; place the casserole on the top rack and broil for 5 to 6 minutes, until the top layer of potatoes is nicely browned. Serve hot.
For photos of us preparing this dish and more during my latest Hands-on Vegan Soul Food Cooking Lesson, click here.