Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sweet Potato Balls (with Black Beans, Avocado and Spinach)

Ed and I tried Bergamot recently and for an entrée I chose: 

Plaintain Gnocchi
Black Beans, Avocado, Red Pepper, Portobello Mushroom Confit, Shishito Pepper, Cilantro

This entrée was good enough to try adding to my home repertoire, but the gnocchi seemed a bit complicated so I decided to substitute sweet potato balls.  As a child I always ordered the signature Sweet Potato Balls when our family ate at the Woodbine Cottage in Sunapee, NH. Remembering how much I liked them I rummaged through my recipe book and found what I had copied from my Mom's Woodbine Cottage Cookbook many years ago.*  I started with this, and here is my spicier, healthier (no deep fat frying) update: 

MAKE THE SWEET POTATO** BALLS (They work well as a veggie on their own or as part of the this dish.  If serving them on their own choose spices/herbs to compliment accompaniments.)

In a 350°F oven bake for 1 hour or until soft:

2 sweet potatoes ~ 1.5 pounds (I used garnet yams)

Remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.

Cut the cooked potatoes in half and scoop the flesh from the skins and place in a bowl.  Add: 

1 1/2 t butter (omit for vegan)
1/4 t ground chipotle chili
1/2 t ground cumin
1 T fresh corriander, minced finely 
1 T orange juice  (add if using sweet potatoes which are drier in order to obtain a soft consistency, I did not use with yams)

Mix well. Roll mixture into marble-sized balls approximately 3/4 inch in diameter. (Wet hands with water to make it easier.)

Roll each ball in:

Golden Flaxseed Meal (I used Bob's Red Mill) 

Place coated yam/sweet potato balls on a baking sheet that has been lightly sprayed with:

Olive oil 

Then  lightly spray top of each ball with olive oil. To make balls more perfectly rounded, referigerate for at least an hour then shape again. Balls can be made several hours ahead of time. Bake along with the black beans (see below) 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven.


I kept the beans, avocado and cilantro from the Bergamot presentation, added spinach because it was in season at our local farm stand and eliminated the other ingredients because they were hard to come by and I did not think were really essential to the dish.

(1) Drain any excess (leave about 1 T) liquid and place in small oven proof dish:

15 oz  black beans, add
1/2 t unsweetened cocoa (optional - I always add cocoa to refried beans - when I tasted the cold black beans after adding the cocoa I was sure I had made a mistake but actually liked the beans plus cocoa when warmed. Definately an acquired taste.)

Cover and place in 350 degree oven along with the sweet potato/yam balls.

(2) Wash, devein and dry:

6 oz spinach

Place in medium bowl and toss with: 

1 1/2 t  lime juice
1 1/2 t olive oil

(3) Cut in half  and remove skin and pit from 

1- 2 ripe avocados  

Rub with a mixture of

1 t lime juice
Salt to taste

Cut into slices.


Divide the spinach among 3 plates.  Divide the beans among 3 plates. Place the sweet potato balls on top or beside the beans/spinach. Garnish with avocado and additional:

Cilantro, finely chopped.


If the avocado, despite outward appearances, is was not up to "garnish" standards,  cut out grey spots, cut the avocado in small pieces and mix the avocado and salt with the spinach mixture.


This is how the recipe appears on my recipe card.  It is a little vague. I probably condensed the information when copying:

"Cook six sweet potatoes, rice [don't cook rice too, rather put potatoes through a potato ricer], and mix with a little butter, milk and salt, add grated orange rind. Dilute 1 egg in  2 TBSP cold water. Dip balls of sweet potato in egg and then roll in crushed cornflakes. Fry in deep fat [oh my, we really thought these were good] 390 degrees [ I would do 350 degrees]  until brown.  Drain on brown paper."


Since I actually used garnet yams for this recipe, I wondered if I could really call it Sweet Potato Balls.  I consulted a number of sources and found the best explanation at Cooks Thesaurus

yam = moist-fleshed sweet potato   Notes:   Americans use the word "yam" to refer to a sweet, moist, orange-fleshed variety of sweet potato.   To everyone else in the world, a yam is what Americans call a tropical yam, a firm tuber with white flesh.  Varieties of American "yams" (sweet potatoes) include the garnet yam .... and the jewel yam.  Substitutes:  sweet potatoes (drier, less sweet, and often more expensive).

Reviewed 7/11/2017

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