North Carolina ranks number one (#1!) in sweet potato production in our country. When served in a pie (mmm), casserole (Thanksgiving!), as french fries or baked, the sweet potato proves its versatility, adapting to sweet and savory foods alike. And while the sweet potato scores high on taste, it’s definitely not shabby in nutritional value. The intense orange color is the first indicator of superfood status. The sweet potato is low in sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol, while being a good source of fiber, vitamin B6, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C and manganese.
I developed this simple Sweet Potato Sweetheart Tart recipe to highlight the goodness of our local agriculture and to show a new, savory spin on an old time favorite. Using top quality, local ingredients means doing less to them to bring out their natural qualities. You can look forward to these flavors:
The sweet potato is infused with herbal and citrus aromatics while simmering in a rich vegetable stock. Granny Smith apples brighten in tartness when cooked with lemon juice. The lemon flavor of the thyme mirrors the acidity of apple, while the tartness of the apple contrasts the now-savory sweet potato. A touch of smooth, creamy goat cheese, and this tart transforms into a complex, dynamic experience for the tastebuds.
I purchased sweet potatoes, apples and goat cheese at the N.C. Farmer’s Market in Raleigh. The quality is superb and prices cannot be beat.
What you’ll need:
1 large sweet potato
3 small Granny Smith apples
1 handful of thyme branches
2 T. chopped thyme leaves
1 oz. goat cheese
2 T. olive oil
4 c. vegetable stock
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed but kept cool
1/8 t. ground nutmeg
salt & pepper
6 heart-shaped pastry tins (not required, free-form tart variation at end)
This recipe is mostly an assembly line. I recommend preparing it mise en place, that is having all preparation and measuring complete before cooking anything.
What you do…
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Position oven rack in the middle of the oven.
2. Wash, peel and cut potato into thick stalks.
3. Wash, peel and cut apples into about 1/2-inch cubes. Toss with the zest and juice of one lemon. Season with a sprinkle of salt and a few grinds of fresh-ground pepper. Save the lemon rind.
4. Prepare puff pastry. This works best if the dough is still very cold, but pliable. Place tart tin bottom-side-down on top of the dough. Using a paring knife, cut out the shape of the base, then insert it into a non-greased tart tin. Repeat for remaining tins.
5. Cut a piece of the puff pastry sheet into six 1/4-inch strips. Use the strips to form the outer rim of the heart. Press gently into the mold. Form a smooth seam where rim and base meet. Perforate the dough with a fork to prevent air bubbles while cooking. Place in the preheated oven. Bake 12 minutes.
6. Meanwhile in a saucepan, cover sweet potato slices with 4 cups vegetable stock. Add 2 lemons (halved), reserved lemon rind, handful of thyme branches, salt and pepper. Add an extra cup of stock or water to cover if necessary. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for about 8 minutes or until potatoes are tender to a knife point. Drain and cut into 1/8-inch slices.
7. While potatoes are cooking, cook the apple mixture in a separate pan over low-medium heat for about 7 min. Mash the apples into a thick, chunky applesauce. Stir in ground nutmeg
8. Build the tart. Smooth 1 tablespoon of apple mixture on the bottom of each tart. Layer sweet potato slices on top. Sprinkle with thyme leaves, goat cheese crumbles. Spoon a drizzle of olive oil over top.
9. Return tarts to oven for a final 12 minutes.
10. Remove and allow to cool for a few minutes. Use a paring knife to edge between the rim of the pastry and the tart tin. Gently remove from the tart tin, season with salt and pepper. Enjoy!
This tart could stand up alongside a light spring greens salad with citrus vinaigrette (and a scoop of homemade chicken salad), or alongside a chicken roasted with classic rosemary, lemon and garlic.
[Variation: if you don’t have tart tins, not to worry. Use the puff pastry to make a rustic, free-form tart. Simply form the dough into a rectangle and fold over a portion of the edge to create a crust or a rim to hold the tart contents. Perforate and bake 12 minutes. Layer with prepared toppings, then return to oven about 12 more minutes or until golden brown.]