Hey friends! I hope all of you in the USA had a wonderful Memorial Day.
This past weekend, I took a fun little getaway up to NYC. During my trip, I was lucky to dine with two lovely ladies I had been hoping to meet for some time: Gena Hamshaw of Choosing Raw and Lisa Pitman of Vegan Culinary Crusade. We ate at the newest location of Cafe Blossom and talked and laughed the night away. These two gals are even more fabulous in real life than they are online. Both Gena and Lisa are smart as whips, ambitious as hell, and make for some amazing company. If you’re not familiar with them or their blogs, then be prepared for a pleasant surprise. Gena wrote a lovely recap of the evening on her blog, if you’d like some more juicy details about our time together.
Aside from my jaunt up to the big city, I also did some picnicking in the park with my family, a bit of urban gardening, and worked on one of my latest projects–a follow up to my first book (tentatively titled) Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats Gone Global. I’m thrilled to say that it’s also being published by Fair Winds Press. The fully illustrated cookbook with over 100 internationally inspired recipes is due to hit shelves next June (2013!). I’m having such a great time working on this one–I get to eat all kinds of delicious foods, shoot fun photos, plus it gives me a good excuse to hit up Asian, Indian, and African groceries quite often (one of my favorite ways to spend a day!). I’ll be sure to share more details on this book soon…
Right now, let’s talk about yams.
Yams have been on my mind a lot with the writing and research of this globally themed cookbook. But, interestingly enough, I’ve also been receiving quite a few questions about yams vs. sweet potatoes from readers, so I thought maybe this short post might help clarify a bit.
Yams are different than what we call “sweet potatoes” and what are occasionally referred to as “yams” here in the States–those bulbous often orange or white root veggies are not actually even related to real yams. In fact, the USDA has made it a requirement that the label on a “yam” also say “sweet potato” when sold at grocery stores, so that consumers realize they are in fact purchasing sweet potatoes, not yams… unless they are shopping in an Asian or African market, that is.
Sweet potatoes are part of the morning glory family and originate from tropical countries such as Peru and Ecuador, while yams are actually tuberous vines that are closely related to lilies–some of which can grown up to 4.5 feet long!– that originate in various parts of Asia and Africa. Yams have a slightly starchier taste than the red or white sweet potatoes, a thicker skin, and there are over 200 varieties available. Yams aren’t usually sold in Western chain supermarkets but instead found in groceries that cater to Asian or African cuisine.
If you usually source your “yams” from the chain markets found throughout the cities in the USA, then more likely than not, you were eating a sweet potato. Even those beautiful guys we call “garnet yams” aren’t actually yams at all. But that’s not to say that they both aren’t worthy of praise for their tastes and textures–they’re just different from one another is all. I am quite fond of each, but as a Westerner, I’m much more acquainted with sweet potatoes. Now that I frequent Asian markets, I am very happy to have yams in my life as well.
I’m an especially big fan of one type of yam in particular, the purple yam, also known as ube (pronounced: ooh-beh) in the Philippines and ubi in Indonesia (often confused with Okinawan sweet potato–which tastes similar, has a similar texture and is also used for desserts because of its brilliant purple hue). Ube or Purple Yam is a delightfully violet hued tuber that is used as a base for many dishes in Filipino cuisine. It’s made into cakes, cookies and other sweet treats where its purple hue and sweetness blend beautifully. You can usually pick these up whole (along with other yams and sweet potatoes) or frozen in chunks in Asian groceries. The whole yams have a reddish brown rough skin and a beautiful purple interior. Once cooked, they become a very interesting base for a deliciously unique ice cream.
Ube (purple yam) Ice Cream
Blend all ingredients into a food processor or high powered blender until completely smooth. Transfer to refrigerator and chill until cold.
Place mixture into ice cream maker following the manufacturer’s instructions. Store in airtight flexible container in your freezer. This ice cream is best after chilling several hours once it has finished processing.