Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Miso-Tahini Glaze

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Miso-Tahini Glaze

Have you ever been incredibly intimidated by some task only to realize when you finally tried it that it wasn't so bad? That finding the nerve to cross into the unfamiliar was perhaps the hardest part. It's wonderful and a little bit scary, isn't it, how powerful our minds can be? Our mental state can do anything from pin us down in fear to propel us to success.

It's a bit odd, but what got me thinking about this was a camera setting. In the half year or so since purchasing my DSLR, I've relied entirely on the aperture priority exposure setting. Why? Cause it was safe and the results, satisfactory. At that time even the most "dumbed down" photography tutorials about f-stops, ISO, and shutter speed made my head spin. So I convinced myself that my camera was smarter than me and wisely (or so I thought) got out of its way.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Miso-Tahini Glaze

That worked alright for a while...but Ms. Canon and I often split on what "proper exposure" meant for any specific photo. Then last week it finally dawned on me that some of my favorite photos are technically "over" or "under" exposed but have the perfect lighting for the artist's vision. So scary jargon be damned, I flipped the setting to manual and started snapping away.

And you know what? Nothing exploded or melted (myself included). Really it just felt like a natural progression from how I'd been shooting (except less cursing and more fun playing with settings to find my perfect exposure). Don't get me wrong -- I have plenty of nits to pick with these photos. Yet with this step I finally feel a potential for growth. Perhaps this example of mine is silly, but next time you have a chance to reach beyond your comfort zone, why not go for it?

While we're on the topic of daring to try something new, you've just gotta give this sweet potato dish a go. It may look serene (to match the Japanese theme), but flashy colors would definitely be involved if photos reflected flavors 8). Combine the savory complexity of miso with the sweetness of mirin, tang of rice vinegar, and nutty richness of tahini, and you've got one addictive sauce. Just be forewarned that you may find yourself putting it on everything from sandwiches to salads.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Miso-Tahini Glaze [Printable Recipe]
Adapted from Teaism via Washingtonian
Serves 8 as a side

XIAOLU'S NOTES: My sweet potatoes were more medium-small, so I only got about 4 small servings and had LOTS of sauce leftover (though I didn't mind a bit). Be sure to get larger sweet potatoes or twice as many for the right number of servings. If using larger ones, I'd recommend cutting into cubes. If you end up with more sauce than needed for the sweet potatoes, it stores well and tastes great on lots of things (be adventurous!) :).

Sweet potatoes:
4 large sweet potatoes, peeled 1 1/2 inch cubes
[I cut them in 3/4-inch thick round slices.]
Neutral-flavored oil, such as canola or vegetable oil, as needed

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss sweet potato cubes with enough canola oil to coat the potatoes lightly but evenly. Add the potatoes to a small baking pan; you want to crowd the potatoes in the pan to help them steam. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, making sure the cubes or slices are cooked through. Let cool for at least 10 minutes.

Sesame-miso dressing:
1/3 cup yellow or white miso paste
1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
3/4 cup water, more if desired
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/4 cup mirin
2 to 3 tablespoons sugar

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk until completely blended. Taste and adjust seasoning with sugar. Add more water if a thinner consistency is preferred. This dressing is best if it’s prepared and kept overnight to allow the flavors to mingle [but tastes great the day you make it as well].

To serve, portion the roasted sweet potatoes onto each plate, and drizzle with miso-tahini dressing.


  1. Your photos are really gorgeous! It looks as if M mode is definitely working for you. :-) The color on those sweet potatoes also make them look sooooo delicious.

  2. this looks veryyy intriguing and delicious! great photos and yay to conquering your camera!

  3. Wow! Your picture is stunning and love the tahini sauce.

  4. Thse are so beautiful pics ,stunningly delicious and the sweet potaoes pair so well with ur tahini sauce :-)))))
    cheers and fantastic day.

  5. Thanks you guys! You sure are fast XD.

  6. very nice photos! the sweet potatoes go so well with the tahini sauce.

  7. "That finding the nerve to cross into the unfamiliar was perhaps the hardest part."

    Happens to me way too many times, I get it :)
    Love the photos, and the food looks delicious!

  8. This sounds like something I know I would love. Sesame. Miso. And tahini. AND SWEET POTATOES. Could you possibly combine any more of my favorite things? I think not.

    Yay for venturing to new heights with your camera! the pics look awesome.

  9. I like the 2nd picture....and your sweet potato dish!

  10. congrats on taking your M mode step! i remember when i first did it too.. i'm STILL learning! i want a macro lens.. i think it'll fix all my problems :P or maybe i should take a little advice(:
    and i'm very excited to try this recipe.. oh my all the best flavors!

  11. It's an awesome feeling when you take the level of your photography up a notch and when you learn a new setting on your camera. Yay for you. These pics are lovely. I especially like the composition in the first picture.

  12. Noobcook - thx so much! sesame and sweet potato flavors do go together great imo.

    Fran - glad others have experienced the same as me. i appreciate your kind compliments.

    Joanne - haha thx babe. you are the queen of orange foods!

    Angie - i'm glad you like it :).

    Suzie - i don't think a lens is magical hehe, but i do love my macro lens. the nifty fifty is pretty affordable at around 100 bucks, too!

    WizzyTheStick - it did feel really great to take that step. i definitely thought about the composition of the 1st photo more, so i'm really glad you like it.

  13. Haha! I've been stuck on Apperture for the longest time. Too scared to change but if you can do it then I'm willing to try. But first, I'll make some of the gorgeous sweet potato!

  14. Your photos are beautiful! I know exactly what you mean: I'll often line up a photo I think is perfect, and the camera refuses to focus. I use manual sometimes, and I adjust exposure and other aspects in Aperture.

    I love tahini, so this recipe seems right up my alley!

  15. Oh, yum! This sounds like exactly the sort of thing I love eating on a regular basis. I'm absolutely making these lovely potatoes, and I can already see using that tahini sauce on so many things... Perhaps I should double the recipe!

  16. It's true. I've found that photos seem to need MORE illumination when they are posted online. Yours are awesome looking. And I am headed to the store for some tahini now. ;)

  17. I always loved getting these sweet potatoes from Teaism - YUM! :)

  18. Oh my God....you just combined my favourite dressing ever with one of my all time favourite foods- why have I not done this before!!?
    Good for you and the camera settings! I am still bowing down to my camera's intelligence...

  19. Trissa - I'm completely new at this and just fumbling around, but I'm glad I got over the fear. Please do try the dish :).

    Mary - Aw thank ya. Yea we really have to be flexible with photography. My dream is to one day be skilled enough to realize the shots in my mind down to the lighting.

    Hannah - I'm glad this is something you'd like. I think the sauce would double well, and stay good at least a week in the fridge.

    Carolyn - Tahini is great for lots of things, including this sauce and hummus, so I know it'll be a worthwhile purchase :).

    Carmen - I totally forgot to talk about the restaurant (oops). I guess I wasn't sure anyone else had gone there, but I'm so glad you did!

    Koko - Hehe, I'm glad this suits your tastes. Despite the above, I actually do think the camera's pretty smart. I think I'll end up using different settings depending on the situation.

  20. I love a sweet potato with cream and brown sugar. This sounds super lovely though.

  21. They look fantastic! The sauce sounds delicious too, I do love the little lift that miso gives food! :)

  22. The savoury miso and tahini would go well on the sweet potatoes!

  23. yay! you are shooting manual! isnt it a wonderful thing? and yes, when it comes to a lot of beautiful photos, their exposure is not technically correct, rather 'creatively correct' as bryan peterson calls it.

    gorgeous hots!

  24. I'm scared of different camera settings, mind you I only have a point and shoot but if I had an SLR yikes. This sauce looks amazing and it's on one of my favourite vegetables!

  25. Peabody - That sounds like a wonderful way to prepare sweet potatoes. I'll be sure to try your way sometime ;).

    Lorraine - Yes, miso is such a flavorful, versatile ingredient. It's hard to go wrong.

    authentacity - Thx a lot!

    Kevin - They really do. I'm even curious how other types of miso might work.

    Veggie Belly - Thanks a lot! It really feels great to cross that line. Love that quote too.

    eatme_delicious - Aw for some reason I thought you had a DSLR and I'm sure you'd be great with one once you got used to it. I'm just starting to get to know mine :).

  26. I agree with the others your photo is gorgeous! I've been stuck on auto-pilot myself and am always unhappy with my photos and for the same reasons as you I don't try anything else and I was a photography major in college!!! Might I ask how exactly you changed what you did? I realize i will have to tweak the settings but maybe just a good place to start, please? You can e-mail me at daniellepallaske@gmail.com if you have the time.

    Oh yeah and the miso sauce looks really good too! Miso has just recently become one of new favorite ingredients.

  27. This looks delish and I love what you said about you and your camera.... in the end it is you. The camera is only the medium to attain your vision.

  28. This looks awesome :) One thing, though, that maybe you should mention - most miso isn't vegan, or even vegetarian, as it contains dashi (dried and smoked fish). It is possible to get vegan versions, of course. It just might be worth mentioning in case someone unknowingly tries to serve this up for their vegan friends.

  29. Thanks for stopping by, Elli. I appreciate your comment and may certainly be misinformed, but I believe miso paste itself (which this recipe calls for) is simply a fermented soybean product that is in fact vegan. As I understand it, it's miso soup that contains dashi stock. I do appreciate the warning, though, as I'd hate to mislabel something as vegan and cause someone to unwittingly eat something against their diet/beliefs.


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