Have I mentioned how much I love my slow cooker, but resent the fact that it does just fine without me and actually seems to frown upon my frequent poking and prodding and stirring?  It seems to sternly imply that things were going just fine under its tantalizingly steamy lid until I came along with my big spoon to assault it.  And indeed, the slow cooker does turn the most unlikely ingredients into rather lovely dishes with so little involvement on my part that I can hardly claim any credit–especially if leftovers are involved.  Like in the case of this soup…

Turkey + rice + kale + sweet potato soup

  • turkey leftovers–whatever you have!  (I used just that drumstick in the picture and it was plenty, flavor- and meat-wise; however, a fistful of white meat or dark meat should work just as well, and so should a piece of the good old carcass)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 sweet potato, diced
  • 1 bunch kale, chopped
  • 10 cups water
  • 1.5 cup rice
  • salt, pepper, and other seasonings to taste (may I recommend chipotle pepper, cayenne pepper, and some oregano?)
  1. Put everything except the kale into the slow cooker.
  2. Cook on low for 4 hours.
  3. Add the kale and cook for another 30 minutes.

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I despise sweet potatoes.  In fact, “despise” seems like too weak a word.  Abhor, perhaps?  Truly, I never understood them: what a horrible surprise to have your potato taste like dessert!  When would you possibly want to eat that?

My first official encounter with the offending tuber was at an otherwise wonderful Thanksgiving meal during my freshman year in college.  One of my favorite professors graciously incorporated a couple of our Mediterranean selves into his family’s celebration, since we were otherwise just going to eat lukewarm ramen perched on the edge of a mattresses in a deserted dorm on a gray New England eve.

And let me tell you, that Thanksgiving was simply lovely.  We were enveloped in a large and diverse family and felt instantly at home.  Then, when the turkey was carved and the side dishes passed around, I followed everyone’s lead and heaped piles of inexplicable orange stuff on my plate.  Surely, I thought, this is some American delicacy I am going to love.  But whoa!  Somehow, all of a sudden, mysterious dessert items were touching the meat!  What was this, some sort of a carrot concoction gone terribly wrong?  And how was I going to get it off my plate in front of three faculty members who were asking me all sorts of questions demanding thoughtful responses?

So I ate the orange heaps.  And holy smoke, the stuff was worse than it looked.  When I politely inquired about its contents, horrifying things came up: marshmallows! orange juice! brown sugar!  I know that this paragraph contains more exclamation marks than the legal limit, but I don’t quite know how else to convey the utter horror I felt with every bite.

And wouldn’t you know it, the darn tubers have just continued to reappear in my life since then.  I finally established a truce with a pecan-covered sweet potato dish that my husband prepares every November, but would I ever buy sweet potatoes outside that very specific Thanksgiving requirement?  Heck no.

However, last week I stumbled across some unexpected sweet potato inspiration.  And more inspiration.  And then some more.  And I thought, perhaps there’s something I’ve been missing all along?  So yesterday, at our last farmers’ market of the season, I collected the following:

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  • ~5 sweet potatoes claiming to be “THE BEST” (perhaps that’s the trick, eh?  these were the long purply dudes I rarely see in stores)
  • 2 blue potatoes
  • ~5 white potatoes
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 yellow beet
  • 2 sunchokes
  • 2 small onions

I partially peeled them, cut them all up into bite-sized pieces, and added:

  • olive oil (generously!)
  • a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar (just because it seemed right)
  • a couple of pinches of dried oregano
  • a couple of generous shakes of salt (I used my precious)

And then I just tossed the whole thing into the 375F oven for ~45 minutes.  Imagine my surprise, then, when a truly amazing dish, within which sweet potatoes were both sufficiently disguised and definitely noticeable, emerged:

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… begging to be served over quinoa, to a skeptical husband who had claimed that sweet potatoes are only worth one’s time in a desserty incarnation.  HA!