This is one of my go-to recipes, one of those early recipes I devised out of leftovers which has since then given me the title of “Leftover Queen”. I have been thinking a lot lately about my food philosophy, where it came from and how I have become the kind of cook that I am. I am a cook born out of passion combined with necessity. I learned from an early age from my grandparents and my mom that leftovers can be a wonderful thing. I come from a big Italian extended family and so we were always cooking for large groups of people, which meant that we usually cooked more than was necessary which ultimately left us with a lot of leftovers.
It was a tradition in my mom’s house that when the fridge was too overwrought with leftover containers that we would have what we called a Smörgåsbord, which is actually a Swedish word meaning”sandwich table”, but has been translated into English vernacular to mean a buffet or variety of hot and cold dishes.
It was my favorite time of the week as I got to have little bites and tastes of all the foods I had enjoyed over the course of the last week, and it allowed to experiment with different flavor combinations- like mixing corn into mashed potatoes or combining various dishes together to create a completely new meal.
When I think back to how I became a Leftover Queen, this recipe (if I can even really call it that) is one of the ones that always comes up in my mind. It is the cousin to the Beans and Greens Saute. How are these two related? Well they both contain beans as the primary ingredient, but they also contain components that I always have in my pantry and that I usually have leftover of hanging around crying out to be used in a dish all their own hearkening back to the days of the Smörgåsbord.
I love sweet potatoes. Their beautiful orange color and the subtle sweetness of their flesh is just so delicious and versatile. This recipe of course has many incarnations depending on what is lying about and I will give you ideas of how to spice things up and change it up. But this is left to you to create your own dishes based on these key ingredients: sweet potaotes, black beans, onion, garlic and olive oil. The creativity is endless and entirely up to you!
Normally how I start this recipe is I cut up a sweet potato into bite sized chunks. I heat up a large skillet with about 3 TBS of olive oil and throw the potatoes in. While they are beginning to brown I cut up an onion a few cloves of garlic and bell peppers, if there are any to be had, then I throw them in with the potatoes. Once the potatoes have browned and softened and the onions, peppers and garlic are soft I add the black beans, some cumin, coriander, and chili powder. If there is any salsa lying about, I pour some of that in. You could also add some canned tomatoes of any variety if you choose or just leave it out all together. I cook it all together for a few more minutes and then serve it as is – perhaps with a garnish of fresh herbs – cilantro, basil or parsley go well.
But the point is, you can pretty much use anything you have around. This is rustic cooking at its finest. Making something wonderful out of very few ingredients. If you have white potatoes, use those, kidney beans, use them. Whatever you want. But most importantly you are giving new life to your leftovers and eating hearty, healthy and well!