Cayenne-Cumin-Ricotta Twice-baked Sweet Potatoes with Avocado Relish

Cayenne-Cumin-Ricotta Twice-baked Sweet Potatoes with Avocado Relish with a poached egg
The American Thanksgiving Day is fast-approaching.  On Thursday this week, friends and family from around the country will be sitting together around tables large and small to share stories, and memories and laughter and good food.  They'll talk about how their lives are now.  If there are kids at the feast, the adults will shake their heads in pride and wonder, thinking about how quickly time has gone and how, not long ago, it was them gathering around with their young cousins, waiting impatiently for their moms to say that it was time to eat!  It was them shuffling and bumping and nudging and teasing, plate in hand, waiting for it to be loaded with all the good things to eat.  Perhaps they'll fill themselves full with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, green bean salad and fresh dinner rolls: the things that filled our Thanksgiving table when I was a child.  Perhaps it'll be a different feast: a vegetarian one, or a feast filled with flavors from around the world.  Whatever it is that fills their bellies; their hearts will be filled with what they are always full of on a day when loved ones gather around a food-laden table: the joy of being together.

When I was very young, we had three families gathered together at one house or the other, always taking turns.  We cousins loved it:  we'd egg each other on to eat a little more turkey and a little more mashed potatoes and gravy; a bit of Auntie Carol's Pineapple-Mandarin Jello salad; a few more of Melissa's dinner rolls; Auntie Mary's white corn; and Mom's roasted turkey, avoiding the jar of pimiento-stuffed green olives with wrinkled noses.  And then, we we couldn't fit in another thing, we'd all run out of the house in a big rush to play basketball as the adults stayed in the temporary quiet of the house, catching up on life and eating whatever was left.

A few hours later, dessert would be laid out:  pie after pie after pie.  I somehow don't remember cake. Maybe there was cake, maybe there wasn't, but pie was definitely well-represented.  Pumpkin pie, strawberry cream pie, raspberry pie, apple pie, coconut cream pie, chocolate cream pie, banana cream pie, sometimes lemon meringue.  And we'd eat again, until our bellies were full to bursting, and the rush out the door again into the dusky light to play a game of one o' clock, two o'clock, three o'clock rock, roaring with laughter, until our parents opened the door and shouted to us in the darkness that it was time to go home.  We say our goodbyes and thank you's and see-you-soons, and then fall sleep on the long, warm ride home, secure in our places in the world.

Years have gone by.  Those cousins and siblings are scattered around the globe, though perhaps none so far as me, yet. They will gather together in their places, giving thanks in their own way for a good life, friends and family all around.

As for food memories - there are many - some foods that I loved then I get far less excited about now, while others I kept as far away from as possible now hold a firm place on our menu. Roasted sweet potatoes or yams were always on our Thanksgiving table, but as a kid, I wouldn't touch them.  Nowadays, a roasted sweet potato is a welcomed sight on my plate, generally as a main course, as hopefully this dish will be on yours.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, every one, wherever you are.

Cayenne-Cumin-Ricotta Twice-baked Sweet Potatoes with Avocado Relish and a poached egg
Cayenne-Cumin-Ricotta Twice-baked Sweet Potatoes with Avocado Relish

1 large sweet potato
1/4 cup ricotta
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground Cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
a few grinds of fresh ground black pepper

1 ripe avocado, diced
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 yellow onion, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat the oven to 200°C/ 400°F.

Oil the skin of the sweet potato lightly and prick it in several places with a fork.  Place it on a pan in the hot oven and bake until you can poke a knife into it easily, 35-45 minutes.  Remove the potato from the oven and let it cool until it's easy to handle.  You can do this the day or hours before.

Slice the baked sweet potato completely in half lengthwise.  Making sure to keep the skin intact, scoop out the sweet potato flesh and put it into a small bowl.  Using a fork, smash the sweet potato until it forms a smooth mass.  Add the ricotta, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper.  Stir the mixture together until it is well-mixed.  Divide the sweet potato mixture between the two sweet potato skin halves and fluff the tops lightly with a fork.  Return the sweet potatoes to the hot oven and bake for 10 minutes.

While the potatoes cook the second time, make the avocado relish.  Combine the diced avocado, lemon juice, onion and salt in a bowl.  Mix well and let the mixture sit while the potato cooks.

Remove the potatoes from the oven.  Put one half on each plate and spoon avocado relish over the top. If you wish, serve with a poached or fried egg.

Serves 2.

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