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roasted sweet potatoes & fresh figs

You thought I’d forgotten Wegetable Vednesdays?  I’ve taken quite the break – but all along the way I’ve been gathering inspiration. I’ll try to make up for a little lost time with the next two installments. And then we’re back on track…

New things to do with the same old vegetables every Wednesday around here.


It’s nearly Thanksgiving so let’s talk turkey. So to speak. 

You’ve noticed…getting a feast on the table is no small fete.  The most challenging part of the entire undertaking is getting all things to the table either as steamy hot or icy cold as you want them.

Maybe you’ve got your own methods for ensuring this happens as we idealize it should – maybe it’s one well-orchestrated movement at your house, with ten experienced helping hands, moving seamlessly in your commercial-sized kitchen while your great uncle plays Mozart on the concertina and your kids play board games on the rug. But if that’s not you (and it sure isn’t me)…

here’s a thought…

What if a couple delicious side dishes were meant to appear

– utterly perfect –

at room temperature?

“room temperature, on purpose!”

that is a thought…

One such dish might look like this:

And with the next post (tomorrow or Friday) I’ll show you another. (No feast will get the best of us!)

I’ve spoken raved about Yotam Ottolenghi before. (See Marinated Turkey Breast,  Cauliflower & Cumin Fritters… or a favorite Roasted Chicken with Sumac, Za’atar & Lemon, or  Roasted Eggplant with Pomegranates & a Buttermilk Sauce …. if you missed the raves.) This dish comes straight out of his latest (and glorious) cookbook, Jerusalem.


~ serves 4 ~

~ or 8 if two or more vegetable side dishes are served ~

Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Fresh Figs

4 small Sweet Potatoes (2¼ lbs. 1 kg)

5 T. Olive Oil

scant 3 T. Balsamic Vinegar *

1½ T. Superfine Sugar

12 Green Onions, sliced in half lengthwise, then 1½” segments

1 Red Chile, thinly sliced

6 Ripe Figs, quartered **

5 oz. (150 g) soft Goat’s Milk Cheese (optional)

Flaky Sea Salt & Freshly-ground Pepper


*no need to use a premium grade balsamic for this one

**A note on the figs – Ottolenghi suggests here to go for a plump fruit with an irregular shape and a slightly split bottom…some resistance but not much…

Try to smell the sweetness. 

(How to pick a fig, or how to live a life?)

Preheat the oven to 475°F (240°C) – yes very hot – not a typo.

Wash the sweet potatoes, halve lengthwise and then cut each half again into 3 long wedges. Toss with 3 Tablespoons of the olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt and some black pepper. Spread the wedges out (skin side down) on a baking sheet and cook for 18 to 25 minutes, until tender but not mushy. (Because it’s impossible to slice these odd-bodied things into regular & even wedges, you’ll want to watch them carefully as they cook. Some will be ready a good 5 minutes before others. I find that most tend to be done ahead of schedule.) Remove the tray from the oven and allow to cool down.

Make the balsamic reduction: (If you choose, you could buy a commercial balsamic glaze instead, but this is so easy.)

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat bring balsamic vinegar and sugar to a boil. Decrease the heat and simmer for 2 to 4 minutes, until it thickens. Be sure to remove the pan from the heat when the vinegar is still runnier than honey as it will continue to thicken as it cools. You can stir in a drop of water before serving if it doesn’t flow freely.

Arrange the sweet potatoes on a serving platter. Heat the remaining oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Toss in the green onions and chile. Fry for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring often and careful not to burn the chile. Spoon this mixture over the sweet potatoes. Nestle the figs amongst the wedges and drizzle the balsamic reduction overtop. Crumble goat cheese if using.

Serve at Room Temperature

This dish can easily sit out for more than an hour or two. Sweet!


One last note – there’s a bit of disagreement about what’s a yam and what’s a sweet potato. I’ve got my own opinion. But what I’ve used for this dish is that burnt orange-bodied root frequently called a yam. I think you could use either.

(To print the recipe, click here.) 

28 Comments Post a comment
  1. Seriously gorgeous food!

    November 14, 2012
  2. Very festive veggies and I like that this dish can be served at room temperature. One less thing to worry about. I really like your “Wegetable Vednesdays” and with dishes like this who needs meat… Take care, BAM

    November 14, 2012
    • Festy veggies, I like that! 😉 You like the Wegetable Vednesdays Bam? Oh good! Then even if it’s only for you and me, I’ll keep on keepin’ on with them.

      November 15, 2012
  3. Gorgeous! I can’t believe I didn’t think of figs for Thanksgiving!

    November 14, 2012
    • I’ve never done them for Thanksgiving before either, but so long as I can find them, I think they’ll be part of the “tradition.” They seem so right somehow (to me). 🙂

      November 15, 2012
      • They are very traditional/ They seem so appropriate for a feast!

        November 15, 2012
  4. What an excellent idea.. room temperature dishes, just cozy warm for the Thanksgiving feast. I’ve been eyeing that cookbook, now you’ve got me thinking I need to add it to my wish list for Christmas.. If the dishes turn out anything close to what yours look like, it’s a dynamite cookbook! I can’t believe the vibrant and fresh looking veggies.. the figs, heavenly. I don’t think I can find figs here, but I will keep looking. This is too wonderful to pass up, even if our Thanksgiving is over.. Christmas is still ahead:) xx

    November 14, 2012
    • Have you seen the book in person Smidge? You own any of his others? They are just SUMPTUOUS ! I couldn’t pick a favorite, but IF I could, it might be this one. As you know, it’s more than “just” a cookbook, and yet OH what a cookbook! It’s a wonderful read too. (The padded cover even makes it friendly book to take to bed.) 🙂 I wish I’d thought to publish Thanksgiving ideas in time for you up north…I do know better, and my head is hanging. Hope you find yourself some figs! xx

      November 15, 2012
  5. Any Thanksgiving dinner would certainly benefit from having this dish presented. It looks so colorful and appealing. I don’t think I’ll be able to find figs here anymore, though, I’m definitely going to be on the lookout for them. Serving it at room temperature is, so, very Italian of you, Spree, though this is one dish I don’t think I’ll ever see at a trattoria. Pity. They don’t now what they’re missing.
    I’m sending this link to a friend. She is going to love it! First, though, I’m going to pin it. If and when i do find figs, I want to be able to find this recipe quickly. 🙂
    Thanks, Spree, for sharing a fantastic recipe.

    November 14, 2012
    • “So very Italian of me” – with any luck, maybe you’re rubbing off on me just a little John. 🙂 I’m not really sure if our recent trip had anything to do with it or if it’s just a case of “evolution” but I’m thinking more and more in terms of foods that fare well at room temperature. So much less hurried…so much more of an opportunity for friends and family to linger longer…less pressure on cook and guests alike.
      I’m happy you pinned it, and so happy you thought to share with a friend you knew who’d like it too! Thanks John!

      November 15, 2012
  6. That might be the prettiest Thanksgiving dish I ever saw. Purely gorgeous! And figs with sweet potatoes…I never woulda thunk. Love the combo of flavors, the beauty and the freedom of temp. Will you make these for us? 🙂 xoxo

    November 14, 2012
    • So long as I can still find the figs, this’ll be on the table for sure! 🙂 (They’re still showing up at my favorite market!) xx!

      November 15, 2012
  7. Ali #

    Oh my gosh. This dish tantalizes the senses. Perfection.
    Ditto sis… pretty please mama?!

    November 14, 2012
    • Oh beg me some more! 😉 xx!

      November 15, 2012
  8. Not that I’ll be preparing Thanksgiving, Christmas is enough for me, but that is a clever and delicious dish. Very nice light on that picture.

    November 15, 2012
    • Thanks Roger. Love this light.

      November 15, 2012
  9. This is a beautiful dish, Spree, and it’s genius to have one or two festive table offerings that you don’t need to worry about serving piping hot. I agree, it seems that all the planning ahead and mise en place in the world doesn’t seem to make the last minute rush to get everything on the table at the same time any easier. Recipes like this will certainly help! Oh, and BTW, I got a kick out of the great-uncle playing Mozart and the kiddies sweetly playing board games. Not my reality either! 😊

    November 15, 2012
    • Somehow this dish feels like a celebration of “bounty” to me Mar. Maybe it’s simply the beautiful riot of color. This will be the first Thanksgiving I’ve served it, but I’ve got a hunch it’s heading to that holy status of Family Tradition very quickly. And I do love the idea (though I’m repeating myself) of the freedom afforded us by dishes that love the temperature of the room. (Have a lovely holiday Mar!)

      November 15, 2012
  10. I’ll go for figs at room temperature, no problem, but I want my roasted sweet potatoes hot, hot, hot!

    November 15, 2012
    • Then that’s how you’ll have them! 🙂

      November 15, 2012
  11. Spree you have succeeded in making me totally drool! This combination looks absolutely incredible, and your photos are extra stunning today! Beautiful! 🙂

    November 15, 2012
    • To make you drool Shira, I count as a huge success! (This truly IS a wonderful dish!!) And thanks so much for your kind words! 🙂 xx

      November 18, 2012
  12. carolyn #

    I squirm when i see food looking like that!

    November 18, 2012
  13. comedy89 #

    I can’t wait to try, I feel hungry now.

    November 22, 2012
  14. That looks amazing. Great blog.

    November 30, 2012
  15. Looks delicious! Do you think this could be made into a dessert with a bit more sugar and no onions?

    May 16, 2014
    • We all have different ideas of what “dessert” means. I like yours very much! : )

      June 4, 2014

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