While they might be called yams in the produce section, the pointy ended tubers with bright orange flesh are really sweet potatoes. True yams grow in Africa and rarely make it here.
Sweet potatoes are loaded with an enzyme called amylase, which we use to digest food but also converts starches to sugar. To get the most from that sweet transformation, you need to cook sweet potatoes in a hot oven.
Most recipes call for piercing the skin before cooking, supposedly to let steam escape. I never do, but rubbing olive oil over the outside keeps the skin tender and very edible.
What you need:
1 smallish (less than 2 inches in diameter) sweet potato per person, although leftovers are very good
They grow underground, so scrub the sweet potatoes to make sure they’re clean. Put them on something that can go in the oven, like a sheet pan, casserole dish or, my preference, a cast-iron skillet. Pour a little olive oil over the sweet potatoes, then use your hands to rub it all over.
Roast the sweet potatoes in a 400F oven for at least 45 minutes. Stick a small knife into one to test it; the knife should glide in easily, and the skin on the tubers should be a little puffy (maybe because I never pierce them). There may be a little sticky-sweet potato juice leaking out onto the pan.
While it’s easy to eat a whole sweet potato, I like to cut them into pieces about 2 inches long. Then I slice them open lengthwise, drizzle heavily with extra virgin olive oil, shake on some of the Shwarma spice blend, and add a pinch or two of flor de sal.
Our friend Kbar, who’s cooked at Tusk and Mediterranean Exploration Company, runs the tahini-fueled pop up called Hummus Hang. They’re making a traditional Israeli-style hummus, smooth and creamy, and now you can get it at Real Good Food.