By Dina Eliash Robinson
The quick and easy-to-prepare Ruby Yam Delight is not only an inexpensive, nutritious and delicious dessert, but a perfect gateway recipe to “Jazz Cooking.”
Intended as a reference to culinary improvisation, this musical moniker brings to mind a freestyle approach to cooking favored by those who have the knack to practically ‘taste’ the foods and ingredient combinations they invent, and who prefer not to follow other cooks’ recipes.
Hope you find the following ‘jazz’ suggestions liberating—especially since it leaves up to the preparers such decisions as whether to include the basic four, or five, six or even more ingredients, and in what quantities. What’s more, the Ruby Yam Delight was created to accommodate the budgets and super-busy schedules of my career-track and college student friends. It is intended to thoroughly satisfy any craving they might have for a between meal snack or after dinner dessert.
Ruby Yam Delight (Organic components preferred)
• One or two ruby yams, depending on the roots’ sizes and the number of servings planned
• Half a cup to cup-and-a-half applesauce (unsweetened)
• ¼ teaspoon liquid vanilla extract
• ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
• One tablespoon (sweetened or unsweetened) cocoa powder (optional)
• One tablespoon raisins or dried cranberries, flash-scalded to puff up (optional)
• Two tablespoons almond milk if ‘pudding’ is too thick (optional)
• Berries or nuts for decoration (optional)
• Scrub well, trim & cut yams into large (about 2”) pieces
• Boil (preferably in spring water—which can be reused for other cooking) yams with skin on until soft enough for a fork to get through the larges piece
• Mash yam(s) with fork or potato masher (with skin on to keep more of the nutrients, or peeled after boiling, if preferred)
• Mix with applesauce and the rest of the ingredients
• Add almond milk only if the yam “pudding” is too thick—or if you prefer it to be more moist
• Decorate top with berries or nuts (optional)
Why Jazz Cooking?
Following recipes always seemed to me as boring as coloring by numbers and as constraining as being strapped in a straightjacket. Which explains why, during my nomadic childhood, I was delighted whenever wartime shortages or economic setbacks forced my parents, aunts and uncles—all talented home-chefs gifted with gourmet taste buds—to substitute ingredients, invent and improvise until they surprised themselves and the rest of us with some novel, but always delicious dishes.
In my own kitchen, Jazz Cooking means freedom to be flexible with ingredients—by adding more or leaving some out, playing with proportions and experimenting with changeups from stovetop sautéing and stewing, to oven roasting and baking. It makes meals—both eating and preparations—adventurous, fun, a bit risky and creative.