Monday, November 9, 2009

Grandma's Sweet Potato Pie

Where do “Sweet Potato Pie Dairies” and “Ms Sweet Potato” derive from? And when will you post your recipe? Are questions that I have been asked several times. It was my intention this past New Years to write a blog as a sort of food therapy for myself and to get those in my peer group to appreciate the dynamics of food and what it can do in your love, friend and family life. This particular blog has really taken time for me to write because the name isn’t something I shot off the top of my head. A lot of thought and deep meaning is behind it.

As most may know already, I come from a crazy background and upbringing. Never being in one school or town long enough to have long lasting childhood friends; I befriended the adults in my life-Great grandma being one of them. Even before daddy’s banana pancakes and mom’s extravagant weekend dinner parties, Grandma showed me love through aroma and taste.

There was nothing this woman could not create. All the while her little sugar pie (me) stood upon stools and chairs just to get a glimpse of her next great creation.

In May of 2007 my grandmother passed and since then I have hated myself for several reasons. You see, this is the woman who taught me how to be a lady. With both parents absent for the first few years of my life, it was she who did my hair and walked me to the bus stop. She, who wiped the blood from my knees after falling off yet another tree, She who gave me a spanking because I yet again managed to ruin a brand-new, white Easter dress. She, who pretended to love my dirt pies and she, who I laid next to every night scared to sleep in my own room because I was terrified of the dark.

So I hated myself because my grandmother was sick for many years before she was finally gone and because I was so caught up in my own personal life and ambition, never went to see her. There she lay in that very bed we shared for many years, paralyzed by a stroke and me running the streets of New York trying to prove to my friends and family that I can be great against all the odds that I had faced while growing up.

I will never forget the day that I got that phone call. My friend and I were in a Soho eatery celebrating the opening of my 3rd restaurant, tipsy and flirting with the men at a nearby table - ironically I was wearing an all white sundress.

The call was from my dad who had a very faint distraught voice. (Faint and distraught? – oxymoron?)
- “Yes daddy? What’s wrong? Hold on….I’m walking outside; it’s loud where I am”
-“Daddy can you hear me?”
-“Iman…. Grandma’s gone.”

There I stood in my white dress flowing in the spring air speechless. I guess my face read what I was feeling because my friend was by my side in minutes. I couldn’t even get the words out. My dad was repeating my name over and over
- “Iman?”
- “Iman?”
- “Are you there? Did you hear what I said? She’s gone.”
- “Iman say something.”
- “Daddy I have to go. Call you back.”
I was on the road the next morning to North Carolina.

Sweet Potato Pie was the idea my great-grandmother had for a restaurant; a dream that would never come true. So when taking the chance on my dream to penetrate hearts with my candid stories and dishes; the name was only fitting and how more fitting than to take on the persona of Ms. Sweet Potato?

A letter to you grandma: thank you for being such an influential part of my life. Thank you for wanting me when no one else did. And even though I was not there for you; thank you for forgiving me. I love you…. your sugar pie Iman.

This recipe is not exactly as my grandmother’s, similar, but some ingredients I just have to hold close to my heart.

I do hope you understand.


3 pounds sweet potatoes
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
5 cloves
5 star anise
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2-3 graham cracker ready to use pie crust

1. Boil potatoes with star anise (discard star anise and cloves when finished boiling) until tender; cool slightly. Slit the skins and scoop the potatoes into a bowl. Mash until smooth. Whisk in the cream, brown sugar, eggs, butter, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg and scrape into the pie shell.
2. At 350° bake for about 40 minutes or until the filling is set.
3. great to serve with a dollop of whip cream

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Brown Sugar Brownies

My blogging has been few and far in between for some time now. I realize that though I love to write I get these extreme writers block patches and since I’m not currently being motivated by some amazing world wind love affair or sexy acquaintance I’ve been flat. Now since this is my dairy of how food correlates to events in my life I never wanted to give some faint daydream stories that have no real validity. Heck if that was the case I would write all day everyday.

If you can’t tell by now my summer fling has fizzled.

Well since I’m in my chill off period I have had much time to reflect, create new recipes, cook and bring leftovers to work. My team loves me right now by the way.

Anyway I guess this entry is just to reflect on my un-amusing love life. I’m really tired of hearing from men and women alike:

- Why aren’t you married by now? Damn girl (licking fingers) I would have snatched you up longtime ago.

- Don’t you think if I knew that answer I would be married? And who says I want you to snatch me up?

I mean come on really?

Recently I had what most would consider a breakdown. So bad that I had to call my friends at 4am to talk me through this crossroad. You see that question is one I ponder on most days. I’m young, easy on the eyes and completely open to life and what it has to offer- not to mention I can whip up pretty much any dish of your desire in 4inch pumps with a flash of light. And here I am single.

To most that question is valid because there are women who run around here mean, nasty, that can’t cook and always have their hands out swept off in love. I’m starting to feel like it’s just the nature of life.

I wonder if there is some site like where you can post your personal resume and be called to interview with the best suited emplovers (I know it isn’t a word-playing on employers.. work with me here) This site would have to cover everything from timeline to desired salary.

Now most will read this and say there must be something wrong. There isn’t I assure you, but I continue to get the ones I don’t want and chase away the ones I want because they too are at some crossroad in their life and don't know what they want.

WHAT GIVES??? Ok I’m clearly just on a rant right now so I’ll stop and go make some Brown Sugar Brownies. But in the meantime riddle me this?

Why do men and women have this ideal mate conjured up in their minds then once given the chance to live happily ever after they chicken out? Am I naïve to think there is such thing as love and happily ever after?

Brown Sugar Brownies


2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 ½ cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup pecans (4 ounces), coarsely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and lightly flour a 9-by-9-inch baking dish. In the top of a double boiler, melt the butter with the chocolate; let cool. You can substitute this with putting 2 cups of water in a large sauce pan and chocolate and butter in a smaller sauce pan. Boil wataer and let vapors melt chocolate and butter.
2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the eggs with the granulated sugar and brown sugar until thickened; beat in the vanilla. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the chocolate mixture until combined. Sift the flour over the batter and fold it in. Fold in the pecans.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 20-30 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs attached. Let the brownies cool in the pan for 45mins before cutting into squares