In a Russian folk tale, a soldier was walking through a village. Tired and hungry, he knocked on the door of a big handsome house. An old woman answered.
“Please! – begged the soldier, – I’ve traveled far and wide, I am tired and hungry, would you give me something to eat?”
“This is a poor house, don’t you see?, – said the woman, – I myself haven’t eaten for two days.”
But the soldier did not believe her. The house was bigger than all the other houses in the village, and the woman was dressed in rich clothes. He looked around and spotted an ax in the corner. And he smiled into his mustache.
“Don’t worry, good woman, we’ll quickly make a delicious stew! We’ll cook this ax.”
“An ax? You’re going to cook an ax? Whoever heard of it!”
“I’ve traveled far and wide, and learned a great many things! Quick – bring me a pot!”
So he filled a pot with water, washed the ax, and started boiling it. Spellbound, she was watching.
“Listen, good woman, it’ll be good, but it’ll be so much better if I had some salt…”
“Salt I have,” – and she brought it out.
“Mmm, real good, but an onion would help a lot…”
“I think I can find one,” – she said, and brought it to the soldier.
“Some potatoes, – he muttered to himself after a while, then, “a piece of meat…”
Finally, the stew was ready.
“Come, mamasha (old mother), – smiled the soldier, – bring some bread and taste my stew.”
So she did, and they both ate their full, and the stew was delicious, as the soldier had promised. But one thing kept troubling the woman:
“When are we going to eat the ax?”
“Oh, the ax? It didn’t cook that well. I’ll have to take it with me and cook it for breakfast tomorrow,” – said the soldier, pulling the ax out of the empty pot, and bid the old woman good bye.
I recall this story sometimes when I look around my kitchen and try to figure out what to make for dinner without running out to stores. I have a couple of sweet potatoes. That’s a good start. I have some frozen black beans. I can cook brown rice. Sure I can cook brown rice – I don’t buy any other rice. Rice and black beans? That’s good, but it’s only a side dish, not a main course. Then an idea hits!
We are making sweet potato patties, with everything else but a kitchen sink thrown in, just like “the ax stew.” Pierce these guys with a sharp knife or a fork, cover, and microwave until soft.
Here are my black beans, defrosted, rinsed, and draining. Waiting to join their friends, sweet potatoes.
Peel those microwaved sweet potatoes and mash them up real well. I wouldn’t recommend using a food processor as you lose texture.
Add black beans and mash it up together, but not too much. You want it to be chunky, not mushy.
Now that brown rice comes into play. Mix it in and season with cinnamon, paprika, sumac, salt and pepper. If you like it hot, you can add some chili pepper, but this animal does not live in my house. When my younger son is at my table, I serve jalapenos on the side.
That’s my husband dicing cilantro and dill stems. When he does it, I don’t need a food processor!
Just for fun, I tossed in some ground walnuts. You mix it all up and form patties. Next time I’ll be smart and refrigerate them for a while. Since the mix was very soft and sticky, it was a bit challenging to shape it into patties.
I did shape them, though, and put them on a preheated, lightly misted griddle. I flipped them over after a few minutes, and…
Here we go! Beautiful, healthy, delicious, and nutritious dinner. And while they were frying, I made Curried Mushrooms (to see the recipe, please click here) as a perfect side dish to compliment the sweet and savory flavors of the patties.
- 2 cups mashed sweet potatoes (2 large)
- 1 cup cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 – 1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
- 1/2 cup ground walnuts
- 1/2 cup finely diced dill and cilantro stems
- 1/2 tsp sumac
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- A pinch of paprika
- Salt and pepper to taste
- A pinch of chili powder (optional)
- Microwave or bake sweet potatoes. Cook rice.
- Preheat griddle or shallow frying pan, lightly mist with oil.
- Peel sweet potatoes, mash by hand to preserve texture, add black beans and mash together, add 1 cup rice, add the rest of ingredients, mix well.
- Add more rice if needed.
- Form patties, fry for a few minutes on each side until browned.