Three Fresh Ideas for Autumn Champ, the Sweet Potato

By Valarie Carter / Photography By Brooke Allen | October 28, 2015
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When deciding on the subject for this issue’s Triple Take, we wanted to offer our readers practical recipes for the upcoming holiday season. In each issue we challenge a professional culinarian, a home cook and the Edible Tulsa test kitchen to utilize a specific ingredient or to share his or her take on a recipe.

This time we picked sweet potatoes and hope that one or more of these recipes will become a staple in your holiday festivities. Our pro, Chef Ifaseyi Nikè, prepares a delicious yet simple Pecan-Crusted Sweet Potato Casserole that is equally good as a side dish or dessert. Our home cook, EJ Oppenheimer, takes a more savory approach to his dish utilizing foraged mushrooms, dove (that he hunted) and local goat cheese in an incredible hash. Edible Tulsa’s test kitchen doesn’t disappoint with a simple side dish of sweet potato and apple pavé.

The Pro: Chef Ifaseyi Nikè of the Pint on Cherry Street and Nikè Eats and Treats

Chef Nikè is from Ft. Worth, Texas, where she lived with mother, grandparents and two younger brothers. Like so many chefs she grew up cooking with her grandmother, who taught her how to cook from scratch. “I loved her chess pie and pear preserves,” says Nikè. She says they were the only family in the middle of an urban area with a full garden in back.

Chef Nikè served eight years in the U.S. Navy before returning home to Texas. She worked various jobs in customer service and at call centers but always had a passion for the culinary arts, all the while cooking and baking for her coworkers and family. Soon after, she saw a commercial for Le Cordon Bleu in Dallas and knew that’s what she wanted to do. Chef Nikè came to Tulsa two years ago to try a new approach to catering and her career. She started her catering delivery service, Nikè Eats and Treats, which provides healthy meals for teachers and families who don’t always have the time to cook. She says Tulsa has been amazing to her and that she loves what she does.

Today you’ll find her also working part time at the Pint on Cherry Street and “living my passion” for cooking and catering.

The Home Cook: EJ Oppenheimer

EJ Oppenheimer was raised near Tulsa in Valley Park. He grew up on a ranch, always fishing, hunting or just being in the woods. He went on to study environmental science and anthropology at the State University of New York in the college of Environmental Science and Forestry as well as the University of Tulsa. Today he is an avid hunter and aspiring agroecologist.

EJ is executive director of the Valley Foundation. They work with local and international nonprofit groups and at-risk subsistence farmers who lack food security to design and help create perennial food systems for them. They believe that perennial agriculture is a significant method of increasing community capital while providing clean food and a healthy ecosystem.

He says he developed his fundamental connection to nature and the environment by living at the ranch and this has been the primary driver in the direction of his life. EJ enjoys cooking and says he started primarily due to hunting but has expanded greatly from wild game as he grew older. While preparing his hash recipe, he used two chef knives that he made. One is a hammered Japanese steel blade with Amboyna burl wood handle containing three mosaic pins. The other has a Damascus steel blade with petrified giant sequoia handle.

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