Very lightly adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetable Literacy. Madison recommends moist, orange-fleshed sweet potatoes here, specifically the Jewel or Garnet varieties, which are often labeled as yams. I've substituted maple syrup for her brown sugar or maple sugar (and reduced it very slightly). Also, this is the sort of dessert where the fixins really do make all the difference: the caramel pecans are very simple (and if you have no pecans, I've happily used walnuts instead) and the maple yogurt requires only -- pro tip -- yogurt and maple syrup. —Nicholas Day
Heat the oven to 325° F. In a blender, combine the sweet potato, spices, maple syrup, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and purée until smooth. Divide the purée among six custard dishes.
Put the custard dishes in a large baking pan and pour hot water into the pan until it reaches at least an inch up the sides of the dishes. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes. The flans should be set and barely quiver when shaken. Let cool.
While the flan is cooling, melt the butter in a small pan over low heat. Then add the pecans, sprinkle with sugar, and turn to coat evenly. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar coats and caramelizes the nuts. Remove to a plate and sprinkle with salt. Chop as finely or coarsely as you want.
In a small bowl, combine the maple syrup and the yogurt. Taste, and add more maple syrup if you want. Serve the flan topped with a spoonful of maple yogurt, garnished with chopped caramel pecans.