Tuesday, June 11, 2013

48. Sweet Potato Salad

I rarely cook.
I don't usually find cooking fun and I hate cleaning up... but mostly I just don't like deciding what to eat. But, occasionally... well.

We had a potluck Sunday after church since it was our annual meeting and of course everyone is always starving after that.
And for once I actually made something.
Well, two somethings that is. I made chocolate cobbler because I had the link saved and it looked good (and was good)... but this story isn't about that. (Yes there's a recipe here for sweet potato salad, if you've read the title and that's what you want, but you're going to have to go to the end to get to it... and why not read the story on the way down?)

I had time (well, not as much time as it took, it would have been nice to go to bed earlier, but what can I say,  I seem to like cooking in the middle of the night best.)
But I wasn't sure what to make. What did I have?
All that came to mind was that I had three sweet potatoes.
What can I make with sweet potatoes? I've only made a couple things.

This sweet potato and black bean chili by Food Wishes. From this recipe I learned that it's pretty simple to just chop up a sweet potato and bake "fries", so I've done that a couple times now. I also learned that I needed decent knives... because it wasn't very easy to chop a sweet potato up with the knife I was using. So, I bought nicer knives... and that's helped me cook more. Chopping things up with a knife that cuts is almost fun!

I've also made jerk sweet potato by Sorted Food (and sweet potato quesadilla, also by them), though using ingredients I had, so no star anise or lime... but I did learn that lemon goes interestingly well with sweet potato.

But I didn't want to bother with trying to keep the chili warm, and though it didn't cross my mind to try the other recipes I don't think they would have worked well for a potluck.
Then I wondered if there was such a thing as sweet potato salad. This was partly because of a conversation with a customer at work that day who had been unable to find radishes to go in her (regular) potato salad. I hadn't ever heard of radishes in potato salad, but it sounded interesting, so the idea of potato salad was stuck in the back of my head.

So, I looked it up online, and there is such a thing as sweet potato salad... but there were so many versions!
In fact, if you want to check them out, here's the one's I looked at:

apple cider vinegar, red onion, baby spinach, honey, cumin-- but don't like curry
orange zest, scallion
lime juice, cilantro, red onion
red onion, garlic, lime, cilantro- didn't feel like adding black beans (this time)
cumin, cayenne, red onion, garlic- don't think avocado sound right
honey, red onions, mentioned mustard- actually a regular potato salad
red onion, cinnamon, honey, radishes
garlic, cumin, cayenne, lemon juice, cilantro
cumin, scallion, lime, coriander (cilantro)
cilantro, lime, lemon, cumin, red onion, celery
red onion, celery, honey (or maple syrup)- the maple syrup and cranberries weren't quite right

As you can see, I marked where the ingredients I used (or similar ones) were suggested (plus a few I didn't like but that you might).
Now, this is how I made the salad, but not necessarily how it should be made... so, I'm basically including the recipe twice. First, you can read the details of how and why I did some things (and laugh at me for taking so long to make something simple) and then I'll put the actual ingredients and simplified directions highlighted at the end.

I started with running to the store around midnight to pick up a few ingredients I decided I wanted in the salad but didn't have.

When I got home I cut 2 sweet potatoes into cubes, coated them with olive oil, minced garlic, and spices. Put them in the oven, almost forgot to stir them so the edges were overcooked slightly. Pulled them out when they were as tender as I wanted them.

While they were cooking I chopped up the vegetables (really thin because I don't really like crunchy stuff in regular potato salad, so though I thought it'd be better with sweet potato, I wanted it chopped small).

I poured around a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a bowl, zested half a lemon and half a lime and then juiced half of each and added some honey because it seemed right since both vinegar and citrus seem ...acidic or tart... and a couple recipes mentioned it.
The honey I have at the moment is weird, well, it's not weird in a bad way, it's called spun honey and it's, like, purposefully precrystallized. (I bought it because it's in a tub and since my honey normally ends up crystallizing before I use it, it's really hard to get out of a squeeze bottle.) Anyway, I heated it up so it would be runny like honey and then put it in, but as soon as it hit the cold juice and cider it hardened. So I'm not sure how much I actually added and since I added the cinnamon at the same time, I don't know how much of that either. Something less than a teaspoon. Just, to taste I guess.

Around this time I decided I wanted to use the third sweet potato, so I stuck it in the oven with the olive oil and spices (but didn't add more garlic).

I put the chopped vegetables in the fridge and spread the sweet potato cubes out to cool.
I wilted a couple handfuls of spinach on the stove with butter (too much butter really, I ended up using a paper towel to try and get rid of some butter) and then chopped it thinly and spread it out to cool with the sweet potato.

After the potato and spinach was mostly cooled I put it in the fridge in a separate container from the vegetables, then decided to add the dressing to it and stuck it back in the fridge for the night.

In the morning I mixed them all together and decided that since the dressing had pretty much soaked in and wouldn't coat the veggies too that I'd make a little more, so I put some more apple cider vinegar, the other half of the lemon and a bit more honey in a bowl with some salt and pepper, tasted it and decided it was still missing something. Tested a piece with miracle whip and a piece with mustard and decided miracle whip was the way to go. I added somewhere between a teaspoon and a tablespoon, just enough to barely coat everything when mixed with the other dressing ingredients. Then I hand stirred the veggies, the sweet potato and the dressing all together to make sure there wasn't so much that it would be runny.

Stuck it back in the fridge for about a half hour until I left for church. I just set it on the counter, so I don't know if they refrigerated it more or not.

The reason I actually wrote up this whole blog post in the first place was because a couple ladies actually liked it so much that they wanted the recipe.
Wait... then I had to remember what I put in it.... uhoh!
Luckily I had the day off so I could spend time thinking about it (and cleaning up the kitchen). I looked through my grocery sack and through my spices, wrote down the details of what I did, and I hope I remembered everything. I actually didn't remember about the vinegar until a couple hours after I thought I remembered everything, and the cinnamon I forgot about until around 10 or 11 at night.

But, here is what I estimate to be the recipe (or at least, what I plan to do if/when I make it again) Sorry that there isn't specific measurements on some things.:

2-3 sweet potatoes
enough olive oil to coat
1-2 cloves minced garlic
spices (cayenne, ground mustard, cumin)

couple handfuls spinach leaves

2 stalks celery
4-5 small radishes
1/3 cucumber
1/4 red onion
green onions

1 lemon juiced
1/2 lime juiced
zest of half a lemon and half a lime
apple cider vinegar (maybe 4 teaspoons?)
honey (less than a tablespoon?)
cinnamon (less than a teaspoon?)
touch of salt and pepper
about 1 tbsp miracle whip

Coat the sweet potatoes in olive oil and spices. Spread out on cookie sheets. Bake at 400-425 degrees for 25-35 minutes, stirring once or twice, until tender.
Wilt spinach in pan. Lay out to cool then chop and mix with sweet potatoes. Store in the fridge.
Chop the vegetables and store in the fridge in a separate container (at least until the sweet potatoes are fully cooled, but I would wait until you are ready to add all of the dressing).
If you aren't serving it until the next day, I would mix together the dressing ingredients except the miracle whip. Mix half of the dressing with the sweet potatoes to soak in. Then, maybe an hour or two before serving, mix the other half of the dressing with the miracle whip and mix everything together.
But you can try it whatever way you want!

If you make it, enjoy and please tell me about it!

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