I bought a new car a few days ago, because my old one was declared totaled after a fender bender. And on the day I bought my car, my laptop died. 2017 is perhaps not going to be my year after all. In the midst of misfortunes such as these, I turn to food to lift my spirits, because food rarely fails me. While I couldn’t be online blogging, I was able to test some new recipe ideas to dazzle you with. Today’s recipe is unusual in the best way, because it’s not a combination of flavors that you see a lot, but I’m so happy it’s in my life now.
I give you Sweet Potato Summer Salad. No longer will I stand for sweet potatoes being associated only with the holidays. Mixed with the right flavors, they’re perfect for spring and summer. This salad is a mix of roasted sweet potato, strawberries, apples, and spicy toasted pecans, tossed in an orange poppy seed dressing. I’ve adapted the Orange Poppy Seed Dressing recipe from Skinny Ms., reducing the honey to keep the whole dish from being too sweet. This dressing adds a light, zingy touch of citrus to the heartier sweet potatoes, and ties it together with the other fruits. The mix of crisp apple, soft, sweet strawberry, and rich sweet potato, with the crunch of the pecans and poppy seeds, makes this dish a textural dream. I highly recommend throwing it all in a bowl and serving it as is, but if you want to add a little something extra, I have a few ideas for you.
This salad works beautifully as a component in more traditional salads, served over a bed of greens and drizzled with a little more of the dressing. You could add meat or more nuts and seeds to make it more of a meal, but it definitely doesn’t need it. Alternatively, Sweet Potato Summer Salad also makes a fabulous dessert. I stirred little cubes of pound cake in with it, which added the perfect boost of sweetness and made the whole thing feel more decadent. You could take the dessert concept a step further and top yours with whipped cream or ice cream, with an extra drizzle of the dressing to balance the sweetness. Both versions offer a very interesting take on their respective food groups (if you count dessert as a food group, which I do). Will it matter if you omit the poppy seeds? Of course not, but in my opinion they add elegance to the salad and a striking contrast to the colorful fruit. You could also experiment with substituting chia seeds, if that’s what you have on hand.
This dish is complex and delicious, and you can still feel good about eating it. Even as a dessert it’s mostly a serving of fruit, and the dressing is packed with flavor, so you don’t need a lot of it. To be fair, I feel good about eating just about everything except coconut and bleu cheese, but it’s nice to have healthy options when summer is coming. Really fast. In less than a month. I feel like everyone I talk to lately is all “how is it May already?” Sweet Potato Summer Salad is the perfect dish to help usher in the new season, so we can all wonder less about where the year has gone, and wonder more about whether or not there’s enough left for a second helping!
Sweet Potato Summer Salad
Orange Poppy Seed Dressing recipe adapted from Skinny Ms.
Sweet Potato Summer Salad
- 1 large sweet potato
- 1/4 cup pecans
- 1/2 Tbsp honey
- 1 oz orange juice
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 1/2 granny smith apple, peeled
- 8-10 large strawberries
Orange Poppy Seed Dressing
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 2 Tbsps olive oil
- 1/2 Tbsp poppy seeds
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel and cube the sweet potato, and place on a baking sheet lined with foil. Drizzle about a tsp of olive oil over top and stir the potatoes around until they're all coated. Sprinkle brown sugar and salt over top. Bake for 15 minutes, remove from the oven and stir the potatoes around on the tray, and then bake for an additional 15 minutes.
2. Roughly chop the pecans, and spread them on a baking sheet lined with foil. Place in the oven to toast for about 5 minutes - they can go in at the same time as the sweet potatoes. They may need an extra minute or so to get nice and toasty, but be careful not to burn them. Stir together 1/2 Tbsp of honey, 2 oz of orange juice, and the cayenne. Stir toasted pecans into this mixture, and then spread them out on the baking sheet to dry. After the sweet potatoes are done cooking, you can set the tray of pecans in the warm oven, with the door slightly ajar, to help them dry.
3. Peel and cube the apple, and slice the strawberries into bite-sized chunks. Whisk together the dressing ingredients, until well combined. The poppy seeds will rise to the top, so you'll need to re-whisk it before pouring over the salad.
4. Add the potatoes, apple, strawberries, and pecans to a bowl, and toss with about half of the dressing. The other half of the dressing can be drizzled over greens topped with the sweet potato summer salad, or ice cream/pound cake, mixed with the salad. Both versions are delicious!