Good morning and apologies in advance, as I’m again one of those loathsome (that if, if you were shivering somewhere) people who just returned from the beach, where we went on vacation last week because our kids were off from school and we didn’t see why they should have all the fun. Around me were turquoise waves, glittering with sunlight, lapping gently at the silky white-sanded shore and there were no children having tantrums or whining because this was a magical place — and at some of those things are true. However, as will always happen on vacation, while we had some enviable tacos and aguachiles, I was only a few days in when I started to fiercely miss home-cooked food, most especially this salad I’d made the week before.
Listen, sometimes I challenge myself to run distances further than I wish to (that would be: any), sometimes I challenge myself to go to bed at a decent hour for a week and see if it makes me a nicer person (shockingly, yes) and sometimes I challenge myself to do things like this, which is to take something I’m pretty sure I don’t like — sweet potato salads — and create one that I would. Creamy dressings and/or any parallels to summer cookout potato salads were rejected. So were cubes. I wanted it warm or room temperature and I liked the idea of using some Southwestern-ish flavors but not to the point that it basically tasted like these sweet potato tacos in salad form. And I wanted crunch, interest, and acidity, without having a bunch of extra hurdles to get them. The results surprised me. I’d expected, at most, to make it once or twice to iron the kinks out of the recipe; I thought the kids might like it, but I hadn’t expected to be sitting by the beach in Mexico kinda wishing someone would bring me some a full week later.
A few more details: I cut the potatoes into 1/4-inch half-moons so they were leafy but not so thin that they’d fall apart. While they roast in the oven, you do a few simple things: drain and rinse a can of black beans, chop some scallions and cilantro, halve a couple limes and an avocado and then we’re going to make a warm but deconstructed dressing. I love using pepitas but they can be a little flat-tasting from the container, whether raw or already toasted. Warming them in olive oil gets them extra-crisp and perfumes the oil with a deeply nutty flavor. Add some chile flakes for heat and then, when the potatoes are ready, we’re going to scatter everything on in layers, building the salad right on that sheet pan, because why dirty another dish? Finish it with salt, pepper, and lime juice and scoop it right onto your plate. I’d intended to add some cotija for a salty kick but was too busy eating it as-is to get it out of the fridge, meaning that it’s also vegan. And while I’d also intended this to be a warm salad, I found the leftovers spectacular from the fridge, no need to reheat them. I hope you love it as much as I did.
One year ago: Cauliflower and Tomato Masala with Peas
Two years ago: Quick, Essential Stovetop Mac-and-Cheese
Three years ago: Tomato-Glazed Meatloaves with Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes and Pomegranate Grapefruit Paloma
Four years ago: Belgian Brownie Cakelets, Broccoli Melts, and White Russian
Five years ago: Perfect Corn Muffins and Spaghetti Pangrattato with Crispy Fried Eggs
Six years ago: Stuck-Pot Rice with Lentils and Yogurt and Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew and Morning Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel
Seven years ago: Blood Orange Margaritas
Eight years ago: Double Coconut Muffins and Fried Egg Sandwich with Bacon and Blue Cheese
Nine years ago: Green Bean Salad with Pickled Red Onions and Fried Almonds and Spaghetti with Lemon and Olive Oil
Ten years ago: Walnut Jam Cake, Ginger Fried Rice and Chocolate Souffle Cupcakes with Mint Cream
Eleven years ago: Whole Lemon Tart, Alex’s Mom’s Stuffed Cabbage and Toasted Coconut Shortbread
Twelve years ago: Pasta Puttanesca and Pear and Almond Tart
Thirteen years ago: Fusilli with Baked Tomato Sauce and Aloo Gobi.
Sweet Potato Salad with Warm Pepita Dressing
- 2 pounds (about 4 medium) sweet potatoes
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds), raw or roasted
- 1 teaspoon mild (Aleppo-style) or hot red pepper flakes, or less to taste
- 2 limes
- 1 15-ounce can black beans
- 1 large avocado
- 1 big handful fresh cilantro
- 4 thin scallions
- 1 cup crumbled cotija (optional)
While potatoes roast, combine pepitas with 3 tablespoons olive oil in a small skillet and warm over medium heat. Let pepitas sizzle in oil for 1 to 2 minutes but keep a close eye on them; raw ones may be able to handle more time but already toasted ones will need less to get one shade darker. Remove from heat, season with salt to taste plus red pepper flakes. Set aside until potatoes are ready.
Drain and rinse your black beans. Halve avocado and remove the pit. Leave halves in their skin and cut avocado into thin slices, not cutting through the skin. Roughly chop cilantro, thinly slice scallions (white and green), and halve your limes, cutting one further into wedges. Squeeze one lime wedge over avocado to keep it from browning.
When potatoes are ready, immediately spoon pepitas and oil over potatoes, and squeeze the juice of your limes halves over. Scatter tray with black beans. Use a spoon to remove avocado slices in sections and fan them out over the tray. Sprinkle pan with cilantro and scallions, plus cotija if you’re using it (recipe will, of course, no longer be vegan). Season well with additional salt and pepper.
Scoop sections of potatoes and their toppings onto plates, serve with extra lime wedges, and eat right away. Leftovers keep nicely for a few days in the fridge; I didn’t rewarm them.