I volunteer with an urban farm down the street from me. Have I mentioned? It’s an amazing farm. Set on 1/3 acre of land, on a lot where a business used to be, on a corner where there used to be an open drug market and gang wars, is a charming, quirky, beautiful, farm.
Whitelock Community Farm started as an idea from a bunch of giddy green people (myself included) in my neighborhood last year. We all wanted to beautify this area as well as share our passion for good food with the neighborhood. The idea is to provide fresh vegetables at an affordable price to neighbors who don’t have easy access to a grocery store. Last year was a bit wobbly; this year has exceeded expectations. We have grown a few dozen types of veggies, worked with neighborhood kids, brought in volunteer groups, and had fun (and just a little bit of stress) doing it all.
I came across this lovely way to use sweet potatoes from Mark Bittman’s blog. While I normally enjoy the first few bites of traditional potato salad with mayo and whatnot, I tire of it before I can finish it. This roasted sweet potato salad, on the other hand, is addictive. The flavors are punchy and interesting. The texture is pleasing, with firm, yet tender, sweet potatoes and a light dressing (unlike the traditional version which is often gloppy with mayonnaise).
This salad seems to be pretty forgiving, depending on what you have on hand. I subbed leeks for scallions the second time I made it. If you use onion, just use a bit less of that, since it is stronger. The key parts of this salad are flavorful sweet potatoes (which is why roasting instead of boiling them is important) and the dressing. Play around with the dressing, but be sure to include the hot pepper (even just a little bit) and the cumin.
I can have a bowl of this as a meal, with a side of beans or bread. It is that good.
Roasted Sweet Potato Salad
4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Put potatoes on a baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil, and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast, turning occasionally, until crisp and brown outside and just tender inside, about 20-30 minutes. Set aside.
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and quartered
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon grated orange zest (optional)
Make the dressing while the potatoes cook. Put the remaining 6 tablespoons oil in a blender, along with the vinegar, bell pepper, cumin, and zest if you’re using it. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Purée until smooth.
1/2 cup sliced scallions or leeks
1/2 cup minced fresh mint or parsley leaves
1 fresh minced chiles (jalapeño, Thai, serrano, or habanero), or to taste
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
Toss the warm potatoes with the scallion, mint, chiles, and raisins if you’re using them. Add 1/2 cup of the dressing and toss to coat, adding more if necessary. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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