Monday, April 1, 2013

Sweet Potato and Parsley Salad

Last week I mentioned my favorite  new cookbook by Deborah Madison.  Let me just say, as a long-time vegetable lover, this is the book that I've been waiting for ever since I started cooking vegetables.   And I urge anyone who loves vegetables and wants to learn more about the families they belong to, history, nutrition and tips for preparation--get this book.  An ode to vegetables this book  belongs in every cook's kitchen.

I didn't get this book free, nor am I paid a fee for endorsing it.  I just happen to have fallen in love with this useful book.  It's a book I can turn to over and over again.

That said, Deborah Madison organized this book by vegetable families, each is a fascinating read.  She begins with the Carrot Family and finishes chapter twelve with the  sweet potato or Morning Glory Family.

Since my focus this week is sweet potatoes, let's get right to the Morning Glory Family.   Madison says sweet potatoes are the sole crop in the Morning Glory Family and that the United States' commercial crops thrive in "the subtropical South, including Mississippi, North Carolina, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee." 

She writes that the sweet potato has also found a home in California.  Also in the past few years, Oregon and Washington have found sweet potato varieties that produce well in the Northwest.

If you want local sweet potatoes in Seattle, one farmer at the U-District Market in Seattle sells them right now, but there may be more farmers who grow and sell them at the Sunday Ballard Market.

What about yams?  You might ask.   Deborah Madison says: "There is a perennial confusion about the difference between sweet potatoes and yams."  

Botanically they are two different vegetables.   The yam in West Africa and the Caribbean is a dry starchy tuber and  Madison says "many of us wouldn't recognize" if one was placed on a plate in front of us.  The word yam, "crept into sweet potato nomenclature out of an old misuse of it, but also because there are two basic kinds of sweet potatoes, those classified as firm (or dry) and those referred to as soft (or moist),"  writes Madison.

Madison writes about how to eat the shoots, leaves and stems, if you should be lucky enough to get them.  As for keeping them--don't refrigerate sweet potatoes, but "keep them in a basket until ready to eat."  Wash the skins just before cooking, no need to peel them.  

I also love Madison's tips with each vegetable family that include "Good Companions."  Try butter, sesame oil, ginger, cardamom, chile, coconut milk, cinnamon, allspice, lime, oranges, tangerines, brown sugar, maple syrup, molasses, bourbon and smoked salt.

This recipe wasn't in Madison's book.  I made it up from a sweet-tart sweet potato dish I'd gotten from a deli this past week.  It took about two sweet potatoes, washed and cut into tiny pieces.  I like them to look uneven, not perfect like a factory.

We have parsley everywhere in our yard.  I love easy keepers and curly parsley is nutritious and it helps cut costs when we can use a lot in salads and side dishes.

I imagined a sweet-tart flavor.  My first choice was dill, but I was fresh out, so I picked a flavorful berry apple cider vinegar from Rockridge Orchards. My main goal was make it easy.

Here's the recipe:

Sweet Potato and Parsley Salad
(Serves 4)

2 medium sweet potatoes, washed and tough ends removed (no need to peel)
2 tablespoons berry or cherry vinegar
2 tablespoons aioli spread or mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon smoked sea salt
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper powder or cayenne
2 cups finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup sliced kalamata olives 

1. Steam yams until fork-tender.  Do not overcook.  Rinse in cold water when done.  Set aside.

2. Combine vinegar, aioli spread, garlic powder, smoked sea salt and hot pepper.   Whisk with a fork.

3. Blend sweet potatoes, dressing, parsley and kalamata olives, stirring gently.  Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

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