A week or two ago, I read the delightful The Ungarnished Truth: A Cooking Contest Memoir, by a winner of the Pillsbury Bake-Off, and the idea of entering recipe contests got stuck in my head. This wasn’t the first time I’ve thought about it. I’d once before gone far enough to Google “recipe contests”; but that time, none of the contests I found had piqued my interest.
This time, however, my eye was immediately caught by a contest requesting sweet potato recipes. I instantly knew that I had to enter. I love sweet potatoes.
Usually, I eat them chopped and roasted in olive oil, salt, pepper and Italian herbs – a low-effort recipe of my mother’s. They are sublime, and I’ve been known the stand over the pan while cleaning up after dinner, telling myself I would eat “just one more” before putting them in the fridge. (In the end, none of them ever make it that far.) I’ve also made some sweet potato-based soups that I really like.
But what inspired me, as I was reading the rules for the sweet potato contest, was this:
“We’re looking for something new and unique. Think beyond the typical recipes (we’re talking about you, sweet potato casserole!) and come up with a way to put sweet potatoes on the table in new and different ways.”
What is something I’ve never seen done with sweet potatoes? Well, a salad, for one. Oddly, given the number of just-plain-old-potato salad recipes I’ve seen, I have never made a sweet potato salad, or seen one in a cookbook, or on a menu.
This has to be remedied!
The thing that immediately came to mind was sweet potatoes, feta cheese, and roasted red peppers. Where this came from, I have no idea. I didn’t even own a jar of roasted red peppers. Inspiration from on high? You tell me.
My taste-tester (mother) and I quickly established that feta was a no-go. While I’d wondered if perhaps it would overpower the potatoes, the opposite was in fact true; you couldn’t taste it at all. So scratch that. But goat cheese, on the other hand…well, goat cheese makes the world go round, doesn’t it?
After a lot of experimentation (read: giving myself a stomachache by eating nearly 3/4 a pound of sweet potatoes in combination with various other stuff), this is what I came up with.
This may be the only time in my life I’ve written down a recipe with actual measurements. What is the world coming to?!
Mediterranean-Influenced Sweet Potato Salad
Serves: 4 as an appetizer
- 1 sweet potato, approximately 1 pound, peeled and cut into 3/4″ cubes
- 1 1/2 T. extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 t. kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 T. dried Italian herbs*
- 4 T. shallot, finely chopped
- 2 oz. roasted red bell peppers, finely chopped
- 3 oz. soft goat cheese, crumbled
- 1/4 c. parsley, finely chopped
- heaping 1/4 c. walnuts, finely chopped
- 1 T. red wine vinegar
- 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
Preheat over to 450 F. On a cookie sheet or in an 11 x 13″ pan, toss sweet potatoes, 1 1/2 T. olive oil, salt, and black pepper until potatoes are evenly coated with seasoning. Bake uncovered on the middle rack of the oven. During first 2 to 5 minutes of cooking, roast the walnuts on a cookie sheet on an upper rack; watch closely to make sure they don’t burn, and remove them when lightly browned.
Bake the sweet potatoes 20 minutes total time or until lightly browned on top, gently turning the potatoes with a spatula halfway through cooking.
Remove potatoes from oven, gently turn one more time, and allow to cool slightly. Meanwhile, whisk dressing ingredients together.
To serve, divide potatoes onto four plates and sprinkle each with 2 t. dressing (you will have a small amount of dressing left over). On each portion of potatoes, layer 1 T. shallot, 1/2 oz. red bell peppers, 3/4 oz. goat cheese, 1 T. parsley, and 1 heaping T. walnuts.
*If you don’t have pre-mixed Italian herbs, you can make your own by combining equal quantities of dried oregano, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, basil, and sage. In a pinch, a mixture of dried oregano and dried basil will work fine.
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