Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Spicy Pecans and Cider Vinaigrette

It has not felt as much like fall the last few days.  It has been wet and muggy and has felt as if we are moving back into summer (which thankfully, we are not).  I love fall as you have probably already gathered from reading previous posts, and once I get it in my mind that fall is coming, there is no going back.  I just cannot, no matter how much I love summer foods, crave them as I would during the summer months.  Instead, my food thoughts turn to those which are roasted, or orange, or spiced, or sweet, or, as in the case of this salad, all of the above.

This is a favorite salad of mine, and I have made it with variations with great success.  Either way, it is always tasty.  I think it owes its success to a varied mixture of textures as well as temperatures.  It is appealing, giving you a bit of a surprise in every bite.  It is crisp, crunchy, spicy, sweet, creamy, and chewy, all at the same time.  Can't get much better than that.

You can make this salad with plain, toasted nuts of your choice or the spiced ones in the recipe.  I liked the spiced ones best.  On a side note, even if you don't make the salad, make the nuts!  They're addictive!  You can also vary your cheese, using goat cheese or feta as the contents of your refrigerator dictate.  You can also change up the veggies, using roasted winter squash or beets.  Don't be scared off by the lengthy ingredient list or multiple step process.  Most of the items are things you probably already have around the kitchen, and many of the steps can be done ahead of time.  Also, the vinaigrette and pecans can be doubled easily to give you several nights of salad (or pecans just to munch on as a snack).  Trust me, it is a cravable fall salad worthy of the little bit of extra effort it takes to assemble.  

I have broken the recipe into two main parts.  The vinaigrette and pecans can be made ahead so they are listed in the first part of the recipe, and the other salad ingredients and directions follow.

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Spicy Pecans and Cider Vinaigrette
serves 4 as a side or appetizer
For the Cider Vinaigrette and Spicy Pecans:
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon grainy Dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons good quality olive oil 
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  1. Place vinegar, mustard, and honey in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified. Alternately, you could add all ingredients to a jelly jar and shake until combined. The vinaigrette can be made up to a day ahead.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine pecans, brown sugar, butter, hot sauce, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and toss well to combine. Spread the pecans out on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, stirring after 5 minutes. Spread pecans on a sheet of foil or waxed paper to cool completely. The pecans be made up to two days ahead.
For the Salad:
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut in 3/4 inch pieces
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1 bunch green leaf lettuce (or other tender greens), torn into bite-size pieces 

  • 2-3 tablespoons dried cranberries
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine sweet potato pieces, honey, olive oil, salt and pepper on a baking sheet and roast approximately 20 minutes until the potato is tender when pierced with a knife. Remove from the oven and keep warm while preparing the rest of the salad. 
  2. Place the torn greens on a platter. Arrange the warm sweet potato on top of the greens. Distribute the cranberries, cheese, and nuts evenly around the potato. Drizzle the salad with the prepared vinaigrette. Serve while the sweet potato is still warm.

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