This simple salad was one of my standard hearty office lunches when I lived in a city and was buying all of my produce. I now make it mainly in winter after snow has buried my garden beds, but it keeps so well that it has become a sailing menu staple too. I prepare the salad at home and then stash it in an ice chest until we’re on the water and need a quick meal. It also travels well for a ski-day lunch or campground dinner.
Even if you typically roast root vegetables, you want these sweet potatoes just soft enough to poke with a fork, a texture easiest to achieve by steaming. When cubed and dressed, starchy white-fleshed sweet potatoes will hold their shape better than the creamier orange-fleshed varieties typically sold as “yams.”
Steaming also lets cubed sweet potatoes absorb more vinegary dressing. Keep the dressing separate until just before serving if you want less tang in each bite. The fresh onion and pepper flakes add complementary sharp tones. For a mellower salad, try scallions or sauté the red onion briefly with the mushrooms.
Cremini may look like button mushrooms, but they’re actually more flavorful baby portobellos. If you swap another mushroom variety into this recipe, choose one with a meaty texture that can withstand being tossed around with the other ingredients.
When I’m feeling lazy about dishes, I use the same wide pot to steam the sweet potatoes and then sauté the mushrooms. If the mushrooms would be crowded in your steaming pot, cook them in batches or a separate wide skillet so that the liquid they release evaporates quickly.
Sweet Potato-Mushroom Salad
2 pounds white-fleshed sweet potatoes, cut in quarters
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 pound cremini mushrooms, cut into bite-sized pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Up to 1/2 cup Creamy Balsamic Salad Dressing
1 small red onion, diced
1/4 cup minced fresh Italian parsley
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Into a large pot with a steamer basket and tight-fitting lid, pour one to two inches of water and bring it to a boil, ensuring it’s still below the basket. Place the quartered sweet potatoes in the steamer and replace the lid. Steam over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes, until just tender. Drain the sweet potatoes and let them cool slightly.
Pour the oil into the empty steaming pot or a large skillet and warm over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté for about five minutes, until just cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Remove the sweet potato skins, cut the flesh into 1/2-inch cubes and place the cubes in a large bowl. Pour on 1/4 cup of dressing and mix gently. Add the mushrooms, onion, parsley and red pepper flakes, if desired; mix gently again. Taste, adding more dressing as needed, before serving warm or at room temperature. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Julie Laing is a Bigfork-based cookbook author and food blogger at TwiceAsTasty.com.
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