Falling somewhere between appetizer and side dish, this unique tasting salad is a welcome alternative to mayonnaise-laden versions offered at backyard barbecues. The tender sweet potato slices tossed with a lime-based dressing and fresh herbs, then topped with crispy tortilla strips and queso fresco offer a combo of flavors that are bound to get the conversation going at any gathering. The recipe easily doubles to accommodate more people and you can make the recipe to serve with grilled chicken for a colorful and interesting weeknight dinner.
Sweet Potato Salad
Makes 4 to 6 servings
6 medium-size sweet potatoes (about 3 pounds), peeled and sliced into ¼-inch thick rounds
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp., plus 1 tsp. kosher salt, divided
½ tsp. lime zest
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp. tamarind candy*
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and thinly sliced
1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco
Crispy Tortilla Strips
1. Bring potatoes, next 2 ingredients, and water to cover to a boil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes or until just tender. Drain.
2. Process lime zest, lime juice, next 4 ingredients, and remaining 1 tsp. salt in a blender or food processor until smooth.
3. Toss warm potato slices and lime mixture in a large bowl until combined. Cover and chill 2 hours. Add green onions, cilantro, and jalapeno and toss until blended. Transfer to a serving bowl or large platter and top with queso fresco and Crispy Tortilla Strips. Serve immediately.
*Note: Tamarind candy is usually found in specialty ethnic markets and is well worth the extra effort it may take to find them. The slightly tangy, salty, and sugary confections add extra pungency and body to the dressing. However, if you don’t feel like bothering with an extra trip to the store, substitute 1 Tbsp. brown sugar (giving you a total of 2 Tbsp. brown sugar in the recipe) for the tamarind candy.
The Crispy Tortilla Strips
Makes about 2 cups tortilla strips
5 corn tortillas
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1. Cut corn tortillas in half. Next, cut crosswise into ¼-inch thin strips. Pour oil to a 1-inch depth in a small frying pan and place over medium heat. Meanwhile, stir salt, cumin and pepper together in a small bowl until blended.
2. When oil is hot, but not smoking, add one-third of the tortilla strips and cook until golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-lined jelly roll pan. Sprinkle with ⅓ of salt mixture. Repeat with remaining tortilla strips and salt mixture in two batches.
Norm’s Notes: A Tasty Trio
If you noticed that a lot of my recipes contain cilantro, green onion, and jalapeno, you are not mistaken. Lately I’ve worn this trio out like a trendy summer anthem, sprinkling the combo on virtually every meal I eat. So why the obsession? It’s simple — taste! I discovered adding a spoonful of the mixture instantly adds a layer of fresh flavor to pretty much anything you want. The concept isn’t anything revolutionary, but the application gives color and a pop of crispness, taking ordinary items into another orbit. Fried eggs, grits, ripe peaches, watermelon, sliced tomatoes, pasta, rice, black beans, tacos, soup and much more benefit from the trio’s robust taste.
The formula is basic: 1 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped; 1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced; and 1 jalapeno, seeded and thinly sliced. Stir it all up and place in a pint size canning jar and store in the refrigerator. One batch usually lasts 3 to 5 days, but will possibly make it to Saturday morning if rationed. I urge you to succumb to this trio’s infectious vibe, chop up a batch of the herbaceous mix and try it on whatever you like. Trust me, like that trendy summer song, you’ll find yourself returning to it over and over again, letting your shoulders sway as you bask in the freshness.