Last month we each posted a recipe with pumpkin being the star ingredient, and we’re doing it again this month, but instead of a specific ingredient, we are exploring different takes on traditional Thanksgiving food; putting our own twist on classic dishes. For my swap, I decided to go with sweet potatoes. Most often, sweet potatoes are made into an ultra sweet, desert-like side (or maybe you do choose to eat it as desert). While I thoroughly enjoy sweet potato casserole, I wanted to flip it and make a more savory recipe. There usually isn’t a lot of fresh produce on my family’s holiday table, but I know this simple, flavorful salad would offer a much needed bit of green.
The holidays will look very different this year, for everyone, whether you are taking precautions to enjoy the meal with your family, doing a food drop off, or staying in and making smaller portion sizes than you’re used to (or not making smaller portion sizes). While I won’t get to spend the day with my whole family, I will be much more grateful for the time I get to spend at home, cooking and eating my holiday meal, and getting to try new dishes I wouldn’t have attempted without the extra time to test things. And even though most people in my family won’t get a taste of new holiday meal ideas this year, I hope that some of the tips and recipes I’ve picked up over the year will bring some of the yummiest dishes to come in the future holidays spent together again, which is definitely something to look forward to!
When I was thinking about what I should do for this traditionally food “swap”, it was actually my fellow Tulhoma writer, Taryn, who made a comment about the delightfully sweet, but sometimes confusing dish: sweet potato casserole. Is it a side? Is it a dessert? Nuts or no nuts? Marshmallow or no marshmallow? I admit, I’ve always eaten it as a sweet side, a precursor to dessert if you will, however, now that I’m a bit older and my palate has changed, I’m realizing that there’s so much more to do with this root vegetable than I gave it credit for. As mentioned above, there’s not much (fresh) produce on our table so my mind immediately went to salad, but you can totally eat the roasted sweet potatoes and nuts as a side, without the greens to go with it. I know salad might sound like a bland option compared to other holiday sides, but I like to think of salad as a bed of greens mixed with all kinds of yummy ingredients (in fact, that’s pretty much the definition), so don’t worry that flavor will be lacking or fail to complement the rest of the meal. Another baked vegetable option that I did not make, do to lack of ingredients, is Brussel sprouts! Just mix them with the sweet potatoes, nuts, and onion, coat them in oil and bake. I think that would be a delicious side (now I wish I had the Brussel sprouts to make it; will add to my holiday ingredient list).
Speaking of complimenting the meal, one of the great things about making a salad like this is that the recipe is very flexible. You can swap things you don’t have or like and make it to your taste, or better yet, use it as a nice mixture of the best parts of your other dishes. For example, if you have extra ingredients lying around, like cheese, crispy onions, roasted vegetables (like Brussel sprouts as mentioned above), etc., you can build it based on that- just be sure it pairs well with sweet potato.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Nuts
This recipe filled my kitchen and house with a lovely scent that truly reminds me of the holidays! As mentioned above, you can stop here and eat this on its own, with no greens. Either way, it will be a burst of flavor!
- 1 medium sweet potato (you can also use butternut squash)
- ¼ mild onion
- 2 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped or 1 tbsp bacon bits
- ¼ c roasted nut mix (*see below)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 400℉
- Wash and cut sweet potato(s) into bite sized cubes and put on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
- Slice onion and mix with sweet potato
- Drizzle olive oil over potatoes and onions, toss until evenly coated.
- Bake for 40 minutes (check half way through to mix around and make sure nothing is burning)
- Add nuts and bacon. Bake another 5-8 minutes, or until warm and aromatic
- Remove from oven and let cool at least 30 minutes before making the salad
*If you are making a salad, you don’t need to bake the nuts or bacon if they’re already roasted/cooked, but I wanted to add some extra crunch to mine. If you are not going with a salad, it’s best to bake everything together!
Roasted Sweet Potato Salad
(*this is a smaller portion, so double or triple if needed)
- 1/3 head of lettuce (I used butter lettuce, but use your favorite. Romain, kale, arugula, spinach, or a mixture will work.)
- Roasted sweet potato and nuts
- Fresh parmesan cheese to taste
- ¼ c dried cranberries or cherries *optional
- Drizzle of olive oil
- Squeeze of lemon juice
- 1 tsp lemon zest *optional
- Wash and dry lettuce
- Add all ingredients (except olive oil and lemon juice) to a large bowl and mix.
- Add olive oil and lemon juice (and zest) and toss until evenly coated.
- Grate or shave fresh parmesan to taste. Enjoy!
How do you normally enjoy sweet potatoes? Is it a staple on your holiday table?