December spells the real end for the last little lettuces that have survived in the ground. The harder freeze turns me to inventive winter vegetables, such as this sweet-potato salad, that also makes use of the last Thanksgiving produce I had. By the way, it will work equally well with butternut squash chunks if that’s the vegetable you over-bought. I love the hearty, assertive flavors, the firm textures and the gorgeous colors this salad offers.
Yes, you have to peel and roast the sweet potatoes (or squash) first but you can do so the day before, if necessary. Just return the chunks to room temperature or warmer before serving. You can even heat up the dressing to help. The same goes for the bacon. To minimize the mess, I generally microwave bacon (5 to 7 minutes with a sheet of paper towel both over and under the strips). You can still spoon out a few tablespoons of bacon fat for the dressing if you want to go for broke.
The optional garnishes build out the salad so that it can easily stand alone as a lunch dish. Choose the ones you like or add them all.
Recipe: Warm Sweet-Potato Salad
Serves 4 to 6
- 1 large sweet potato (or butternut squash), peeled and cut in 1-inch chunks
- 3 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped or sunflower seeds (optional)
- 6-8 ounces baby spinach leaves (optional)
- 2-4 tablespoons crumbled blue or feta cheese (optional)
- 2-4 tablespoons black olives, small (optional)
- 1-2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped (optional)
- 4-5 tablespoons olive oil or part olive oil, part bacon fat
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, minced fine or pressed through a garlic press
- 1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence dried herb mix (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and toss with 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil. Roast until fork-soft and slightly browned. Cool slightly. Beat together dressing ingredients with a fork. Toss with vegetables. If the vegetables were cooked earlier and are cold, warm the dressing slightly before tossing. Garnish with one or all of the optional ingredients and toss again lightly before serving.